I recently began negotiations with a potential client.
He was an agency and his website looked pretty good. He knew of Hopkins, Caples, AWAI, etc. I wasn’t going to have to educate him on direct marketing. Big plus.
From looking at his current landing page, I could tell he needed some real copywriting help. It was the one I mentioned in the last post. It was not only full of bunny trails to get lost in but it was actually confusing. I couldn’t tell what the offer was supposed to be.
I recalled Joe Vitale’s post on his Red Flag Theory . I was familiar with the concept about following your gut instincts and waiting for the inner peace before settling on major decisions. Joe’s post explains it well so I recommend you check it out.
I had a few red flags going into this deal. First off, he stated that one thing he liked about my bio was that I had military experience and so I probably knew how to obey directions. Follow directions? Yeah, sure. Obey? Hmm. I’m not sure how that applies to contracting work since I’m a civilian.
The way he described the project was confusing. It was to market to newspapers and offer syndicated video content. I couldn’t figure out how the project would make any money for anyone. I was assured that once I looked at the landing page, it would make more sense. It didn’t.
After spending close to an hour on the phone reviewing the project, I broached the subject of compensation since he hadn’t mentioned it. He balked at even talking about it and said I needed to prove my value first. If I did a good job, he’d pay me well and keep the projects coming.
The words sounded reasonable. I recalled that as a real estate agent, I always discussed money with people before we did anything – even with close friends. And then I was listening to some seminars on marketing consulting and realized that I could really get burned if we glossed over discussing money.
I’ve found that if I’m really being dense and it’s really important – God, the Universe, Ultimate Creative Intelligence or whoever – helps me out. I wasn’t exactly ignoring those red flags but I hadn’t taken positive action accordingly.
I was scheduled to speak to this guy after I’d done some research and sent him some more question. Mostly those questions were about what exactly the client could expect to get, how money was going to be made, and some other revenue sources I was beginning they intended to capitalize on but not tell the newspapers about unless asked. I needed to get some answers.
He called me late in the afternoon and said he needed to go get something to eat. I said fine and waited for his callback. We’d agreed to 30 minutes. When 90 minutes passed, I thought maybe I was supposed to have been the one to call him back. I left a message in his voicemail. I didn’t hear from him.
It turned out he came down with food poisoning. During the time he was out, I couldn’t ignore the red flags any longer so I really dug in and googled all the angles I could think of. I ended up finding a few other websites that he was responsible for and they didn’t look good. A couple looked like they were meant to misdirect folks into thinking they were getting something of value when he was instead list building.
The crown jewel was when I found a copywriter who’d worked with him previously. I submitted the form on her website and got a call from her. She verified that she’d worked with him for 7 months and never gotten paid. He’d strung her along with promises of more projects. And it wasn’t only a little work. She’d basically built her portfolio with all the work and some weeks spent up to 30 hours for him.
I was grateful for the call and for my fellow copywriter in general. Let’s all look out for each other. Don’t let someone take advantage of you.
Needless to say, I sent a short email to this guy saying that I’d done some research on him and that if he wanted me to continue to work with him, he needed to pay half of whatever we agreed on up front.
He did exactly as I predicted. He said I’d negotiated myself out of a deal and called me an amateur. That’s fine. At least I saved myself a lot of heartache for nothing.
Next time, I’ll pay attention to those flags sooner.