Man, I wish I could chalk this whole entry up as "Damn, I dealt with this horrible person and isn't she a looney," and point my finger and laugh and feel superior. Truth is, I made several key mistakes that are becoming more and more obvious to me as I'm typing out this story, and as dumb as they're making me feel, I'm trying to own them whilst pointing and sneering at this particular individual. Not perfect, but I'm working on it.
Let the finger wagging and self-flagelation begin (cue trumpets.)
2 and a half months ago, I did a little side work for a friend of mine, who was making belly dancing costumes for her troupe. Prior to this arrangement, she'd sent out an email to her troupe offering my services to do the same at a slightly reduced hourly rate. I got one response:
She seemed nice enough at first, if a bit clueless in that early 20's kind of way. Really didn't know what she wanted, other than a vague sort of idea, and needed to be guided along on her outfit, which I was happy to do. I think in many ways she assumed I had a direct line to her dance leader and was getting my info that way. Whatever.
This job ended up being a hassle kind of from start to finish. She worked odd hours, so arranging meetings or fittings were kind of tricky. We didn't have a lot of them, and yet she managed to completely miss one. I gave her an hour estimate for the job before we started, which ended up being crazy low, but it was the number she latched onto for the rest of the project, which became a stressful benchmark I struggled against for the rest of the project. When the hours really started to rack up, I stopped and didn't go any further without explaining to Heathen where I was at and how much longer I thought it would take and getting her approval.
I felt horribly guilty at times. My god. Was I just a ridiculously slow sewer? Was I a terrible person because I'd given such a low initial estimate? I mean, I felt like I had to be for some of the feedback I was getting from Heathen. Surely I must be a Bad Person. Even after running my hours on this project against the numbers L was coming up with on several of her outfits - she who does this for a living and has dozens of these outfits to her credit- and coming in under those numbers, I still started to slowly shave hours off Heather's tab. Conflict? Dodge! Avoid! Hide!
It was at this time L gave me more of an insider scoop on Heathen. She herself did not perform with her, but she was good friends with the woman who was her instructor and she didn't really have anything very nice to say. In fact, flaky, troublesome, and irritating were the main crayons used to color in this particular character. I tried to keep this in mind as I finished the project.
When the hours really started to add up, I made sure I got at least verbal approval before I went any further, and made sure Heathen got an updated estimate. And, because I was still feeling guilty, I agreed to split up the payment into two installments to make it easier for her, as the initial estimate had been so low.
The costume got done the day before it was needed. Heathen was very happy to hear it, but she just was not going to have time to swing by and get it as she needed to go straight from work to rehearsals; could I pretty please drive to San Mateo and drop it off at her work? I blinked a few times on my end of the phone, figured I could justify it by taking Mags to the park a block from her office, mentally tacked $20 onto her total bill, and agreed.
Two, maybe even three weeks didn't seem like a terrible concession to make for the second half of the payment. In fact, it did wonders for asuaging my guilt about the final cost. And after two weeks, I politely emailed Heathen as a reminder. I even included my address in case she just wanted to mail me the check. The email I got back? Well, turns out she wasn't gonna be able to pay me as she suddenly had a ticket to pay for. Would I mind terribly waitig three more weeks? Oh, and would I also mind altering something on her belt? And would that cost anything?
Ummm, what? Actually, yes, I do mind. Bummer that you got a ticket, but why do I get to be the one who gets bumped? But I tried to be big about it. Things happen, and it wasn't as if I was having to eat ramen in the meantime. Fine. Grudgingly I agreed to bump the date even futher and move the hook and eye on her belt.
When the new date started to roll around I emailed her again, and got no response. So I emailed her again, to which I got a glib 'Oh, I thought I emailed you!' response. In her defense, she did call once and spoke to Husband when I was unavailable. He and I did drop the ball on calling her back, which I appologized to her in an email for a day or so later and tried to hook up with her again. More crickets. With surgery looming, now I'm getting really antsy.
Long story short, I emailed her one more time basically saying bring me a check today (now 6 weeks after she received her costume, and 4 weeks after our agreed pay date) or I'll come pick it up from you at work. Husband had edited all my emotional sludge out of it, so it was fairly short, crisp and professional. Today I got a snippy email reply from her:
Maybe you don't remember but i did call u at least a week ago and i didn't
appreciate u e mailing me back. You could have called me, and i dont understand
why you mentioned that your husband should have called me. I apologize for
not paying u in a timely manner, but i have other obligations. I should be able
to pay u the full amount by friday. There is nothing u can do except take me to
court, but i assure u it wont get that far.
Honestly, my first response was feeling defensive. Oh my god, I was back to being a Bad Person because I'd fucked up that phone call and dared to respond via email. I am such a --- wait a second. At least I did respond, I owned that we screwed up the phone call, what business is it of hers that I had a migraine and my Husband offered to return a call, and that's not the point anyhow. The point is she still hasn't paid. Nor is it my concern that she has other obligations. *I* am an obligation of hers, and *I* need to keep not getting bumped!
Frankly, I am tired, stressed, migraine-y, and trying to accomplish an unrealistic amount of stuff prior to my surgery. So, I am - possibly quite foolishly - giving her until Friday to get that check to me . You know, the one she could have mailed weeks ago when she said she had the money, or any time since then? The one for some reason she feels she needs to personally deliver or something? Why am I having to deal with this?
Oh, right. Largely in part because I let it get to this point. Le sigh.
Now, for those lessons I learned:
* Never EVER work with Heathen again. Not that I think she'll ever come near me with a 10 foot pole ever again, but ...
* Pad the fuck out of time estimates. Shoot for the moon, baby. I'll probably still go over anyhow.
* Put everything in writing. Everything. This one is particularly embarrassing for me, as in hind sight it is so train-headlight-coming-down-the-tracks-gonna-squash-you glaringly obvious.
* No special favors. Only shooting yourself in the foot if you do. You put in the hours, you should get paid for them. You're in this to make money, not friends. And frankly, you're setting yourself up to get taken advantage of.
* Be firm; stand up for yourself. Ties in with No Special Favors. Even at the ripe old age of (cough, mumble) I still desperately worry what people think of me, and want everyone to like me. This turns into putting other people's needs in front of my own, and getting walked all over sometimes. Suicide if you're trying to run a business/make money. Oh, and did I mention I hate confrontations? Or is that redundant?
* Use the phone. Ties in with Hates Confrontations. Maybe more of this could have been avoided had I used the phone instead of email. I do have a bit of a phone phobia, though. Something I'm trying to work on, although what that's turning into is writing less emails with the intent of making more phone calls, except not doing that part and just looking like I'm not responding to people at all (but that's for a different blog entry....)
So there you have it, this week's As The Costume Turns. Fingers crossed that I actually get my check this week, and that I don't make these mistaeks again in the future.