It was a fairly innocuous comment by all accounts. I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it.
But, still, his email had that one line...
“If we get this right, there’s an opportunity for more.”
Ah, yes. The promise of future work. The carrot that gets constantly dangled in front of writers, photographers, and videographers.
A friend of mine who owns his own video production company just had a similar conversation with a potential client. “If it goes well,” this potential client promised my friend, “there will be more.”
Then, the kicker…
“I don’t have a huge budget right now, and I know you guys put a lot of effort into your work, but I can promise that you’ll be my guy on all the other videos if this works.”
Of course, when my friend asked me how he should structure the contract, I told him, “Find out his budget and tell him what he gets. That’s it. No promises. Nothing bigger. Just bid that project, not the promise of future work.”
In fact, I told him he should say something along these lines.
Did he just blow his chance at a giant opportunity? Doubtful.
But even if the guy’s idea does blow up, guess who he’ll turn to? My friend, the videographer. And you know why? Because he’s going to deliver the goods.
Promising equity, or future work, or burritos, or whatever other stupid shit people come up as forms of "payment" infuriates me. It’s condescending and it implies that I’m not running a legitimate business. There's not a chance in hell they'd walk into a store and try to buy a new table with one of their great ideas.
I don’t know why people think they can get away with this when hiring service providers.
Actually, I do... Because too many of us let them get away with it.
Telling me that getting this one “right” implies that I’m not working hard enough or my services aren't of that much value. It implies that I need to do what they say. It implies that I just need to jump through a few more hoops and we’ll move forward and once I "prove" myself, there will be so much more (which usually never comes).
It’s a power play, pure and simple.
But more importantly, it’s a signal to service providers to run away.
Because there’s one thing we all need to get clear about: I run a business. A pretty damn successful one. And it was built on mutual respect. And cash. Or checks. But not promises.
This - this thing - this power play, is disrespectful, plain and simple
Anyone who’s willing to dangle this carrot to get what they want is not my ideal client. And they shouldn’t be yours either.
As far as I can see it, there are two options here: stand up for yourself and your worth or walk away.
Either way, you’ll respect yourself for it in the morning.