From person to person, I think hobbyists and dreamers are great. After all, where would this world be without those that reach for the stars while the rest of us keep our feet firmly on the ground? Nevertheless, from freelancer to potential client, I can’t stand these people.
The Being a Starving Artist Sucks book goes into this subject in detail, so I won’t rehash it here. The bottom line is that hobbyists and dreamers that may contact you for a project are often a waste of time. Instead of going into details, I’d like to tell you of a disappointing encounter I had with a hobbyist and dreamer, shamefully, I was him.
Through a colleague, I contacted a developer that I hoped could help me create a couple of mobile apps ideas I was kicking around in my head. Mind you, I already have a steady source of income, so having these apps developed was just something I was curious about. I, as much as I hate to admit it, am a hobbyist in this scenario.
I contacted the developer via email, gave him a three paragraph synopsis of what I was hoping to achieve. I then asked what his initial thoughts were. Within a day or so the guy responded, “What sort of budget are you working with? What is the time frame for the projects? If you send me some details I would be happy to get you some estimates and if they look good to you we would look forward to working with you.” Reasonable, wouldn’t you say? The trouble is, I didn’t really have a budget – most hobbyists don’t. Rather, I had a rough idea of what I would be willing to pay for the project, which coincidentally had nothing to do with the developer’s skill level or how much time he would need to invest. This is precisely why you have to be wary of potential clients that don’t necessarily need to have a project completed, most of them aren’t all that motivated to do so and the value they place on the project isn’t what is it is truly worth but what they are willing to pay for it.
Honestly, I am not sure what I was expecting this developer to do for me, give me a rough quote based on virtually no information at all – who knows? Perhaps, like most hobbyists and dreamers, I was looking to satisfy my curiosity. To be fair, I did indicate in my first email to him: “I wasn't sure if I'd be an idea fit for you, but I figured I'd ask. If what I am looking to do does not really sound interesting or a fit for you, just let me know - no worries. If you have some very quick, initial thoughts (don't invest a load of your time, I do want to be respectful), feel free to float them over.”
It took me a few days to get back to his first email; took me longer to get back to the second. I didn’t mean any disrespect in this, I just found myself preoccupied with other priorities, again, like most hobbyists and dreamers. In the end, I’ve decided to hold off on moving forward in having the apps developed. I don’t have the time and energy to put into them right now. And while I can take some solace in recognizing that I didn’t take up much of this developer’s time, I still did (I kind of suck for doing it). And it hits home with me – something that I’ve always known but so much more clearly now that I’ve been on the other side: hobbyists and dreamers aren’t typically folks looking to screw over freelancers, but they often don’t make good clients.
In your business, have folks contacted you that were in a similar situation to the one above? Did you end up working with them?