Molly Kendrick writes Contemptible Impudence, a blog about freelance writing. she hosts yeah no yeah podcast with co-host katie brandt.

The Freelance Editrix and the Pro Bono Pussy Magnet

Craigslist has proved a goldmine for me — one of my best clients, and most recently, my first New York apartment. I wrote about finding my first freelance writing gig on Craigslist, which wasn't great, but it warms my heart with its firstness. But it hasn't always been good. One time I met a madman who said he wanted an editor but actually just wanted to pay a woman to admire him. Testosterone: It's a hell of a drug. 

In the summer of 2013, I responded to a Craigslist ad seeking an “accountability buddy” for an aspiring eBook author. The man who posted the ad explained that making an appointment to write helped him finish projects in a timely manner. He would pay me to sit there, and at the end of every hour, I would review what he had and correct basic grammatical and spelling errors.

I met Chad (not his real name, but it fits) at Starbucks. Over the phone, he had stressed that he had been asked to do some modeling recently, so I would be able to identify him based on his especially beautiful face and body. I guessed who he was based on his startlingly white pants and sad, lost-looking eyes. 

At our first meeting, Chad stressed that previously he had run into issues with accountability buddies, getting off to a chummy start only to lose the intimidation factor he craves. “I need someone who can shut me up,” he said. 

“At the risk of sounding like a dominatrix, how mean do you want me to be?” I asked.

He looked me dead in the eye and said: “Safe word. Banana.”

We high-fived and turned to our laptops.

“Do you want to get lunch?” he asked me, about 4 hours into our first 8-hour session. “Or would that be weird?”

He did strike me as weird, but there's nothing weird about my need to have 3 square meals every single day.

For some reason, I agreed to get in his car to find a nearby chain. “Please don’t think I’m the most narcissistic person ever,” he said, as we walked over to his Mercedes-Benz convertible, which sadly had a license plate with his name on it. As he unlocked the doors he announced, "This is what I call my 'pussy magnet.'" I did my best impression of someone laughing. 

Reading what he had written proved a difficult exercise in Maintaining a Neutral Expression. He seemed to aspire to be an edgier version of Tim Ferriss, but with fewer ideas about time management and more illegal steroids. Chad held himself up as a poster boy for weight loss success: Instead of falling into the diet and exercise trap, he had paid for liposuction and started taking steroids that he ordered in the mail from Thailand. He did seem to have some problems with food — during each of our meetings he ordered two slices of lemon poundcake. "They put crack in here, I swear," he said, nervously biting into the bright yellow cake, his eyes filled with shame. 

Over our lunches, I peered more deeply into the dense lemon poundcake of a mind. He was a self-proclaimed slumlord. "Instead of getting a job, I made a bunch of shitty jobs," he explained. "That's how capitalism works."

His approach to his personal life was just as stark. One chapter explained that in order to lose weight you should cut all your fat friends out of your life. They don't want you to succeed. They want you to be as fat, if not fatter than they are. In all fairness, this is ABSOLUTELY TRUE. I'm on the thicker side, and to know me is to have butter secretly melted into your coffee, and cheese surreptitiously placed under your tongue while you're asleep. Hey, it's a dog-make-other-dogs fatter-than-they-are world out there. 

He consistently used graphic descriptions of “ass rape” to describe how life treats people who don’t follow his recommendations. At first, it was jarring. Then it started to lose it's meaning. Ass rape! Ass rape! Ass rape! See? Ass rape! Oh, and also, before I forget,

ASS RAPE. 

Whatever you think of his methods, Chad is in great shape. In the course of our time together, he took the time to show me several shirtless pictures of himself. In the course of his book, Chad mentions his 8-pack, his modeling gigs, his model friends, his excellent cars, and the many, many exotic locations he has visited on cruises. Motivation to write this book, he said, stemmed exhaustion. People are always asking him how he got to be such a sexy genius. Enough already! Just read the book!

Chad, a committed non-committal bisexual, brought up his love life more than once. “This girl won’t stop stalking my facebook wall!” he shrieked, girlishly alarmed. He showed me a naked picture of the woman in question. Because of his vast catalog of exploits, Chad insisted, naked women no longer impress him. “When I see a naked woman now, it’s like...” He shrugged indifferently. Later, when I Googled him to see if I could find an arrest record (pro tip: do this BEFORE), I found his Facebook page. According to Chad's wife, Chad is married. 

Without any prompting from me, Chad felt the urge to announce that he is very active in Austin's nudist community. “It’s just something different to do,” he said. He told me about his recent visit to Hippy Hollow, a famous nudist beach in Austin, where he had experienced unsatisfactory results. “It sucks that just anyone can go there," he mourned. But it did give him an excuse for him to show me yet another picture of a naked lady on his phone. He had a proud demeanor, and he had a distinct air of "Yeah, that's what I bang. You'll notice it has large breasts." 

I did not want to see pictures of Chad, dressed or not. I did not want to see naked pictures of his friends. I wanted to be paid for editing. Most people who do something creative have a story like this. "I felt uncomfortable, but I needed the money..." Happily, once you resolve not to put up with this kind of thing, it never happens again. Desperate people can sense desperation in others, and they just as astutely run in fear from the first sign of confidence and determination. 

After I gave him back his first batch of writing (with lots of significant changes) Chad told me felt like grammatical rules are a tool that the man uses to keep little people down. “The only people who advocate enforcing grammatical rules are the people who benefit from it.” People like me, I guess. Raking in literally tens of dollars by the hour, twirling my mustache and sexually harrassing a glass of brandy. 

In the midst of these arrangements over the weekend, Chad became increasingly demanding of my timely responses. After I hadn’t replied to one of his e-mails and texts for a couple hours he sent me an email saying he was not “...familiar with the communication etiquette rules...” I followed. In case any of you were wondering, freelance editors you hire off of Craigslist are, in fact, different from 911 operators or personal assistants.

For the second week, Chad wanted to write about how to become wealthy. The previous week he had explained to me his convoluted philosophy behind successful wealth acquisition. He was always eager to talk, fueled by slices of lemon pound cake and testosterone injections. 

Making money, Chad explained, involved realizing that you don’t need to get a job - you need to create lots of shitty jobs. He disclosed that he had started his business by borrowing a large sum of money from his wealthy father. Funny, he neglects to mention this in his eBook! Like so many real estate tycoons, he didn't seem capable of distinguishing a self-made man from a dad-made man.

He became increasingly self-conscious about his work the more he wrote. I was giving him a lot of feedback about "sentences" that I thought "didn't make sense" because of "comma usage" and "generally dangerous ideas." “Just edit it. Don’t read it too much,” he told me. 

By the second week, he was spiraling into a deep paranoia. I had seen that he had re-posted his advertisement on Craigslist for a new accountability buddy to meet him in the morning, before our session, to write yet another eBook.  “What’s your other book about?” I asked him.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Ok.” I went back to clearly and boldly not giving a shit.

And yet, Chad continued. “It’s just that, very few people actually wish you well. I’m not saying this is you, but when people want to more about your business, it’s usually just for their own amusement. Typically when you talk about your life, people don’t even believe you, or they just want a piece of your success. So I just keep my mouth shut.”

This wasn't the first indication I had of Chad's attitude toward his fellow man. In his self-help book, he recommends that put aside time to look photos of people you hate while listening to heavy metal (or the aggressive tunes of your choice), focusing your rage and thinking about how grand it will be when you succeed and they fail. 

Three days into our second week, he gave up about 2 hours into our meeting. He said he “felt weird,” and that he felt I was failing him as an accountability buddy. “I really need someone who will hold my feet to the fire," he said. As he spoke, he stood over the one of the chairs, leaning forward to tightly grip its back. His arm muscles tensed and un-tensed as he spoke. At our appointment the following day he said: “I want to buy out of my contract. I feel burned out.” He gave me $200.00, and said he could give me more if I felt I needed it. I didn’t want to have to meet him again, so I agreed. Before our final meeting, Chad assured me that his regimen of testosterone injections had nothing to do with his sudden mood swings. Well Chad, I never suggested they had. 

 

Through careful Googling, I found the final version of Chad's ebook. Thankfully he didn't credit me by name, but apparently, someone named "Sexy Hair" edited his work (wow thanks!) In the cover image he stands nude, holding his manuscript over his groin.

Chad is still someone I like to Google everyone once in a while. Last I checked, his marriage had crumbled and he had taken up with a string of Cambodian women, and was spending lots of quality time in Siem Riep, in spite of a brief stint in a Cambodian jail. 

My time with him was misguided, and I would advise anyone in a similar circumstance to quit immediately. During one of our first meetings, Chad and I talked about the importance of taking risks, and how most people have convinced themselves they have to settle for certainty, that they can only help to fulfill someone else’s dream. “Know thyself,” he told me. As someone who gave up a 9-to-5 to rely on irregular freelancing paychecks, this idea still stirs my soul. Even a mentally ill clock is right twice a day, but only when it's quoting Socrates. 

From Craigslist to Gala Season (and How I Met Matthew Weiner)

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