I am broken. I admit it. Sleep deprivation has finally won and technology has failed me. This is a dark day as a the "freelance writer who gets tech".
This post also contains a lot of swears because I'm too tired to come up with a nice, fluffy alternative. You have been warned.
So, I have two wonderful, rather lively children. Before I entered parenthood I was excited about a lot of things, but the gadgets sounded rather fantastic.
There were gizmos that would teach my children to eat, sleep, poop and play on demand. Images of babies being weaning surrounded by reams of white linen by a fresh-faced Mother entered my psyche and I assumed this would be the world I would create.
The b@**@*ds lied.
I am now about to enter into a productive rant about one piece of technology in particular: the Gro clock. This is my sole opinion and, in the name of objectivity, I have several friends who use and love the clock. Their children sleep. Lucky, lucky b@**@*ds.
I bought the Gro clock when my first son was 18 months old. The manufacturer says the clock "uses fun images of the stars and sun to communicate when to go back to sleep and when it's time to get up". Simply put, when the clock displays a sun image, it's time to get up. If it displays a star image, it's sleepy time. The manufacturer has never met my sons: Oliver (aka the Gro-clock-hacker) and Arlo (aka the Gro-clock-destroyer). We have had a variety of run-ins with the Gro clock over the years.
At 18 months, Oliver seemed too young for the Gro clock but, after six months of being woken at 4am, I thought I knew better and we tried the clock.
Oliver responded by screaming at the clock and (I can only assume through a complex system of levers and pulleys as the bloody thing was on the other side of the room from his cot), threw it against the wall.
At 2 years old, we tried to reintroduce the clock. After 14 months of being woken at 4am, tempers were a little frayed. Oliver was now in a big bed and his little brother was on the way. This pregnant Momma needed some sleep.
Oliver responded by climbing out of bed and turning the sun image on all by himself. He then gleefully announced the sun was up! It was 3am.
The clock is fitted with a lock to prevent children achieving this. We turned the lock on. At 2 years and one month, Oliver could turn off the child lock and make the sun appear whenever he liked. He also worked out a month later how to reprogram the clock's time entirely. (A small part of me was quietly impressed with his aptitude for technology though).
The sleepless months rolled by and we welcomed Arlo to the family. Our easier second child. Easier?
The b@**@*ds lied again.
I'm going to skip forward a few months (mainly because I need another coffee and want to finish this rant as quickly as possible). Oliver and Arlo share a room. Arlo is a worse sleeper than Oliver. Arlo is also louder than Oliver.
The Gro clock is back in the room. Oliver has now accepted it and stays in bed until the sun comes up at 6am (note: to any non-parents, this is a lie-in).
Arlo is less fond of the clock. Yesterday, at the glorious hour of 3:30am, I walked in to find the clock under a heap of toys that Arlo had hurled at the clock from his cot. I took my bundle of joy out of the cot and talked quietly about the clock, showing him the star's smug-non-sleep-inducing face.
Arlo picked up the clock and hit me round the head with it.
Arlo has also managed to wee on the clock, kick it down a flight of stairs and put it down the toilet. The boy ain't a fan.
But I would like to write a small reprise for the Gro clock. I don't think the clock has failed me, I think my sons have broken the Gro clock and the entire system it represents (you know, the system where we sleep uninterrupted for 8 hours at night).
We have also tried various other techniques to get our sons to sleep but all else fails. And Oliver does now respond to the clock and only occasionally reprograms it to get up at 4:30am. The Gro clock isn't at fault, my children's body clocks are.
So what's the alternative? Have you read this enter blog post hoping I will share some secret success and that my children now sleep through? Sorry. No happy, sleep-filled ending here.
We are still getting up at an average of 4:30am every morning.
But the Gro clock has taught me one small moral. No gadget will ever teach your children to eat, sleep, poop or play on demand. These creatures are unprogrammable, crazy little beings. They even break the laws of relativity - the faster they move, the faster time with them seems to go.
So I am dumping all this technology and its empty promises to focus on my mad men. It's knackering, but they're the best gadgets I've ever played with.
UPDATE: 5th February 2017
OK, I think I need to make an apology here. I brought the Gro clock back into our lives a couple of months ago.
Things have changed.
It sits in the hallway between my boys' rooms (now aged five and three) and....wait for it.... THEY GET UP WHEN THE SUN GETS UP.
People, this is a modern day miracle. I'll be ringing the Vatican shortly after finishing this update.
The secret to this success? I'm afraid it's not a quick fix.
The boys have grown up. The synapses in their crazy brains are connecting to understand this basic concept. THEY GET UP WHEN THE SUN GETS UP.
So, Gro clock - I apologise. I introduced you far too early. I'm a victim of the biggest parenting fail we all fall foul to: I tried to push my kids when they weren't ready.
Now, excuse me while I Snapchat Pope Francis.
Could a freelance writer be lying in an attempt to win a contract, justify their fees or just stop you from asking awkward questions?
But, after years of working as a (very honest) freelance writer, I've heard similar stories from clients on how they have been burnt by unethical writers who could not care less about their business and view them as a walking cash cow.
Business owners are not stupid. They know when they are being lied to. And such dishonest behaviour is tarnishing the reputation of honest writers. It's time to fight back.
Below are 10 common lies bad writers tell good companies, based on my own anecdotal experience:
1. "I need to know more detail before I can give you a quote"
Yes, every project is different but top writers will be upfront about their basic rates (contact me if you'd like to know mine - I'd be happy to help).
If you hear this line, then you are probably dealing with either writer who is looking to charge an arbitrary rate and squeeze the maximum amount of cash out of you or an inexperienced one who isn't sure what to charge.
2. "I need to know the budget before I can quote"
Writers asking this question are just trying to work out how much you can afford so they can charge the maximum amount. A good writer will quote based on their basic rates and negotiate accordingly.
3. "I have a degree and that makes me a great writer"
Academic qualifications are important, but they are not golden tickets to prove your worth as a writer. I do not hold an English literature degree - but I do hold two Masters in Physics and have a solid portfolio of work.
Degrees don't matter. Results and experience do.
4. "The invoice is higher than I quoted because it took a longer time to write than expected"
Yes, some writing work takes longer than expected. No, you should not have to pay more.
This is where my argument about fixed rates comes into play. Some clients prefer that I charge by the hour, some that I charge per word and others that I charge on a project-by-project basis.
But all budgets are agreed on upfront regardless of the payment model I use. A client who wants me to charge by the hour will get an estimate of the time it takes - and I use tracking software to prove my working hours. If I go under the estimate, I only charge for the hours clocked. If I go over the estimated time, that's my bad. I quoted incorrectly. If the client wants me to do more work outside of the scope of the original project, I'm upfront about how long that will take and the impact on the final amount.
Good writers do not spring an unexpected bill on businesses.
5. "I'm so busy, I can only fit you in if you pay extra"
This lie gives the illusion that the writer is in-demand and allows them to charge more at the same time. In reality, popular writers do not play such mind games.
A busy writer will be honest about their availability. They do not need to charge extra and are not afraid to tell you to wait your turn.
6. "I didn't get your email"
A classic time-stalling trick or way to avoid dealing with clients if you think you cannot make a deadline.
A good writer checks the spam folder, makes deadlines and maintains communication with clients.
7. "You only get what you pay for"
Another crafty mind game to make you feel guilty about questioning costs, but it's not strictly true.
Good writers will have a solid portfolio of work to back up their rates and will negotiate with costs. A byline or long term contract can be worth more than charging the maximum per word rate, for example.
Bad writers will use this line to elevate themselves and make you feel cheap - don't be fooled.
8. "You only need good copy to make sales"
How ridiculous. Good copy is one ingredient to make a sale. If you don't have sufficient sales and marketing plans, tools, resources, strategies and tactics to back up good copy - who's going to be reading it?
9. "Anyone and everyone will love this"
No, they won't. Writing is subjective. And a good writer understands that they need to meet the needs of your target audience and find your business's voice.
10. "Trust me, I know what I'm doing"
No, you don't. Good writers are not this arrogant. They will ask questions, want feedback and work closely with a client to get the best result. They understand that trust is earned.
I'm not trying to condemn my fellow freelance writers, I have made mistakes and may have uttered some of these phrases early on in my writing career.
But if you hear a writer using these lines on a regular basis, alarm bells should ring. So ask for a rates card and writing examples, communicate with your writer on a regular basis and don't believe the bullshit.
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I'm the freelance writer who gets tech. So, I blog on three core topics:
Science and Technology