Even in this economy – where just the idea of a new client makes your heart race with anticipation – it’s important to recognize red flags that tell you to proceed with caution and to walk away if necessary.
Such was the case for me last week. I got this e-mail, yet it wasn’t even from the prospect. It was from a “representative” of the prospect. Without even telling me this mystery person’s name – much less anything else – this representative promised a ton of work (brochures, e-newsletters, Web articles, you name it,) if I simply emailed back the following: my hourly rates and (get this) not only samples of my work, but first drafts of those same samples.
To me, neither of these requests were acceptable. I’m used to the first one. Especially this year – with everybody being understandably cost-conscious – I get the hourly rate request a lot. But even now, my answer remains the same: I must know about your project before I can give an estimate. If I took my car to a mechanic, I’d expect that mechanic to have a good look under the hood before we could seriously talk about price. Why should it be so different when it comes to writing (or design)?
But the second request was new to me. Most writers or designers know that there are often good reasons why a first draft looks quite a bit different from a finished product (like healthy collaboration, new ideas, changes in project direction, etc.) But this “mystery prospect” wanted only to see “how much editing” I needed. If the final product was different from the first draft, well that must have been because I screwed up.
I was expected to just jump at this “incredible opportunity” (the rep’s words, not mine) without asking questions. There wasn’t even a phone number I could use to call for more info.
So what did I do? (Click on the link below to find out.)
Alan Kravitz is a copywriter/editor whose company, The Infinite Inkwell, helps socially conscious organizations communicate effectively and strategically through the written word. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on LinkedIn, or speak with him at the Creative Freelancer Conference, Aug. 26-28 in San Diego, which he’ll be attending for the second year.
I e-mailed this representative back, thanking her for her interest, but telling her very directly that I do not work this way. I told her I would be happy to have a no-cost consultation with her client so I could find out plenty of details (including, of course, who the client was) and that I would gladly give an estimate after that consultation. For samples, I simply provided a link to my online portfolio.
Not surprisingly, I got a terse “thank you, we’ll get back to you” response. I don’t expect to get this job, but that’s okay. I just know in my gut that it would not be a good fit.
I wonder, though, how many people would have taken this bait – especially in this economy – just for the sheer prospect of getting work. Like any other solopreneur, I want to be as busy and profitable as possible – but not at the expense of my dignity, or my business sense. Even in times like these, there are cases where it’s best to say “good riddance” and move on.
Have you had experiences like this? If so, please share them.