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Should I Have Said That? Ask Anne The Pro Writer

Freelance marketing writer, Jonathan Cohen asked this question in comments:

Here’s another freelance etiquette question:

I had a telephone interview with a prospective client, and at his request spent a few hours gathering statistical info on previous work I’d done. After I submitted the information to him, I never heard back from him.

I ended up sending him a frank email saying that I was disappointed with him, and that since he was the CEO, it didn’t bode well for the company’s customer service, either.

Should I have done it? It made me feel slightly better at the time, and I don’t mind if he tells others I wrote that. I’m fine with prospects not responding to initial contacts, but after you’ve done a phone interview and expended time and effort gathering material for them, I find it tacky of prospects not to at least say “Sorry, not interested.”


Hi Jonathan,

Well, um, ahhh, sigh.

I suspect you’re sort of wishing you hadn’t done that. I know I would be. Not that it’s the end of the world, or will mean your failure as a freelance marketing writer. Not at all. And if that’s the worst that happens to you you’re in great shape! I’m also glad you sent him an frank email rather than an angry one. 

The trouble with this sort of thing is not unlike the old joke about the pedestrian who had the right of way, which is what got carved on his tombstone after a car hit him anyway.

I have a friend who has a bumper sticker on his car that says Kindness Is My Religion. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate that sort of sentiment. These days I try to encourage what I consider good behavior rather than punish or even point out bad behavior. I don’t always succeed. 

I do, however, make it a point to complement people, even write an email or talk to their supervisors, etc., when I get good service. I have no real idea if it makes the world a better place, but it sure makes me feel better when I do it.

But I’m glad you asked the question. I suspect there will be some who disagree and some who agree. I’d like to hear both sides.


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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • I can only add that, in my experience, Jonathan’s experience is the rule more than it is the exception — especially if you’ve never worked for the employer before. I do my best to avoid his situation to begin with.

    I know of no legitimate reason that I should have to do anything to prove myself to a prospective client, other than provide my portfolio and offer client contact information for references. Admittedly, for those without a portfolio and references, it will be different.

    When someone wants more information, it is usually because they are trying to figure out “what” I would write, not whether I can write, and I charge for that information. It is similar to the many scammers who write asking me to tell them my thoughts about the content for their web site or brochures, ostensibly so that they can determine whether I’m the right person to write it. The huge majority of these people have no intention of hiring anyone, they just want free consulting.

    I would bet money, and give decent odds, that Johnathan’s prospect didn’t hire anyone.

    Back when I first started freelancing and still fell for the occasional con artist, I would have been tempted to write as Jonathan did. Today, I rarely find myself in the situation, but if I did, I’d write, and I’d use a seemingly gracious tone, but one that was so over the top that the recipient would sense my insincerity.

    I wouldn’t be burning a bridge, because the prospect was never hiring, and I wouldn’t work for them if they were. And it’s not like they could share my letter with others to damage my reputation — on the surface, it sounds nice. It’s only because the employer knows he doesn’t deserve to be treated nicely that he understands I’m being sarcastic.

    But mostly, it just makes me feel better, and isn’t that what it’s all about anyway. LOL Still, bottom line, I avoid jerks like him to begin with.

  • admin

    Devon and Kathryn, well said… good points

  • I have to say that a follow up email FIRST might have been a better path because there might have been a change in employees or an emergency that kept the interviewer from getting back with you.

    That said, what’s done is done. The best thing to do is to push forward and not spend any more time worrying about yesterday!

  • Perhaps we’re trying to figure out how to phrase it diplomatically! 😉

    I completely understand the frustration and have experienced it. What I’ve found serves me best is to write an unsent letter venting or vent to a friend, and then do a gracious follow-up (sometimes needing quite a few rewrites so that it’s gracious) to the interviewer, checking in to see if I’m under consideration and letting the potential client know if I don’t hear from him by X, I will no longer be available due to an influx of work.

    Frankly, the fact that the interviewer didn’t follow up in a timely manner sends up a red flag that this is probably not someone with whom I’d want to work, and someone with whom I’d have to build aggravation fees into the contract.

    My two cents.

  • admin

    maybe… it’s also the weekend so you never know.

  • I’ll take the silence in the comments as a ‘yes’ 😀

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