I try to believe that all people are inherently good, that people are not so much malicious as they are self-centred. I really think that most of the time, people aren’t out to screw you so much as they just genuinely don’t care about you- they’re more concerned with their own jobs, or families or issues.
You, innocent bystander, are just in the way.
But even with this in mind, I do occasionally meet someone who sends all kinds of bad chills up my spine, and in time proves themselves to be more outstandingly selfish and bastardly than the average selfish bastard.
They don’t respect you or your work. They don’t care about the things normal people care about. Their word is worthless. They have an inflated opinion of themselves, their abilities and their influence, and they’re not afraid to tout these in the face of reason, logic or legal ramifications.
After my last run-in with a really bad businessman, I have started to trust my gut a little bit more when I meet new people- especially when it involves money, and especially in this industry.
Here are my tell-tale signs that someone might end up taking you for a ride:
1. They don’t care about your time
They call you at night, first thing on a Sunday morning, or last thing on a Friday. Their deadline should be your only deadline, and they can’t understand why you would have other plans or other clients that might detract from your wanting to serve them 24/7.
Bad Businesspeople will be irate if you keep them waiting on an email response, or do not return their calls. They will not, however, feel obliged to be as prompt in their own responses.
On occasion, you may also be expected to use mild telepathy to infer what they want and when they want it.
2. They make you drive to all the meetings
This is another way of devaluing your time. In a good relationship, you respect one another’s time and make a mutual effort to conserve it. If you are the one running all over town, dodging taxis, traffic and etags, you are already at a serious disadvantage.
Ask them to meet you on your side of town one time. If they refuse on principal, you might have a bad egg on your books.
3. They question your value
They constantly bemoan how ‘expensive’ you are, ask you to reduce your quotes or provide you with strict budgets far lower than industry standard. Stand your ground. Doing work for less than you’re worth, or less than others are doing it for, will make you hate yourself and them.
Bad Businesspeople also love signing off quotes and contracts, and then feigning confusion about what the numbers in the ‘total’ column actually meant when it comes time to pay.
Keep a paper trail, maintain professionalism and stay up to date with the Small Claims Court proceedings.
4. They question your ability
If someone is paying for a commission, they are entitled to their opinion about your work. However, when someone goes out of their way to berate you for what you’ve done (based on their brief), the motivation is more often than not because they are already rethinking your asking price.
As soon as the criticism stops being about the work and starts being about you, they’re gearing up for a fight that they’re hoping you won’t be prepared for, which brings me to…
5. They threaten you
Here is an actual line from the client from my ‘Dear Non-Paying Client’ post. Keep in mind that he sent this at the end of a lengthy and belligerent email after I informed him I was going to take legal action against him (this is why you need that paper trail by the way, kids).
“Let’s see what happens when it comes time for referrals…”
Um. What? Referrals? As in more clients… like you? SIGN ME THE FUCK UP.
This time round I was prepared and confident in my position, but when one psychotic producer had threatened me years before with the hackneyed: “Do you know who I am, you’ll never work in this blah blah blah…I’ll slit your wah wah wah…And then shit down your yadda yadda yadda…”
…Well, I was a little more pants-wettingly affected back then.
6. They blame you for their mistakes
“It’s your fault you didn’t call me and remind me about that…
It’s your fault you delivered on the day I asked for and not the day I actually meant.
It’s your fault I didn’t know what I was asking for.
It’s your fault I didn’t read the script you sent 2 weeks ago until the day of the shoot.”
I mean, take the heat when it’s your bad, but when someone uses you as a scapegoat for their own ineptitude, it’s time to walk on.
7. They have a reputation
Really, this one is kind of a no-brainer. Even a warning as innocuous as ‘he’s a bit rough’ is still a warning. Venture forth, by all means, but don’t be surprised if ‘he’s a bit rough’ turns into ‘he’s a puppy-kicking cunt’.
Bad Businesspeople can teach you a lot- they can prepare you for the worst and make sure that all of your contracts and agreements are locked down tight, but trust your gut and try to read the signs before you get burnt.
Now, here’s a song that goes with the post. Because it’s almost Friday or something: