Once Bitten, Twice Shy...

Cheryl Cain
So you want us to give you some work? It's not an uncommon request; every day folks old and new hit the boards offering their services in hopes of drumming up some business.

For many it's a "win-win" situation where operations without adequate staffing can provide for their immediate needs while contractors such as independent designers, programmers, webmasters and others seek to augment their income and perhaps secure a more permanent position (if that's their goal).

For some, however, the whole process is nothing more than an open invitation to disappointment, and in some cases, fraud or theft.

This article grew out of a message thread that I started last week on the XBiz message boards, and judging from the responses, I hit a cord with many readers; so I thought that this would be a great opportunity to give my little rant more exposure.

Does this sound familiar? You come to the boards and claim to be eager for work. You are hard-working and need a break – you just need a chance to show your skills – skills which you've demonstrated by posting examples or dropping names for use as references.

Ok, so we bite. We have been new too. We chat with you and then offer you some small work to help you out. This was easy for both of us and should be a "win-win" situation that leaves us on schedule and you with some money in your pocket.

But, you don't work, or the work does not match your examples. You make excuses for not working, or for not getting the work done on time. You stop coming to the board and then you stop showing up online entirely. The work is not completed and you are gone – sometimes, taking any up-front payments with you...

Maybe we haven't paid you yet, but it still costs us something. See, we work, and if we give you a job, it is because we are also working too. We have a timeline to get the work done and your job is part of our work. We are relying on you to complete the task for us – and if you don't, we're screwed.

Time is money and you are wasting our time. So now you don't have to worry about deadlines or meeting our expectations (based on the samples you've shown) because we now have someone else doing the job that you claimed to be so eager to do.

If you ever wanted to know why most experienced people in this industry don't want to cut newbies any slack, now you know. Once bitten, twice shy...

If you really want to get some work in this biz, then participate in the community. Post and reply to message threads, participate in the contests (such as the X-Desk contest run on XBiz' "Design Station" forum – the perfect opportunity for designers and other artists to show off their skills), and get involved in welcoming newcomers.

I must admit that I wrote this because I am annoyed, but I am sure that some good may come from it. If you're new to the biz and looking for a chance to make some money from your skills, be sure to do it the right way: deliver what you promise!