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Finding Your Business Backbone

freelance writing courageBy Lori Widmer

The last few weeks I’ve had more challenges to my business than I’ve had in years. The last one was particularly unnerving. It involved someone who was possibly rerouting blog RSS feeds to his website, where he claims to be giving full attribution and links back to the original blogs, and that his actions were “doing (me) a favor.”


He was publishing snippets of my blog – and the blogs of at least fifty other writers – and each click drove visitors not to the original sites, but deeper into his own website, where again, snippets of info with attribution rested. It took one visitor four or five clicks to find the link back to my information. Worse, this guy was making ad revenue off these “snippets” as he called them.

When I sent him the standard “cease and desist” email complete with “to avoid litigation” language, I expected an argument. I wasn’t disappointed. This guy, who had no problem lifting portions of my work and making ad revenue from it, told me any lawsuit I filed “would fail.” Why? Because he knew copyright law and I was foolish because I was quoting “two-year old information.” It’s true. I was. And that information is exactly what is in effect today, whether it’s two years old or not. You cannot make money off someone else’s work if you’re using it without permission and you’re using even a snippet. (His argument would have been stronger had he bothered to put any of his own content on his site.)

However, the situation, now resolved to my satisfaction, illustrates one thing all writers must do and do vigorously. We must defend and protect our work and our businesses. But it’s when clients or people like this guy push back that many writers start to doubt themselves. What if I tick off the client? What if that guy is right?

Know this:

Just because they say it doesn’t make it true. I can’t tell you how many times a client has tried to avoid payment by pulling out the “Well, the payment is three months late because we hated the results” line. If there weren’t any issues expressed when the final project was delivered, it’s no more than an attempt to avoid paying the bill. Ignore the blame and act on your payment process.

Some people will create their own realties as justification. In situations like I’ve outlined above, some people will say anything when caught breaking the law. Don’t fall for the “you’re rude and you have no clue” schpiel. Chances are the reaction is so strong because you’ve hit a nerve. When in doubt, get an attorney on it.

Clients get upset and sometimes it’s not your fault. I had a few situations where clients would fume and fuss over some pretty minor stuff. Because I failed to react to the emotional outbursts, most of these situations ended with apologies from the clients. Usually it was the “had a bad day” excuse. I didn’t care because to react would be to detract from the point.

You are the only champion of your work and your business. Yes, editors at publications where your work appears will care. But beyond that, you have no one batting for you but you. Protecting your rights starts and ends with you. If you see something happening that could harm your business, it’s up to you to act quickly to prevent irreparable harm.

Emotion has no place in business. That’s why client upsets as I mentioned before should be dealt with from a business perspective. I’ve had clients call me names, blame me for untold amounts of sins, and try like mad to get me engaged in verbal warfare. Nothing doing. As this latest encounter has proven, extending beyond the facts is pointless. Fact – my website copy was being used without my permission and I wasn’t getting any financial reimbursement from the offending party. His calling me rude, clueless, ignorant, or any other name proved who the professional wasn’t. I remained on point – you have my content up without my permission. Get it down to avoid litigation. I repeated until he got bored arguing with himself.

Defending your business takes practice. You have to realize what your business is worth, recognize it as a living entity that falls under your protection, and do what’s best to protect your hard work. Once you learn to separate emotion from business, you’ll find it much easier to present yourself as a strong, viable business professional.

How do you stand up for yourself and your business?

Lori Widmer remains tactful and detached in all her business dealings with difficult people. She blogs regularly at Words on the Page, and is hosting a Query Writing Bootcamp on April 21st.

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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • It was worth visiting your site. WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share.
    Bencage recently posted..jura capressoMy Profile

  • S0 how did you resolve the situation in the end? Did your attorney tell what’s and what’s not true about copyrights law?:) I am just glad it is sorted out. How did you find out about this guy’s website?

    • Pinar, I never bothered my attorney with it beyond a CC on the email. Why pay to be repeated what I’d already known, right? 🙂

      Another writer had alerted me to it. I wouldn’t have known had she not mentioned it.

      The resolution came when he finally stopped name calling and fighting (with himself, because I refused to play that game). He did what I asked. He removed all links. That was all I wanted.
      Lori recently posted..Beware the Gurus and ExpertsMy Profile

  • So, so much business sense follows from your final point, Lori — you simply can’t let emotions get the better of you. (As they say in the Mafia movies, “It’s just business.”)

    I just edited a book about “the mental game of poker,” and it was fascinating and stunning how many of the lessons apply to business, sports, relationships, etc. In poker jargon, they have a single word for getting-angry-to-the-point-of-playing-badly: tilt.

    There are dozens of reasons tilt happens…but at the risk of oversimplifying the author’s hypothesis, the only way you can resolve it is to improve your own game and skills; accept that you only have control over your own game — not what the other players are doing; and you can actually re-direct the emotions and energy behind tilt in a positive way when you see it coming.

    • Jake, that’s a super comparison! business is a mental game. We have to use our mental resources as much to protect ourselves as to conduct our business.

      Tilt. I’m memorizing that. 🙂
      Lori recently posted..Beware the Gurus and ExpertsMy Profile

  • Wendy

    His argument would have held more ground if he provided a link or snippet of what he considered to be the more “current version” of copyright law. The fact that he didn’t, doesn’t earn much faith with me. It doesn’t set him up to be an expert or even knowledgeable about it.

    • There’s the thing, Wendy. He didn’t. Instead, the argument was he was an “expert” because he’s teaching a class in it. Honestly? I doubt he is. I believe it was a quickly drawn-up web page designed to fend off my litigation. (He’s a Web designer, so I doubt his claims to be a copyright guru.)
      Lori recently posted..Beware the Gurus and ExpertsMy Profile

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