with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
My glass is often not only half-empty, my tea is growing tepid, dammit. Which is to say, I am sometimes not all that good at finding the bright side of things. But today let’s pretend I’m madly spinning this into one of those “learning opportunities” I hear so much about. Yes! It’s a good thing that I was a moron, because you’re about to learn from my stupid mistake.
As I would encourage any freelancer to do, my work at this point is spread amongst nearly a dozen different projects. Failure at one is hardly a catastrophe; there are other contracts, different work, etc. Amongst this field of commitments, though, are the two websites I own, myself. And those sites are my bread and butter; aside from the income they generate, they bear my name and are, arguably, a huge part of my brand.
And—plain and simple—I screwed up.
When I started Want Not two and a half years ago (wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long…), I knew I wanted to share deals and bargain tips and some money management strategies, but I was still wet behind the ears and really had no concept of what the site could potentially become. At this point I have a larger readership over there than I ever would’ve dared to imagine, and I’m immensely proud of what I’ve built.
Waaaaaayyy back in the beginning, a marketing contact offered me something as a Want Not giveaway, and I said “Sure! Why not!” The response to that contest was so enthusiastic, I was soon offered (and accepted) a second opportunity. As time went on, more and more companies noticed the site and gave me the opportunity to give away items to my readers, and I now host weekly giveaways of various prizes.
I think that a lot of folks do giveaways as a way to drive traffic, and I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the traffic (heh), but mostly I do it because my readers are very loyal and I enjoy being able to give them stuff. I mean, let’s be honest—running these contests (particularly as often as I do) is a huge pain in the butt. I have an entire corner of my office set aside for prizes and shipping materials, and I spend more time than I would like in line at the post office. Although my shipping costs are deductible business expenses, they’re still quite a bit of money out of my pocket, even though it’s “free” stuff.
So. After one contest where the company sent a huge carton of items to me—which I then had to send out individually from here, which was time-consuming and expensive—now when I’m contacted about potential giveaways, I always ask if the agency contacting me would be willing to do direct fulfillment, i.e., send the prize to my winner(s) rather than to me.
This has always worked out really well. Except when it hasn’t.
In fact, it’s worked out fine right up until this month. For the first time, I was contacted by a contest winner who never received her (very expensive) prize. And my contact for that contest? Abducted by aliens! Well, maybe not aliens, per se, but she has stopped responding to my email. For all intents and purposes, she’s gone. Vanished. Leaving me with a (rightfully so) disgruntled “winner” who is probably wondering if I’m trying to pull a scam.
My reputation is on the line, so after many, profuse apologies, I’m doing the only thing that makes sense—I’m buying and overnighting the missing prize to my winner. It’s a hassle and an expense I never planned on, but it’s my responsibility and so that’s the right thing to do.
Moving forward, I will not ask for direct fulfillment from anyone with whom I haven’t previously worked. I was too trusting, and I got burned. It was a good lesson to learn, but a very expensive (and embarrassing) way to learn it.
(And I hope those aliens probe her extensively.)
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