I was on a video shoot, covering a live event for one of my clients. As usual with live events, it’s necessary to befriend the sound guy, and get a feed from his audio board. This sound guy was overweight, sloppily dressed, surly, and deep into a big-assed sandwich. I felt bad interrupting his meal, but he was cool about showing me where to plug in, and his audio feed was pristine. He asked me for my card, saying he sometimes needed video sub-contractors, and that he had a lot of jobs coming up. He said he could tell I was “a professional” and “knew what I was doing”, unlike some of the “clowns” he’d hired in the past. Everything he said sounded hostile and belligerent. Even as he was complimenting me, it sounded as if he was upset about something.
Two weeks later he called. As with our first conversation, everything he said sounded abrupt and hostile.
Client: Are you available May 6th?
Me: I’ll check my schedule. What’s going on May 6th?
Client: Are you available!
Me: Uh… yes! I just checked my schedule and I am available May 6th.
Client: Okay. There will also be set-up on May 5th. Are you available then!?
Me: Let’s see… Yes, May 5th is open. What is the job?
Client: It’s an all-day conference. Two video cameras - one wide angle, one close-up, plus photography, and streaming to the internet, recording of conference, editing. Reception coverage - video and photography…
Me: (breaking in) Hey, this sounds like a big job, maybe you need more than one video person?
Client: I’m reading you what’s on the form!
Me: What is this “form”?
Client: The request from my client!
Me: OK, there’s a lot of moving parts to this request. Can you email me whatever it is you’re reading?
Client: Why? So you can steal my client?
This is where I should have hung up.
Me: (calm as possible) No. So I can read all the details, make sure I don’t miss something.
Client: (sighing) I’ll just type it in an email. Hold on.
We hang up. 10 minutes later, an email arrives with all of the details. It is indeed a big job, requiring 3-4 video techs. I respond promising a quote ASAP.
I start drafting a quote. Half of me did not want to deal with this guy. My other half didn’t want to turn down potential work. I was thinking that this could be a lucrative job for me, maybe even a series of jobs… and I’d be providing work for my stringer video crew. I decide to quote it on the high side, see what happens.
Meanwhile, I look up my potential client’s business on Yelp. Some positive reviews… and a lot of really nasty negative reviews. And the client has responded to each review with a lot of angry justification, which sounds less justified and mostly just angry. He’s not afraid of conflict with customers. He seems ready for it.
He emailed back: would I itemize the quote? Fair enough. I broke it down, listing each crew person, plus day rate, plus equipment rental and other charges and sent it off.
He emailed back, asking for even more itemization. And he’s attached a Non-Disclosure Agreement for me to sign. I read through it. There is a special provision for what will happen in the event of a lawsuit between me and potential client.
I made a quick call to my a great client of mine, who had previously hired this potential client. He confided they haven’t been happy with this guy’s attitude on recent jobs.
I decided to bow out as gracefully as I could.
Me: (lying) I’m having trouble assembling a crew for his job, and I won’t be able to proceed any further.
I was expecting an angry blowback, but:
Client: Too bad. I get a lot of these jobs.
…Which I interpret as a thinly-veiled insult at me for being so stupid as to turn down his amazing job.
I’m OK with saying no to this client. All the red flags were there, but I have to admit I’m annoyed that now this guy will refer to me as a “clown” just because I realized he’d be a nightmare to work with.