How to Accept Less Than Your Best

photo of imperfect tulip with curled petal
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Rolling in a heap of money helps one cope. Consider adding an aggravation fee.

Lorne Michaels famously said about SNL:

The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.

Out of time or out of money are just two of the reasons to do less than your best. There are many legitimate reasons to do only what the client asks for, including the fact that they are out of energy and just want the project done. It’s even “legitimate” that they are satisfied with the quality and don’t want more done than they have asked for.

Consider this (true) analogy: I hired a carpenter to do one thing to the door of my newly renovated bathroom. He then lectured my partner about everything that was wrong with the bathroom and insisted that it was pointless to fix the door without ripping out everything else and starting fresh to get a “proper job.”

I was out of money. I was out of patience. I wanted to be done with renovations. I threw the carpenter out of the house and never finished that door task.

Perhaps the job wasn’t “up to his standard,” but it was up to mine!

I understand the trepidation some editors face: Will this less-than-perfect work make me look bad? This is not a concern I wish to invalidate; what I offer is acceptance for imperfection. I prefer to appreciate that the client did seek out my help, in whatever capacity their timeline or budget could allow. I aim for harm reduction and happy clients, not perfection.

The full article was published in my “How To” column at which was bought by ACES and is being re-released over time. Watch for it to reappear there!

Do you accept assignments that won’t be able to showcase your best work?

Next week we’ll look at how to prioritize the editorial tasks for maximum effect — it’s editorial triage.


Photo by Jenny Downing used under CC BY-2.0 license.

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