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Professionalism, at it's BEST!

So it's been about a year since I left my previous full-time job and became a stay at home dad. In that year, I've been able to do a little bit of freelance work, a good amount of pro bono work, and continue to seek freelance opportunities. But as it stands, at this time, I really don't have to look for a full time job. The money that I would make at any job, would most likely go to childcare, and the idea of investing money into someone else to invest in my children just doesn't make any sense to me.

(Just to clarify, Michelle and I aren't rich by any means, we're just trying to be frugal right now)

Needless to say, I am still searching for freelance opportunities, which led to me receiving this e-mail this morning:

HI Jeremy
Unfortunately you don't fit in with our (insert generic sounding marketing business name) Team! I was just testing you to see if you were a fit with our company when I said that I can't pay you at the beginning. Your response is why you don't have a job and your setting at home make nothing.
I'm sure you all want to know the back story, right?

Last Friday, I was trolling Craigslist, looking for gigs either in the video or graphic design business. Thus far, I haven't had much luck, but can't blame a guy for trying. I came across this ad:

Sounds pretty good, they have all of the necessary equipment, and will "pay by the job". Just the kind of opportunity that a guy like myself could use.

After an e-mail, and a phone conversation, it was determined that the best time for me to meet with him would be Tuesday, after he and his business partner announced the launch of their new business. He thought it would be a good opportunity for me to meet his business partners and get familiar with their product. (Little did I know that this was a classic move made by most multi-level marketing groups to get people in the door to muscle into buying into their latest "product", or as I like to call them, scams)

After consulting with a close friend (I had a little bit of a gut feeling that this may be a bad idea), I decided I would go to the meeting, not make any financial commitments (obviously) and see what kind of work they would need.

So I went to the meeting, spent an hour listening to a very good salesman tell myself and a hand full of others about a "great" opportunity. The gentleman I spoke with seemed fine with me not buying into the program, and that I was only there to provide graphic design and multimedia services. When the meeting was over, I spent the next two hours watching the two business partners go to work on the hard sell - pushing pretty much every other person in the room to pay their $50 and get in on the "ground level".

I just kind of stood in the corner, waited for the room to clear, and by noon, I was finally sitting down to discuss the graphic needs of my potential client.

He gave me a pretty good idea, but I had to get out of there. Michelle had to work, but I promised that I would contact him to discuss further what they needed.

So I waited a day, and e-mailed him this yesterday:

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me yesterday. I'm excited to be able to do the work that you need for you in a timely manner. I was going to give you a call yesterday afternoon, but I had some family things come up that required my attention, and once I could have called you, it was probably too late in the evening.

Anyway, a couple of questions before I get started:

1) I know you mentioned that you needed them as soon as possible, but would you like to set a hard deadline schedule up with me? I can probably get you a few comps by Friday (10/23), I'll give you the weekend to try to fine tune what you would want them to say or look like, and most likely, be able to finish them and get them sent to ******* by the middle of next week (10/28, 29), if things go smoothly.

2) Is this a contract job? Or is it a job that will require me to fill out the necessary forms for taxes and stuff? (ie W2's and stuff)

3) Speaking of taxes, did you have an idea for what your price range is for something like this? Business card design is typically a $100 - $125 charge, depending on the detail and amount of work required, on a contract basis. If you'd like to work with me on an hourly rate, the price may be negotiable. If this is a contract job, we'll have to agree contractually on a pay schedule, usually within 30 days of completion of work.

I look forward to working with you - let me know when you'd like me to get started.
Simple questions, professional enough, right?

And here comes the scary part....his response:

(in part) We will contract with you per job but for now your will have to do it very cheep! The first few jobs will have to be for Free so we can see if your work is acceptable to us and if we can work together. We can pay you a small fee at the beginning and then give more as time goes on. I can help you get better paying work from my clients like Bill as payment (commission) for doing our work. I always give compensation in some form for the work people do for me.
Give me a chance to prove my last statement. Let see some work from you and then I'll recommend you to all my clients.
Cheap? Free? I understand working cheap. I have no problem working cheap, but for FREE? In exchange for referrals? Is this guy nuts?

No, that wasn't my response, the answer to, what he referred to as a "test" was this:

Thank you for your response, but I don't believe that it will be wise for me to go any further with this.

I cannot do any work for free, and while it's nice to have referrals, I prefer them come from paying clients. I am leery of working with anyone who believes that referrals are an acceptable form of compensation, given that not every referral results in a paying client.

I've done my share of free or cheap jobs in the past, and will probably do more in the future, but only for clients that I have an established relationship with or for causes that I believe in - and at this point your company is neither.

I wish you all the best in the future.
Guess I failed his test. Although, I am curious, what would he have said if I said "okay, I'll work for free for now..."

I'm sure we all know what would have happened.

If you're a freelancer, be wary of who you deal with. Let them know up front what you expect as compensation. Don't allow them to pay you with pipe dreams, because you'll end up getting ripped off for your hours of hard work.

There are two other scary parts to this story:

1) This guy spent a lot of time referring to my faith, and the faith of others in the room, as though God had brought us all together somehow. Now that I think about it, it's a scary thing when someone preys on your belief system, hoping to use that as a weapon to pull you into working for them.

2) There was a young kid, fresh out of college, who was there to pursue the video aspect of their creative needs. I hope he has someone that can help him make the right decision professionally, and not waste his time with these scam artists.

If you're good at what you do, you should get paid for it. Working for free is for non-profits, and to an extent, friends. Some business people need to understand it.

But now, back to that e-mail - here's the response I would love to send:

My grandfather once told me, that if you pull a dogs tail, no matter how sweet they may be, you'll instantly discover their true nature. My unwillingness to work for free was the pulling of your tail, and your true nature was revealed to be that of an unprofessional bully.

The most amusing part of your response was when you took the parting shot about me sitting at home making no money. I liken it to when my son calls me mean, or poopyhead, if he doesn't get his way. To the person saying the insult, there's a perception of power. To the intended target, though, it only solicits laughter.

Thanks for the laugh.
But will I send it? No. I'll just post it on my blog for my friends to see.

The moral of the story? Be careful out there.


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