Posted by on Dec 20, 2006 in proof reading, writing skills | 2 Comments

When can we say no?

I’ve just lost what could have been a friend. I’ll never know, because he has gone off in a huff, but I still feel justified in what I did – in fact, I wish I’d been braver than I was. This is what I wish I’d said.

Dear X

No, I won’t ‘look over’ your application letter and cv as a favour. ‘Look over’ means copy-edit, fact-check and rewrite as necessary – skills I possess and you don’t, and you probably think I’m a complete bitch for refusing you. After all, what would it cost me?

It would cost me time and self-esteem. What you’re asking me to do is work for you for free. If you really lack confidence in your cv, why not send it to a resumé service? Perhaps because you’d have to pay them? But it’s okay to dump on a mate, I assume.

Writing is how I make my living – if I give up writing time for you, then I give up time in which I could be earning money. You are just you, but I probably know 300 people who are going to change their job in the next two years – should I give up some of my precious earning time every couple of days to spend several hours working for them, for free?

I’m not going to reveal what you do for a living, as some people could work out who you are from that, but let’s pretend you’re an accountant – will you check over my annual accounts for free every year? No, I didn’t think so. So why should I do this for you?

Because we’re friends?

We were friends. Not any more. You didn’t even offer to buy me a coffee, bring me a bunch of flowers or take me out for lunch. Maybe you would have done, after I’d done what you’d asked, but I don’t think so. I don’t need this kind of friendship.

My skills are worth as much as yours and should be hired on the same basis. It’s offensive to assume that because writers can write, they are a free resource to all their acquaintance whenever there’s something you want proof-read or edited.

So goodbye, person who might have become a friend. I wish you luck with the job hunt.


  1. Kay Sexton
    21st December 2006

    Mark’s having problems posting to Blogger – he’s not the only one, it seems – so I’m going to post his comment for him

    I agree with your stand, Kay.

    Coincidentally, as an, ahem, accountant 🙂 you’d be surprised how much this is actually expected of us too. I learnt long ago that if I didn’t control this aspect I could be stuck working at least a quarter of every week doing unpaid work because I felt ‘obliged’, even though there are many other things I would rather be doing … such as my writing, or hey, spending time with my wife and ‘friend’.

    And yes, in many cases there is always a double standard: ask them to give their own professional or trades time free, and they would never think of it.

    Yes, friendships are partly what make a life, but then again, ‘friends’ don’t use you.

    Mark Hubbard

  2. TitaniaWrites
    21st December 2006

    I can’t believe your “friend” didn’t even offer to take you for lunch! I admire your stand, as someone who has spent ages re-doing people’s CVs for them, for no reward. Good for you.


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