The buzzword “value-added” basically means getting something for no additional cost. It’s frequently used in reference to service-based businesses. Marketing gurus and business consultants urge entrepreneurs to consider how they can “add value” to acquire and retain clients/customers. What they mean is what are those entrepreneurs willing to give away or do for free?

Authors, for instance, are frequently expected to give their books away. Hundreds of hours of work and, often, hundreds or thousands of dollars spent, to produce a good book mean nothing: in order to attract reader who will then buy your other books, you must give them something for free.

More often than not, the “loss leader” gambit doesn’t work and we’ve only ourselves and, ironically, Amazon to blame. With books available digitally, we get a false sense of cost. Why should I pay $9.99 for a paperback when I can get the same thing in digital format for $5.99, $2.99, or even $0.99? Why should I pay for production and shipping?

As an editor, I often find myself at odds with the tenets of contractual terms and the ingrained urge to “be nice.” My contracts are simple: once the client has approved the project, it’s complete. I have no further obligation to the project. However, a client occasionally returns to me with a, “Hey, I found an error and need you to fix it.”

That’s what gets me. Even though I tell my clients that they are expected to review returned documents carefully, I’m sure many don’t. They just accept the changes and move on. Later, when the find that their editor (me), who is all too human and imperfect, has missed something, then I feel obligated to correct that error. For free.

Perhaps that makes me a patsy. A pushover.

I once made changes to a manuscript that resulted in an change of page count. I contacted the graphic designer who had designed the cover to request the cover be adjusted to fit the new page count. Let’s just say that left a bad taste in my mouth when the designer fired off a truly nasty response.

I would have paid for the additional service. I would never have responded to a client (past or present) in such a manner. I have never recommended that particular designer to another and won’t. Nor will I ever use her service again.

But, as a freelancer myself, I understand her perspective.

​When explaining my service to new clients, I tell them what to expect. I give them a contract which they’re required to sign and return to show they understand the terms of our agreement. I have indeed informed some clients who said they thought X service was included in the fee or agreement that X service was not. This language in my contracts has evolved as such oversights occur and will continue to evolve.

Like any good businessperson, I want to keep my clients satisfied with the service they receive from me. That doesn’t mean I won’t stand up for myself, but that I must constant balance business savvy with being nice. It’s not always easy.