Six Signs You’re Working For A Clown Company

WTF is a “clown company”? An easy answer if you’ve ever had to write for one. For those who haven’t yet– a clown company is one that has lofty aspirations, big ideas, but absolutely no idea about how to implement them. They usually go out and hire some college grad with little experience who will work on the cheap, let them flounder around for a while, then step in and ruin everything. OR they let the college grad set up some kind of woefully inefficient system and run the operation into the ground.

Some of these disasters-waiting-to-happen are dedicated to writing products, others need writers for PR, web copy, and other material. One thing clown companies do is hire freelance writers to try and keep their costs down. That’s good for us…for a while. The problem with working for a clown company is that eventually you’ll either get stiffed in the pay department, you’ll get paid very late on a consistent basis, you’ll be asked to do more and more unreasonable things for the same money you started with, or worst of all you’ll be given an attractive offer to work full-time, or you’ll get dropped in favor of someone who can work cheaper than you.

Why is the job offer the worst part of all? Read this list of danger signs you’re working for a clown company and all will become clear:

6. A clown company can never keep its payment and publication system in place for very long. One day you’re told you’re getting a $500 fee to write X amount of articles, web pages, PR copy, whatever. In a few weeks the system changes again, and usually not in your favor. Give that a month or two and the system changes again. Now they want to pay you $450 for three extra articles and a press release over and above what you discussed in the first place. See where this is going?

5. Clown companies have very high turnover. If you’re writing for an editor that brings you on board as a freelancer but can’t seem to hang on to any of your peers for very long, you could be working for a company in a state of flux OR you could stuck with one that doesn’t know how to hire and maintain relationships with freelance professionals. Are you getting the feeling they can’t live without you? If so, these could be indicators of greasepaint and funny shoes. Beware.

4. Long delays in payment don’t always indicate your editor and her boss are wearing funny red noses and making balloon animals, but if you’re waiting forever to get paid and experiencing any of these other symptoms, chances are you are submitting your material to someone who lives under the Big Top.

3. Do you get the sneaking suspicion you know more about the writing business than your editor? Maybe he lets slip that the only experience he had before taking the gig was working for the college newspaper? Or maybe the editor’s boss keeps imposing their ideas, forcing your editor to ask you to do ridiculous things you know are counter-intuitive to a other critical aspect of the business. Re-evaluate your relationship with anyone who displays a fundamental lack of understanding of how the publishing game is supposed to work.

2. Beware the manager that hands out goals for content, readership, or productivity that cannot be realistically reached. Rule number one for good managers is to give writers attainable goals. Is your company intentionally setting goals too high to reach with the idea that it will motivate people to push themselves and TRY to get there? Whether you’re freelancing or working directly for them, you will suffer from this excessively bad management style. Can you hear the calliope playing in the background? You will

1. The clown company will offer full-time work to a competent freelancer, but have no idea how to pay. You may be asked to work at an insulting hourly rate, or you could be offered a crazy amount of money far above anything you expected to get. Believe it or not, you should be VERY AFRAID of the boss who wants to overcompensate you. Clown company behavior will get you hired for the inflated paycheck, change your duties constantly and ask for increasingly absurd results. Nine times out of ten, your bosses will ignore the benefit of legitimate experience. You’ll be 100% correct in telling an inexperienced small publisher it’s literally impossible to build one million dollars of online advertising revenue in a year from nothing at all with one salesperson hawking a medium-traffic website. But they won’t listen to you, they’ll just decide you aren’t “on board” and not a ‘team player”.

And yes, that’s a true story.