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Vetting your client?

This topic contains 4 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  LoriWidmer June 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm.

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    Randy Augsburger

    Do you check the background of prospective clients?

    The reason I ask is I was contacted by a possible client asking me if i was interested in writing product descriptions. I have done a small amount of this before and the prior client passed my name and email along.

    The problem comes when I did a search on the company…It has been around since 1998 and has amassed a rather iffy reputation for customer service, and possibly fraud. (apparently the owner is a shady jerk)

    Although no one will know that I did the work for them I feel reluctant to help them out. (that should answer my question right there) But it would be worth several hundred dollars of work.

    I haven’t faced working for someone I don’t like before…what are y’all’s thoughts?


    Sometimes it is not enough to do our best...we must do what is necessary.


    Jennifer Mattern

    I have a pretty strict policy. If anything about a prospect seems shady or makes my skin crawl, I don’t get involved with them. And if anything an existing client does crosses my ethical line, I drop them.

    If a prospect emails me, they often give me the company name or domain name (or it’s at least in their email address). I look it up before I even bother to respond. If I’m not comfortable with them, I don’t work with them, but I might refer them to someone else as long as there aren’t broader ethical concerns.

    That said, I don’t do any particularly extensive digging. I’d save that until after talking with them more when I’m on the verge of agreeing to the project. Sometimes it’s not an issue with the company so much as the person you’ll be dealing with, and I’ve found that my gut it usually right when it tells me someone will be a problem to work with. So I’ve learned to trust it.

    I’d be cautious if you’re already getting a bad feeling. Even if you don’t tell people you worked from them, what’s to stop them from spreading the word? They might leave a recommendation for you on LinkedIn, or a comment on a blog post as a sort of testimonial, or they might spread the word to colleagues, hoping to be nice and give you referrals when they’re in fact spreading a professional connection you don’t want disclosed.

    Jennifer Mattern - Professional Blogger, Freelance Business Writer, Author

    Owns AllFreelanceWriting.com | Also blogs at: NakedPR.com & BizAmmo.com

    Yo Prinzel
    Yo Prinzel

    I do a search on all new clients, but I can’t say it’s particularly deep. I’m mostly looking for red flags to jump out at me.

    I don’t have to like someone in order to work with them, but I don’t want to help anyone who has a history of fraud. Not only would I not want to help them defraud others, I would also not be able to trust that they’ll respect any contract I have with them. If I were in your situation, I’d likely send a polite but professional email letting them know that I’m not taking on new clients right now.


    Cathy Miller

    I follow pretty much what Jenn and Yo do. My search is not so much to dig up stuff as it is”doing my homework”. I like to have some¬†background before making contact. Not too long ago I conducted a Google search on a prospect’s name and found he had recently been charged with embezzlement. While I believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty, at a minimum, it probably wouldn’t be a great time for him financially as he dealt with his legal problems.

    Cathy Miller, Business Writer/Consultant



    Hi Randy,

    I don’t do a full-out background check, but I do familiarize myself with the company. However, I do remember someone bitching me out in email because I didn’t do a thorough background screening on a former client of mine.

    He’d contacted me to do some writing for his charity. I asked for some info, including proof of his charity’s existence. He sent me extensive paperwork, signed by his attorney, showing he’d filed for 501(c)3 non-profit status. Fine. I wrote one thing for him.

    That’s when it hit the fan. I got a call from a guy who said, “My name is XX from the YYY police department. I just wanted you to know your client is a known scam artist.”

    Color me shocked. But color me wiser after that fiasco (long story I won’t go into here). He ended up in jail and I ended up getting nasty emails. I certainly got the better end of that deal!

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