Do you check your client’s references?

It can be super exciting to get a phone call from a total stranger claiming to be associated with a big company,who needs creative work.

“Wow!” I immediately think to myself, “A potential new client with lots of money!”

But I know myself and I have a history of getting overly-excited when these things happen; I tend to jump right into the pot before checking to see if the water is boiling. So this time I recalled being overly excited then severely disappointed in the past, and decided to be more cautious. <insert pat on the back>

This “potential client” (I will call him “G.B.”) quickly introduced himself, and even spelled his name out for me, which I thought was a bit odd. He then informed me that years ago he had hired one of the subcontractors I have listed on my website… ergo, he found my firm by doing a search for this person. He then disclosed he had been an in-house music producer for Warner Brothers Records here in Nashville for 6 years, had produced such acts as Travis Tritt, Tanya Tucker and Mark O’Connor (among many others), and now needs a website, and possibly some video work for his own music production company.

Well, it was very hard not to get excited. I gave him my spiel about how I had worked within the entertainment industry for so many years, how we would be a great fit for him because of this, yadda… yadda…. He said he would like to set up a time to visit in person, after the weekend.

Wahoo!  Oh… wait… what’s that feeling?

A heavy, familiar sense of impending doom swept through me. It has taken a long time, but I have finally learned not to ignore this feeling I get deep in the pit of my stomach when I just know something isn’t right. I immediately called my subcontractor friend who had apparently worked for G.B. (I’ll call him E.W.)

As soon as E.W. heard this guy’s name, he warned me very loudly, “Run in the other direction as fast as you can!” And then he proceeded to tell me some not-so-nice things about this man — for instance, he was sued by a local ad agency for nonpayment, among other things.

I trust my friend, and this information was enough to make me steer clear, but I needed to find actual proof to be able to point to, in order to explain why I would not do business with him, should he call back. I did not want to get E.W. involved in a “he said/she said” kind of thing. Enter Google, not my best friend, but darn close in these kinds of situations.

Here are just a couple of the headlines I found after doing a local search for this guy:

• Tanya Tucker Sues G.B. For Breaking Contract & Withholding Property

• Tanya Tucker Files Lawsuit Against Former Producer (G.B.)

• Do Not Work for G.B. due to nonpayment and bounced checks  (this is from the Nashville Musicians Union)

I feel like I have dodged a bullet, here. But I have to be really honest with myself and ask, “If I had not had E.W. to call, would I have done this kind of due diligence on my own? Would I have heeded that feeling in my gut?”

I have to say I probably would have been too lazy to do so, without feeling there was due cause.

I’m curious… do you take the time and effort to check up on prospects before diving into the process with them? Do you do a credit check? I’d really like to know what experiences others have had with this kind of thing, if you are willing to share.

We deserve to be paid for our work, and we really do need to be proactive when it comes to due diligence. Luckily, I didn’t have to learn (again) the hard way!

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