Hey, I’m back! I haven’t blogged (on my own site) in a looooong time — I’ve been so busy writing and creating for clients — but in the time that has passed since my last post, I’ve learned some shocking things about this industry.
Have you ever done “the trust fall?” You know, the popular exercise of turning your back to a person or small group of people, stiffening up, and just allowing yourself to tip over backwards, trusting that they’ll catch and support you? As marketers, our clients are usually doing the trust fall with us, and hoping we won’t let them fall on their butts.
It has come to my attention that the majority of my clients have, at some point, been taken advantage of, fooled, tricked, duped. Lied to. Cheated. Scammed. However you want to put it. It saddens and frustrates me, because I strive to build relationships with each client and I work hard to earn their trust. Do you know how hard it is to get someone to hire you after they’ve been burned by the last person who promised to help and guide them? It’s HARD.
So today I’m going to share a few of the situations I’ve encountered, strictly for educational purposes and because I believe in full transparency. These are things that many people in my industry don’t want you to know, and won’t talk about.
To State the Obvious
Scammers are alive and well, and they lurk in every corner of the internet. No industry is immune. They prey on anyone in need of their services, and they adapt their pitch and language to each prospect. Whatever they perceive that person’s level of knowledge to be — they’ll speak above that level, often using vague or confusing language. They may seem up-front about their pricing. They may promise the world. It’s really hard for the average person to detect a scammer (that’s why they’re successful). So I’ll give you three pieces of advice that you could apply to almost anything in life:
1) Trust Your Gut
Like most things, if it doesn’t feel right — it probably isn’t. If someone is pitching their product or service to you, and you feel like you’re just a dollar sign or a number on a list — keep it moving. You should feel as if they are trying to earn your business.
Listen, in this industry, we’re all “creatives.” Shouldn’t we be creative in our pitching? A good conversation with a marketer (web designer, copy writer, resume guru, etc.) should flow naturally. They should ask you questions and graciously answer yours. They should be generous with their time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — lots — if they’re worth your time, they won’t make you feel like you’re wasting theirs — or bill you for the “free consultation.”
If you don’t feel understood, excited, and reassured, keep moving. You should have a positive feeling after your first conversation with whomever you’re considering. You should feel a sense of ease, a sense of trust, as though you’re beginning a new friendship. It is not just their job to complete your project — it is their job to show you why they are the right person for the project. To make you feel like you’re in good hands.
Don’t let your urgency (deadline/price/any other deciding factor) propel you into making a hasty decision.
2) Do Your Research
Money talks. Scammers know it. Do not take a dollar store or big box store approach to your project, especially if it’s your career and livelihood on the line. Please, I beg you. Do not fall for the “$49 website” special! Just don’t do it!
*Disclaimer: I’m not slamming every creative who offers ridiculously low prices. Maybe some are legit and good at what they do. Maybe some are honest.* But in my experience, it’s a huge red flag. Here’s why:
Anyone who’s worth their salt should be putting their best effort into your work, without rushing it. That means, starting from scratch. That means, their time is worth something and they’re going to put the necessary time into completing something that might represent your business, or your potential next career move. Do you want the final product to cost you opportunities, or win you opportunities?
There is a lot of skill and behind-the-scenes knowledge involved in creating content, especially anything digital. Most of us pay for software tools that we use, which are monthly or annually paid subscriptions (business expenses just like you may have for your business). If you end up paying a professional the same or less than what you would pay to just build a website yourself or download some software to design your flyer on your own, that’s not the right person. You don’t just want someone who can use a simple tool a little better than you because you’re not as tech-savvy. There’s so much more that goes into it (more on that later).
Even if you are pressed for time, don’t be swayed by the creative who’s promising to complete your project in 3 days for just $99. Again, depending on the project and the creative, maybe that’s totally feasible — I’m not here to discredit anyone. But I’m here to educate and warn, and I’m telling you that price and turnaround time should not cloud your judgment when it comes to choosing the person to whom you’re about to hand over the keys.
Doing your research means:
going online, seeing whether this person or their agency has reviews written about them (verified reviews, not ones that are staged);
checking out their various online profiles (if he or she is a freelancer, they probably have several);
asking for examples of their work (if not readily available on their website);
asking them to explain, in layman’s terms, their skills, qualifications, and why they want to work on your project
contacting others they’ve worked with (if possible) to learn about their experience
trusting what you find!
The “right” person or company for the job may not be the biggest star out there. They may not be in your top 3 search results on Google or Thumbtack or Upwork. They may not pay out the wazoo for their own flashy, in-your-face marketing because they may be a one-person show who spends all their time on their clients instead of self-promotion. They may not have a whole “team,” which means that they may be more personally invested — and involved — in every step of your project. “Good” marketers or creatives shouldn’t be measured solely by the size of their brand or how they choose to promote themselves. The bottom line is this: if you don’t feel good about what you find — it’s time to move on to #3.
3) Get Multiple Proposals
You rarely purchase the first car you test drive or the first home you tour. Full disclosure — I do usually purchase the first thing I try on because I hate trying on clothes — but that’s neither here nor there. Do not get just one quote — even if you think you love that first offer.
I’m sure some of my friends who are business owners are cringing as they read this, but I’m going to let you in on a secret: the right person for the job should encourage and welcome you to shop around. Why? Because if their reputation is good and if their service stands on its own merit, they will be confident that your research will lead you to pick them over the others.
Put yourself in their shoes, especially if you don’t sell or serve for a living. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be selected for the right reasons over being chosen strictly for price. I want to feel like I earned my clients’ trust. I want to be evaluated by my talent, not judged by my “cover.”
And lastly, don’t be afraid to negotiate. A quote or a proposal is only an estimate. If your favorite offer is priced higher than your second favorite offer, tell the person. If they are a freelancer, they may be willing to match the price or at least reduce theirs. You’d be surprised how many freelancers are willing to work within your budget. The stated price is not always the final price, it is often a range given because it’s impossible to accurately estimate the amount of time and work a project will take. Factors like potential technical difficulties, the amount of content to be created, and the amount of work to be done are all part of a quote.
You Should Feel Involved
One of the things that disturbs me the most about how some of these companies work is that it feels like they are blocking you out of your own project. You’re not in the driver’s seat, you’re not even in the passenger seat because they’ve kicked you out of the car. They’ll pick you up and take you for a spin when all is said and done. But what is happening along the way? Don’t you deserve to be a part of the journey?
You should always feel ownership of your project if that’s what you want. Yes, I’ve worked with many clients who prefer that I just take the wheel because they don’t have time to or because I’m speaking a foreign language to them. They give me artistic license, pretty free reign, and trust me to do a good job. Which is fine, but it’s my job to at least offer a certain degree of involvement. Until I get to know you and your vision, I don’t know how high the stakes are. It’s not up to me to decide whether or not you’re involved in the process.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m asking for your opinion on every little detail — there is definitely a level of trust that you put in me and into my professionalism and experience — but, ultimately, if I’m trying to illustrate a concept or bring a vision to life, I might allow you a peek into the progress and give you a chance to offer feedback, just so that a) I know that I’m on the right track before I go any further down a road you don’t like (and waste my time and your money) and b) you have a sense of reassurance and relief when you see things starting to take shape.
I understand the anxiety you might feel during the waiting phase of a project, unsure whether or not what you paid for will meet your expectations. Therefore I’d never take the stance of “you don’t know what you’re doing, so it’s better if I just complete it my way and show you at the end.” What if we got to the end and it was all terribly wrong?
They Should Seem Invested and Perhaps a Little Intrusive
The right person for your job will want to ask questions, gain access, and obtain content from you pretty early in the process, maybe even following the initial conversation. Don’t be turned off if your creative person presses you for details — sometimes they have to understand the way something was done before they got there, and you might not speak the same language (meaning they might have to draw it out of you).
And, if the person working on your project is creatively inspired, they may check in frequently, or randomly, to present ideas and ask questions.
This is not someone you should rarely hear from or have to wait long to get a response from. The right person for the job should always be very responsive, making you wait no longer than 24 hours even if the only response is “I’ve received this and I’m working on it,” or “I’ll get back to you soon.” You should never feel like you’re waiting in a long queue and possibly getting lost in the shuffle.
Check back soon for three separate (and true) stories of horrifying atrocities (Domain Parking, Carbon Copying, and Incomplete Work) committed by so-called professionals to my poor clients. Hopefully nothing similar has happened to you!