One of the most important skills as a freelance writer is reading your client.
In this internet age, it’s rare to meet them, hear their voice or look at them.
It’s all about finding clues in emails. The client who talks about his love of cheap whiskey and having it for breakfast is the client who will email at 3am in block capitals filled with ill directed fury. One such client raged he wouldn’t pay for the expletive-deleted terrible work I’d done, when he could have written it better himself. When it turned out he had been reading his own notes, it somewhat contradicted his earlier claim.
I’m often asked if I use my own name. Does it make me vulnerable? My first name is quite anonymous, so I don’t mind using it. I suppose if I were genuinely perturbed I might consider a pseudonym, perhaps of someone I dislike
Birthday speeches are a bit of a rarity for me. Unlike wedding or Barmitzvah speeches there’s rarely a budget for the event. No budget = no money for speeches = no BespokeJokeBloke, Sometimes I do write a handful of jokes, for a smaller fee.
One time I was invited to bid for the job and the client agreed my price straight off. My usual start fee is a little inflated to allow room for haggling.
The notes provided described Tony (not his real name) as retired, a joker, who liked to play golf, had a loving wife, had lots of friends and liked practical jokes. The practical joke here being he would pretend his surprise party was a surprise to him. Then boom would whip out a brilliantly written comic speech, written by yours truly. The job he retired from, I didn’t need to know nor pretty much any other details to do with his life.
Tony quite liked my first draft, but suggested wouldn’t it be funny to have a bunch of actors in the audience shout at him. I said wouldn’t that be very expensive? Money no object Tony replied. Well I said why not have some actors dress up as FBI officers and drag you off in cuffs, whilst you protest.
“Stupid damn surprise party. Of course the Feds found me.”
Tony was pleased. He said this would shock but not surprise the party guests, adding something about lucrative but shady business deals and a mislaid work of art. He laughed out loud on our one Skype call. I wrote the draft and sent it to him. He liked it, released the funds and thanked me. A couple of days later he emailed me and said ‘FBI officers arresting him, a legitimate business man, might be too shocking for the guests. It might make them react in a way the actors wouldn’t like.’ ‘By the way’, he asked, ‘What’s your name?’ My reply?
“Delighted you liked the original speech; sorry you chose not to use it. Yours sincerely Piers Morgan”