View Full Version : Suspicious behavior from potential employers

03-13-2013, 01:23 AM
I have a business question. Writing, but not film/TV.
I had an interview with guys from mobile app company that wants a writer to do a script for their narrative elements. A theoretically short gig, but could beef up my portfolio and get me some scratch. Interview went swimmingly. But I get an email later that day asking for a 2pg treatment to help them understand where I'd take some of the ideas we discussed. I give them benefit of the doubt, do it and send it. I get another email thanking me and asking for a short treatment of story ideas.

I'm getting the feeling that I'm being taken advantage of.

I fear this may be similar to shady practices I've heard of, with writers being asked about their vision or intention, when really they're being farmed for free ideas. Now, I don't want to screw up a potential gig by being too paranoid, so I thought I'd bring the issue up here for thoughts.

The question is two-part:
1) Impressions from you guys on whether this is legit or a play to farm ideas for free?
2) How do I broach the subject with them? Being in the app world, it's possible that they have no idea how bad it is to do that.


03-13-2013, 04:37 AM
I do similar gigs as well, and it smells bad (though not necessarily fraudulent) to me.

They either want to understand what you're proposing better in order to make a decision internally, or you're right, they just want your ideas for free. In most corporate environments, pitching your proposal is the norm but there's a point where pitching has to stop and paid work has to begin.

Assume they're on the level - explain politely that you've put together a proposal, discussed the job with them, and you'll happily answer specific questions in a phone call or short email so they have enough info to make a decision. But more than that you have to charge for - you're in business, after all. It's just drawing a line.

If they're developers/designers and on the level, they ought to be fine with this: they'll have been in your position sometimes too. If it all goes deathly quiet, they were after something for nothing because they're dodgy, or they don't have any money. Either way, you'll have dodged a bullet.

03-13-2013, 08:55 AM
I'm a freelance copywriter and have dealt with this type of situation before. It sounds to me like you're at the point where you should tell them that you feel they should make a commitment to you if they'd like to proceed. In fact, I would suggest telling them (in a very tactful and humble way, of course) that you would really like to continue working with them, but you do need the commitment -- and a "deposit" towards your fee. If your fee on the project would be $1000, ask them for $300, maybe more. If they don't want to work on that basis, move on.

03-13-2013, 03:21 PM
Thanks for the input, guys. I responded to him today and you guys helped me find a reasonable and earnest tone with which to address the issue.
I gave him the next writing sample (1/2 pg), just to soften broaching the issue. I hope it goes well.

Thanks again.

03-13-2013, 10:15 PM
It's late, so I may not be reading this right, but they've asked you for two different writing samples? For free? With no offer of any kind on the table?

I've done a ton of copywriting. I did do a few small things for little or no money at the start (especially for a non-profits) for my portfolio.

But, in my opinion, if anyone's coming back to ask for a second round of "samples", they're taking a bit of advantage of you.

I mean, you're aware that they're not being crazy-upfront with you, so you might want to approach them with something like:

"I really enjoyed the conversation we had about (the app/site/project/ongoing work), and it's been a fun challenge to compile all the materials you've requested. I hope we can chat about moving forward with the (position/contract/whatever they're calling it) because I'm really excited about the project."

If, after a response like that, they come back and ask for more freebies... Well, I doubt you'll want to deal with them then. And, yeah, unless you've signed something, they will probably scoop your ideas.

Though they may not have any experience dealing with content folks. I've worked a lot in the mobile space and a great many of the people I've dealt with have no idea what content people are even there to do.

Copywriting isn't always the easiest way to make a living. I wish you luck! Keep us posted on how it shakes out. :)