Cleanup Tasks - Fixing Other Freelancers’ Messes
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You’re Not Responsible for Prior Mistakes
In baseball, a relief pitcher is brought in when the starting pitcher gets into trouble, and frequently when there are players from the opposing team still on base. The reliever is expected to do his best to prevent those runners from reaching home, but he is not charged for those runs against his statistics if they do. The rule is simple: if you let someone reach base, you’re responsible for him.
The same should apply in a situation where you’re brought into clean up a bad project, but clients often don’t view this issue entirely rationally. I think that deep down they realize that if you are new to the project that you cannot be held responsible for what your predecessor did. But on an emotional level, some clients—having been soured by a bad experience—start to project onto the new guy what the old guy did. Some think that they have to be much tougher on you because they trusted the previous freelancer and he screwed up.
Watch for signs of this sort of bitterness in reposted projects, and make a judgment call. Sometimes this is a good test of your own professionalism: can you make the client feel at ease that you will be able to do what the previous hire could not? But sometimes the client’s attitude is just so bad that you’re better off skipping the job entirely.
Budget is one particularly annoying place where some clients expect a new contractor to take responsibility for what happened before they were brought in. It is not at all uncommon to encounter clients who will flatly say something like this: “Well, I was willing to pay $500 to get this work done, but I already spent $350 on the first freelancer and she messed it up, so now I only have $150 left”.
Bzzt. Wrong. Look, I’m sympathetic to this sort of problem. I know people have budgets and finances are often tight. I might even be willing to work for less than I normally do, to help out someone in a bind. If the client explains the issue and I can do the work properly for at least close to what my time is worth, I’ll do it—both to be a decent human being, and with the hopes of a long-term relationship.
But if the client starts out with the attitude that I have to work for a song because of something that happened before I even showed up, I’m walking away. I’m sorry that you had a bad experience with your first freelancer, but it wasn’t me, and I won’t let you make your problem mine.
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