When Freelance Writing Jobs Go Terribly Wrong: Steal My Recovery Plan

Carol Tice

Recovery strategies for screwed up freelance writing jobs. Makealivingwriting.com

Ever have one of your freelance writing jobs turn into a total disaster? It happens, even to experienced writers.

I know, because it recently happened to me. After roughly 18 years of freelancing.

This flameout happened on a $3,000 corporate research report project that required intensive interviewing. I’d done these sort of projects in the past, loved them, was excited to do another one.

Then I did my research, put my list of possible interview subjects together, sent out hundreds of inquiries — roughly triple what I’d needed in the past to land the 6-8 interviews required — and got zero responses. Not. A. One.

It’s been a long time since one of my freelance writing jobs ended in failure. In fact, I’d only ever had one other article that got killed, at the very beginning of my career. Having a complete whiff this late in my career was a humbling experience.

What should you do if the worst happens and one of your freelance writing jobs gets screwed up? Here’s my guide to keeping it professional and minimizing the damage, when everything that could go wrong does:

1. Give early warning

The most important thing to do with one of those freelance writing jobs that goes sideways is to keep the client informed. Don’t sit on the knowledge that the assignment is imploding until deadline day, and then suddenly drop the bad news.

Writers should always have sub-deadlines mapped out for how their project should be progressing. If you see milestones aren’t on track, it’s time to reach out and let your client know things seem to be falling behind.

2. Ask for help

When things don’t go well at first, it’s not time to curl up in a ball and cry (not yet, anyway). Instead, ask around to see if anyone has fresh ideas on how to get this project done.

In my case, I checked in with my client after a couple weeks and said, “I’ve done 150 reach-outs so far, and I’m pretty surprised that not a single one of them was willing to be interviewed about this CEO. Here’s how I found my leads, and what I’ve discovered. Are you aware of anything I’m missing?”

They didn’t have much, so I circled back with another writer on their team, who’d been offered to me as a resource. He had a few useful suggestions that allowed me to try new directions and develop more leads. You can also ask around your own writer network for additional brainstorming on how to move an assignment forward.

You don’t want to frighten your client unnecessarily, in case the situation turns out to be salvageable. But let them know that things aren’t going as planned, and ask what else you could do. That way, at least the client knows you were working hard on the project and trying to make it work.

3. Get more tools

When my initial research methods didn’t work, I invested in more robust research tools. If there’s a research component to your gig, this can be a good strategy.

For this gig, I invested in a LexisNexis subscription tailored for journalists. I learned to use FullContact for Gmail, to gain more contact email addresses. I discovered who had their LinkedIn profile set to allow free InMails from all comers, and hit them.

Investing in the project showed good faith and my level of commitment to getting it done. It didn’t end up changing the outcome, but it might have. It showed I cared about their needs and took the problem seriously.

4. Show your work

Writers should always take notes and document their research and interviewing efforts as a project progresses, just to help speed up your writing process.

That comes in handy when things aren’t going well. I was able to show the client my early notes and process for qualifying and ruling out various possible interview contacts I turned up. So they knew I was working on it, and that I wasn’t simply blowing off the tough legwork required.

5. Offer options

When it becomes clear your project is not executable by the deadline, it’s time to offer options. In my case, I thought it was time to admit defeat, but said I’d be willing to keep going on the project if they wanted. What did they want to do?

I had a trip planned, so it would have been a month at least before I might have more results. And I worried that investing weeks more time still wouldn’t solve this. I was trying to crack a very close-mouthed, cliquish tech niche, and that wasn’t going to change. The client was game to keep going, but I didn’t want to string them along. So the project ended.

6. Try to make it right

When you’ve failed to meet a client’s needs, if possible, try to make amends. With this client, I offered my notes, so the next writer could use them as a starting point — I’d gained info on major corporations where no employee would be able to comment, for instance. Knowing where they’d be stonewalled could save the next writer a chunk of wasted effort.

I also offered to return my 50% up-front deposit, even though it was clear I’d devoted scores of hours to working on it. That’s not something I’d ordinarily do. The general rule is that there are no refunds in freelance writing.

But given that I was unable to come up with a single fact to put into the report they wanted, I thought it was appropriate to offer.

They declined, and said I should keep it to cover hours worked. But at least I offered.

7. Analyze why it happened

Back when I was a staff writer, I once had an article go badly wrong. My editor made me turn in a written post-mortem on how the problem had occurred. What were the problems in my process? At what points could a different action have averted disaster?

This is a humbling activity, but a healing one that I recommend. You’ll come out of it either with practical suggestions for how to do better in future, or with the reassurance that the outcome was out of your control. Nothing you could have done to make it work.

Failed freelance writing jobs: Cry and move on

The most important thing to do after a freelance-project disaster is to breathe, let go, and move forward. Get back on that freelance marketing horse and ride it hard. Find new gigs.

There is no universal editor network that will alert the world not to hire you. You can still have a career and find more freelance writing jobs. I promise.

Forgive yourself for falling short. We are human.

Your failure at one freelance gig doesn’t mean you’re a bad freelancer, writer, researcher, or human being.

Next time, correct any errors you may have discovered in your post-mortem. Vow not to repeat your mistake.

Take comfort in the fact that all experienced freelancers have been through this, and continued to work. It’s almost an initiation rite. Now you’re part of the club of seasoned, longtime freelancers — you’ve made a mess, and lived to tell.

Screwed up a freelance writing job? Tell us what happened and how you resolved it in the comments below.

Bust your fears and earn more as a writer




  1. Ritika Tiwari

    Cry and move on! You couldn’t have given a better advice Carol.

    I am always so careful when it comes to taking up projects but even I ended up with a miserable project last month. The first sign of trouble was when their digital marketing left just a week after I signed the contract, and after that, it felt like no one had even an ounce of professionalism in the company.

    My phone calls were ignored and email replied after 2 weeks. Then there were unnecessary edits that they asked after 3 weeks of submission.

    And that was when I lost my patience and told them I couldn’t work for such an organization.

    I had an advance payment and not a retainer, so there were some payment left to be cleared from there end, which they tried their best to delay.

    Thankfully, with a small threat of going public about how they were treating freelance writers, my payment was cleared right away 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      Ritika, I did a post about late payments: https://makealivingwriting.com/5-ways-get-flaky-freelance-client-pay/

      Social shaming to me is the final, ‘nuclear option’ — I don’t like to threaten or use it, but it sure does seem to get results.

      Often, when your contact changes over mid-project, things get into a mess. But in your example, you did nothing wrong, it was all changes on their end. Where with me, it was all on me. I couldn’t do the gig, which was kind of incredible to me 20 years into freelancing…but I learned that the sort of research reports I did a decade ago are harder to do now. That was my big takeaway, and I won’t take on that kind of writing project again.

      People were more accessible back then (at least in the tech industry these reports tend to focus on), and now employees are more worried about company policy or how it might come back to bite them. I think that’s why I couldn’t get any interviews, even though landing interviews was always my strength, after 5 years as a staffer scheming to get no-talkers like Home Depot to give me quotes, when I worked at a trade pub for the home improvement industry.

      So…moving on!

  2. Martha Mayo

    Great post Carol, and good advice to move on.

    ‘Just had a client go sideways on Upwork (I know!) Began working for him in March. The agreement was he would pay me $50 at the time I agreed to his offer, and another $50 at the end of March. I received the first $50 yet not the second payment.

    We emailed back and forth, he brought Upwork into the fray, Upwork called me and I explained the situation. They agreed I was owed the remaining $50. I let him know and he decided he could no longer “talk” about the situation – it was affecting his health.

    Bottom line, he still owes me $50 which he never paid.

    A payment of $50 is pending for April and should clear my account tomorrow. And as far as I’m concerned, I’ll keep it.

    We, thankfully, have parted company. I failed to realize how much I dreaded logging into Upwork each morning to read any comments from him.

    My lesson: be very, very clear on an assignment (which I thought I was…), continue to stay in contact (which I did), and do my best work.

    The client did say I was the best he’d ever worked with….

    All the other clients I’ve worked with through Upwork have been great!

    So relieved it is all over – whew!

    Lessons taken….


    • Carol Tice

      MY lesson from this would be — don’t take any $100 gigs! Look at all the aggravation you went through for a big $50. The prices on UpWork are for hobbyists, not professionals.

      I find that bigger clients on multi-thousand-dollar projects, you don’t tend to have these problems. One of the first things I did to grow my income was to create a FLOOR for a minimum project, below which I didn’t work. At first, it was $200. Then $300, then $500, and now it’s $1,000.

      Have the other UpWork clients been ‘great’ — but at similar rates? Because if so, I’d like to float the idea that they’re not as great as you think, because working for them is a ticket to poverty.

  3. M Quinn

    I had a similar experience, though for a different reason. I agreed to a very large project for an e-commerce retail company working on product descriptions, and asked for a certain amount of time. It became pretty clear pretty fast that I couldn’t deliver on time. Luckily the client understood, and I was able to get a week-long extension. Even that much more time wasn’t enough! I ended up sub-contracting the gig to some writer friends to help out. It was such a stressful situation, but one I definitely learned from.

    • Carol Tice

      I try to size up gigs up front to see if there’s time to get them done. I had one $13,000 contract writing 2 annual reports where I split the gig in half immediately. It was clear there was no way one writer could get it done on time — they had screwed around a lot at the beginning, and there just wasn’t enough time left.

      We all have to be realistic about what we can get done!

  4. Kimberly Houston

    I had a writing situation recently that threw me for a bit of a loop. I’ve been writing marketing copy for 16 years, the last 5+ years focusing on web copy specifically.

    I recently landed a client with a fairly technical & difficult to understand product. (Our agreement prevents me from saying what it is.) For that reason, I had a wee bit of hesitation before accepting the web copy project, but I thought with enough initial research I’d be fine.

    When I received the first draft back with the client’s feedback, I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. It was very far off from what she wanted. In 16 years of writing copy, I’d never been that far off on a first draft.

    But luckily, a process I began using a couple of years ago saved me, and put my client at ease too:

    When I take on a copywriting project that I feel might be more complex than usual, instead of just offering the usual first draft + 2 rounds of revisions, I offer something called a “sound check” draft first, which is preliminary, early-stage draft copy I develop to get a sense for specifically how the voice and tone are sounding in line with the client’s goals. (Something I learned from copywriter Ashley Ambirge). That draft doesn’t really “count,” in that if it’s very far off from what the client wants, they’ll still get another draft, which is the “official” first draft, then 2 rounds of revisions on that draft.

    I rarely offer the sound check draft option to clients, because it’s usually not necessary, as I typically don’t write copy for anything technical/advanced/challenging to understand. But thank goodness I did with this project!

    After reviewing the client’s feedback, I scheduled a call with her so we could go over the draft together thoroughly and get things ironed out. I reminded her that this was only a sound check draft, and was meant specifically for situations like this, so not to worry, we’d get everything worked out during the rest of the editing & revision process. This reassured her, and made me feel more at ease too.

    I can’t begin to say how much I was dreading that draft review call, but it turned out great. The client told me she knew that what she did was difficult to understand, she offered to send me other articles, reviews, and additional background material to help me understand it better (which was very helpful, and necessary, despite the loads of upfront research I did before writing the initial draft). She was very understanding and even said, “Please don’t give up on me.”

    We’re still in the editing phase, and though I’m not thrilled this happened, it’s taught me that I CAN deal with difficult situations and turn them around, and it’s been a good lesson too in learning that even at this stage, 16 years into my writing career, I can still get it wrong. Keeps me on my toes! : )

    • Carol Tice

      Kimberley, I don’t do the ‘2 edits and then I charge more’ approach — my philosophy is ‘I write until you’re ecstatic.’ So I don’t worry about whether a draft ‘counts’ in the 2 edits rule or not.

      BUT…I have definitely sent a page or three of the beginning of a project for initial feedback before writing further, to make sure I’m on track with tone and voice. I think that’s a great idea! Don’t want to get too far down the road before you find out they don’t like that direction…

      • Kimberly Houston

        I hear ya. I don’t ever charge for additional revisions if they’re necessary after two rounds, but I do put “your copy project includes the standard two rounds of revisions” in my services agreement because there needs to be some protection against scope creep or excessive edits due to indecisiveness on the client’s part. 🙂

        That said, I also put on my Work with Me page and in my services agreement this little ditty:

        THE MAKE ‘EM GIDDY GUARANTEE: On copy projects I provide a first draft, plus two iterative rounds of revisions, which looks like this: 1st draft –> 2nd draft –> Final draft. However, I would feel completely out of integrity accepting payment from you if you weren’t happy with your final copy, so we’ll work together to revise it until you’re 100% satisfied. That’s my iron-clad promise to you.

        • Carol Tice

          Seems contradictory to me, but glad it works for you!

          I protect against scope creep by listening deeply to my clients. They usually love my first draft, can’t think of the last time I really had to an extensive rewrite. When you’ve done this enough, you know what you can deliver, I think.

          • Kimberly Houston

            Agreed, listening deeply to clients is mandatory. My extensive client intake process usually prevents this very kind of situation from happening, which is why it threw me for a loop to have to do a rewrite, because I too am used to having clients love the initial draft. I’d gotten used to that, so this was, as I mentioned in my initial comment, like being punched in the stomach. 🙂

            [On a side note, I’m taking a few days off for the Easter holiday, and am really enjoying having the time to read through a whole bunch of your blog posts here, something I usually don’t get a chance to do!]

          • Carol Tice

            Glad you’re enjoying the read-through! We HAVE had some choice guest posts lately. I’m excited to have my first graphic from my 14-year-old daughter Ariella on this post. 😉

          • Kimberly Houston

            Wow, your 14-year-old daughter did the graphic on this post?! It’s awesome. When I try to do graphics, they look a 2-year-old did them. 🙂

          • Carol Tice

            Art is her life, and it shows! Stay tuned for more fun graphics from her. 😉

    • Firth McQuilliam

      Ooh, that’s a terrific approach, Ms. Kimberly Houston! I suppose the devil is still in the details, though. I’ve recently been practicing project pitches that outline the overall approach while including one or two polished paragraphs that showcase the suggested tone and style. Perhaps this approach represents the germ of a broader method of ensuring client comfort that more closely resembles what you’ve described. I shall contemplate this.

      Ugh. I’m tired again, and it’s late at night. Did what I just typed even make sense? It’s time to hit the pillows and soothe my little brain cells for another day. -_-

      • Carol Tice

        Firth, I wouldn’t be trying to throw grafs of copy into proposals — because you won’t know yet what their tone and style IS. That’s going to come out of the lengthier conversations you have with the client once you’re hired. They’re going to look at your portfolio for a general sense of your writing, and go from there.

    • Helen McCrone

      Following on from your sound check option, Kimberly, this is a tip I picked up from Roger Horberry in his book Brilliant Copywriting:

      Create a messaging toolkit in first stage of the project and get it approved by the client to speed up the review round. You list the main messages the client wants to tell the world, expressed in the right tone of voice and agreed by the client. Between 5 and 10 messages, 2 sides of A4 max. Each message should be a single sentence, and each explanation no more than a couple of paragraphs. This copy resource can be used to create production-ready text, handy when time is tight.

      I think this could be very useful if you’re working with a new client or if you’ve been asked for a tone of voice you don’t normally use.

      • Kimberly Houston

        Thanks a bunch Helen, the messaging toolkit is a great idea. I might try that on longer copy projects going forward.

      • Carol Tice

        Love it, Helen — great way to quickly get clients who don’t know what they want to have to commit to what their message should be and the tone of it.

  5. Melinda Rizzo

    Sobering, timely… you get the drift. I recently thought I had a full year of assignments for a national publication only to discover after 3 months of solid work, developing industry relationships, and turning in quality work on time that I was not longer necessary and those pages were being taken back “in house”. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I over delivered and did solid work, still it didn’t pan out as I’d been told or expected. So I did what you suggested: A deep cleansing breath and then some solid stock-taking. I did nothing wrong here, and lost the work anyway. I have 3 great clips to add to my portfolio and In the end, if you can view the good, bad and ugly as experience, all experience becomes valuable experience.

    • Carol Tice

      Publications and companies alike make these kind of decisions all the time. I did 2.5 years at $2K+ a month rewriting website copy for a multinational…until the week they fired my editor, hired an agency, and decided all their content would be videos.

      I don’t think of those type of scenarios as jobs gone ‘terribly wrong’ — all client relationships evolve over time. I’m talking more about what happens when you can’t deliver the gig. You simply can’t get it done. Clearly, you were getting it done, they just decided to go in another direction with their content development. To me, that happens every day. Glad you got the 3 clips out of it!

  6. Nora King

    After reading this article and all the replies, I guess I am lucky I did not receive a contract I had hoped for recently. I was hoping for my first-ever contract which was with what appears to be a successful realty and acquisitions firm.
    My first contact was with the co-owner (he was listed as the contact person on their website). He acted as if he did not have the time of day to talk with me about their project. I offered to send my Intake Form on .pdf to him and/or his office staff. He said I could send it directly to his e-mail. After 2 weeks with no response I found his assistant on LinkedIn and sent a copy of the form to her.
    Shortly after that, I received a curt reply from him via e-mail that they would not be needing my services after all, as they would be taking the project in-house.
    What leaves me confused about this experience is that this is a large firm. They are bound to depend on copywriters on a regular basis to do their marketing. I can’t imagine that they don’t have someone on staff in a marketing department to address these issues.

    • Carol Tice

      Nora…some companies are really dysfunctional. It’s organizational chaos. One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. Different silos are unaware of each other.

      I once took some online editors out to lunch, from a major magazine I’d also written for the print side on. I asked them how they coordinated with the print editors, and they just laughed. “They don’t know what we do, and they don’t care!” They told me.

      And any writer who’s been at this long has had the experience of taking a meeting with a super-enthusiastic prospect…and then never being able to get a peep out of them again. The key thing to do when this sort of weird stuff happens is…just move on. It’s not you.

      • Firth McQuilliam

        I’ve had that experience on occasion in my own limited way. It’s probably worth remembering that a small percentage of the populace suffers from manic-depressive illness or other serious mental disorders. Alternatively, recreational drug abuse might be a factor. These people will start wildly enthusiastic projects during their soaring highs and then drop them like lead bricks.

        For that matter, some people are simply flighty. That’s life. I’ll offer polite responses with a few personalized details that show I’m paying attention and let it go at that. If the project goes forward, great. If not, it was an opportunity to practice the art of noncommittal diplomacy. It never hurts and always helps to be relentlessly polite and professional. ^^;

  7. Helen McCrone

    Thanks for sharing this, Carol. When a project goes pear-shaped for whatever reason, I always feel that sharp punch to the stomach, and my first instinct is to cry and throw in the towel. Then I give myself a good talking to, realizing stuff happens to the best of writers.

    Over the years I’ve toughened up, and two tactics that seem to work for me are these:

    (1) Go to Writer’s Den (yay!) and discover what others do in similar situations and get some tips. Added benefit is that you don’t feel like you’re the only one who’s faced this crisis.

    (2) Evaluate the project rationally. Go through each stage (negotiation/quotation, agreement details, briefing, interviewing, production, review, etc) and write down what went well and what could have been done differently/better.

    Identifying my lessons learned helps me to pick up the pieces and get ready to tackle the next project. It’s become an effective self-development tool.

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds like you do a post-mortem as well — I think that’s a smart exercise not enough writers do. Sometimes, you come out of it with some very concrete, important changes to your process that help prevent future problems.

      Super-true in online biz as well. For instance, on the free event I just did, we had an integration break on us between two programs, and then people weren’t really getting signed up in the Webinar’s software. The problem? We discovered it wasn’t officially any one particular person’s JOB on our team to monitor that and make sure it continued to work. Now, it is!

  8. Kaitlin Morrison

    I’ve definitely made writing career mistakes and botched gigs before. In every case, I don’t believe it was 100% my fault, but there’s still plenty to learn from the postmortems.

    Thanks for the reminder that we’ll all write again and there isn’t a Universal Editor Network! Writers are hard on themselves and it gets worse when we run into problems and start reacting negatively instead of being proactive.

  9. Tonya

    Its so wonderful of you to tell us about this. As a newbie I would have probably blamed myself an thought it would never happen to anyone else. We can be so hard on ourself at times.

    • Firth McQuilliam

      Come to think of it, Ms. Tonya, you’re quite right. In a similar scenario, I probably would have desperately sniffed at my armpits to confirm the malodorous miasma and peered at my face in the mirror for the inevitable signs of disgusting moral dissolution. “Woe! I’m a unlovable bum who just peed on his client’s favorite rhododendron and kicked over the office donation jar for a local children’s charity!” -_-

      As expected, Ms. Tice’s reaction to this disaster was professional and thorough. I’m not surprised that this client politely urged Ms. Tice to keep the money expended thus far. It all was a veddy good show of manners. 8^]

      Still, with absolutely no offense meant, I’d rather be attacked by a maddened horde of mutant gerbils than go through this myself. What the heck *was* this clannish clique of closed communicators to refuse to utter a single, solitary peep? O_o

      • Tonya

        Lol Thank goodness for all you wonderful professionals leading the way. When you are out here drifting around on your own theres not anything to go on. We donot get trained on the job. Lol

        • Carol Tice

          Actually, that’s it exactly, Tonya — we DO get trained ON the job, by doing client work. That’s how I learned everything I know. Writers need to do less sitting and thinking and daydreaming about doing this career, and go out and find a client willing to let them do a project. Even if it’s pro bono. That’s how you learn to please clients, learn to improve your writing, and get rolling.

      • Carol Tice

        Firth, if you’d rather die than have one freelance gig go wrong, this is probably the wrong career for you. The reality is, stuff happens. That’s why I wrote this post. Things go sideways. And we have to carry on with our careers.

        • Firth McQuilliam

          Nooo!!! I’m a brave fellow who can face a maddened horde of mutant gerbils! As long it only happens once in a great while and as long as I get to treat the bite marks afterwards with plenty of internally applied alcohol and externally applied Band-Aids. O_O

    • Carol Tice

      …And that’s exactly why I wrote this up. Obviously, not my proudest moment, but there’s so much perfectionism in writers, and it’s important to know everything doesn’t work out in freelancing. And that’s OK.

  10. Drew Drake

    Just 2 days ago a great long term prospect offering a wide variety of work, fell flat!

    It happened because we were on different pages regarding web copy. They wanted a specific style and I give them the opposite.

    This happened because I did not clarify strongly enough. We are from different countries and their English is limited but that is not why this mix-up happened. It happened because I did not get absolutely sure about what was expected.

    Following this mishap, we had a disagreement about the length of time (they were paying hourly) it should take. They mocked up an example and said it took them 1.5 hours. I think the example was extremely poor and mostly ignored it.

    I charged them for 3 hours (it took longer) and they were not happy. This brought about a termination of our agreement. We left on good terms but had I broken down how long it would take to produce a quality page, it would have helped immensely. The main reason I did not do this is because it was my first time with this kind of work I had to research a new industry.

    That all being said, the takeaway lesson from this experience is – GET CLEAR

    Make sure you know exactly what the client wants and explain exactly how long you think it will take to produce it (if you know).

    Lesson learned!!!

  11. Andrew Fennell

    Early warning is definitely the most crucial piece of advice. Your clients will often have clients who they need to keep informed of progress so if you don’t warn early, you are usually setting of a chain reaction of annoyed clients – nobody wants that!

  12. Adam Leviness

    Luckily I haven’t had a project explode on me yet. But, I have had projects start to go south. I always make sure to inform the client, and they’re usually very understanding and accomodating. It’s one of my biggest fears as a writer that I’ll mess up a project or miss a deadline. I’m glad to see that there are ways to bounce back from it. Makes me a little less nervous, a very little.

  13. Neal Eckert

    Hi Carol! Thanks for your transparency about some of the challenges you encountered. It was helpful to see how you made the best of an undesirable situation. 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      My pleasure! At least somebody can get something good out of it. 😉 Honestly, I’m still just stunned at how this went down. I have prided myself for YEARS on being the person who can get anybody to say anything on the record. And then, with this challenge, I completely hit the wall. Humbling…

  14. Susan Johnston Taylor

    Sometimes getting people to agree to be interviewed is one of the toughest parts of the job! Kudos to you for sending so many interview requests.

    In the last several years, I’ve found that email interview requests often don’t work. Even if you can find someone’s email address, busy people’s inboxes are often so flooded that messages from unfamiliar senders often get deleted, ignored or stuck in spam. I typically email my initial request and if 5-7 days go by with no response, I’ll follow up via Twitter (either the company or the individual’s Twitter account, depending on the situation). “Hi @blankblank trying to reach you to arrange an interview for a story I’m writing. What’s the best way to connect?”

    This is usually effective at either getting a “no thanks, I don’t have time” message or getting them to loop in their assistant for scheduling. I’ve probably done this 100+ times and only one person has ever expressed annoyance at being publicly tweeted. She’s also a journalist and must understand how hard it is to cut through the noise, so I’m still baffled by her reaction when she could have just declined. Hope this helps!

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, totally agree. I tried a mix of email, LinkedIn InMails and Twitter on these, so it definitely wasn’t all email. Using FullContact for Gmail to find emails, I would often also see what social media they were on and would try to hit them there as well. I’d say the most responses I got were on LinkedIn, but all were either to say, “I didn’t know the guy,” or “I’m unable to comment due to company policy.” It was a real shock after doing these in the past, and never failing to turn up a half-dozen good interview subjects.

      I think it may have been partly a function of the Seattle tech scene being particularly clannish and close-mouthed, and people who I needed were mostly at a few major companies, at least one of which has a set policy that they cannot do these sorts of interviews. So that was a big part of the strikeout. But it was still so frustrating!

      Having covered startups and VC for a number of years, I’m painfully aware that folks in this space often declare ’email bankruptcy’ and delete 1000 emails at a blow, unread.


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