This post coming to you after dealing with another bunch of rubbish in my (finally) fully closed business.

I’ve been picking and working with suppliers / contractors / employees for a long time. There are signs that people will not work, and if you ignore them, there is a lot of issues that come from it. Due to pressing timing and circumstances (and not having full control of the process); we ended up working with someone that was not up to standard. And now, we’re dealing with the fallout where the wrong people / amounts / etc have been invoiced. Frankly, the value of the loss in a couple of thousand and more in goodwill is… an issue.

So. Some things I’ve learnt:

1) If communication lags for any reason, there’s an issue with the supplier. Once or twice, that’s fine. But if it’s a consistent issue – especially when there are outstanding questions –  avoid. You can’t work with people who don’t communicate

2) Issues with contracts or specification. Either a lack of contracts or lack of specification in contracts and lack of clarity in answering questions is a problem.

When someone is unwilling to answer questions directly, they often are either careless or shifty. Neither is good.

3) A desire to hold phone conversations over e-mail. 

Yes, I MUCH prefer e-mail. A lot of the shiftiest people – snake oil salesmen – are very good talkers. Very good at sales over the phone or in-person. But a lot of what they promise is NOT in writing, and often overblown. The point is that they will NOT commit to putting things in paper, because that leaves a trail and doesn’t let them shift their answers.

The way to get around people like that is to take extensive notes during the conversation and e-mail back immediately stating ‘this is what we discussed. Please confirm this is correct’.  

If they don’t… well. Then you know.

4) Vague results / references, over abundance of promises

If you’re looking at people who are looking to pick up a part of your royalties / licese parts of your copyright.; this also includes a desire to commit very low or nearly nothing to you. Their goal is to get as much as possible from as many as possible, so committing actual $ capital is always a negative.

People without skin in the game aren’t reliable partners generally. 

5) Pricing is too low / Deal is too good

Not always, but realise even with graphic designers, editors, etc – time is money. If they price your job too low, most will either have to raise prices at some point or make you a low, low priority.  If your narrator / etc is earning pennies on the hour, long-term reliability becomes an issue.

Or they could be a scam. That happens all too often.

6) Constantly missed deadlines / Excuses for missed deadlines

Again, this comes back to communication. If they are constantly missing deadlines, realise that there’s an issue here. Now, some groups – graphic designers come to mind – I give more flexibility to. But I generally plan for that flexibility because they are unreliable to some degree. But others – editors as an example – should not be missing deadlines regularly. 

7) Shifting priorities / new deals before old one is closed

This happens when you show hesitation on the current project / deal / etc. They’ll switch up their pitch, their goals. This is different from an editor (as an example) saying ‘you can’t afford developmental editing, but I can do a read-through and give you a one page overview’ but an editor saying ‘yeah, developmental sounds great, but how about I get a % share on your series’.

Anyway, that’s my mini-list. Any other suggestions or things you’ve noted?

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