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Emergency Work

A few weeks ago – at about 10 pm on a Thursday – I got a semi-frantic email from a semi-frantic consultant who was due to give a speech on Saturday – and “would I be free to give him a hand with editing his draft?” He would have it to me by three or four Friday afternoon.
It was one of those instances where I had to make a fast decision. I was working on another speech for a client that was due fairly soon. Although it was reasonably under control, the client you have must never be sacrificed for the client you might have. A bird in the hand – so to speak.

On the other hand, you never have a second chance to turn down a first time client.

This request and the decision to take it on was somewhat problematic. First, I generally only take on “emergency” speeches for my ongoing clients, not for new ones. Second, I count emergency as being 24 hour turnaround time, not the few hours he had in mind. Third, in this case both the client and I were buying a bit of a “pig in a poke”.

I didn’t know if I would be editing a disaster that was unfixable. And he didn’t know if and how much I could help him. He knew of me because he had heard me give a talk on speech writing, but that was it. It was entirely possible that we would be both committed to an enterprise that might all end in tears.

Even before talking to him on the phone I did do a bit of research – the gods of Google be praised – and got relevant background on him and on the sum and substance of the event.

“What the heck”, I thought. The subject matter was interesting and we seemed to talk in the same vocabulary. The process was not without its moments however. The draft I was supposed to get at 3 or 4 didn’t show up until 7 in the evening – so it was a pretty frantic 3 or 4 hours after that.

Fortunately my gut didn’t let me down because the draft he sent me wasn’t a mess. It was actually pretty good. I was able to tighten it up. add a few value-added comments of my own and turn it around by about 10:45 pm.

The job got done. The client was happy. The Saturday event apparently went well.

It’s not something I recommend on a regular basis. But sometimes you go with your instinct and you have the makings of a new ongoing relationship. In fact we had coffee the following week, exchanged war stories about things political, and we plan to keep in touch.

Was there a price to be paid? Well yes. Not financial. I was well paid for the work. But you forget how much this sort of last minute on-the-fly work can take out of your system. The output of mental energy can be physically draining. I sort of crashed the rest of the weekend.

Still, the adrenaline rush cannot be denied.

What about you. Do you take on emergency work? Do you make sure to charge a premium for it? Do you demand quick payment? Do you demand payment in advance?