Thursday, December 22, 2011

Unconscientious Prospects

I was contacted recently via email, by a prospect seeking assistance with a small PHP/MySQL project. Now, disregarding my personal distaste for Rube Goldberg skunkworks cobbled together in PHP, I offered to help anyway. Paraphrasing the conversation it went something like this:

Hi, I was given your name by *********.  I have a web based tool and would like to make minor modifications to it. I want to remove some functions for a one-time use.  It should not be very involved or big task but I need to have it up and running  in three weeks.  If you think you might be interested please let me know.

Me: (replying a few hours later)
I'd be happy to discuss your needs for the Web tool.  If you would like to talk, I have some time this week. Let me know. 

Prospect: (no reply for two days)

Me: (two days later, this time with a return receipt attached)
Hi, I just wanted to follow up to make sure you received my reply. Are you still looking for assistance? 

Hi, got follow up from someone else before your reply.  Will need to do some other work and will get in touch with you when I am ready.

My immediate knee-jerk reaction to this was, "hey, someone beat me to it, good for them!" but then a couple of thoughts occurred:
  • It is unprofessional to ask someone for help, then ignore their attempts to communicate.

    Everyone gets distracted once in a while, but even if you aren't immediately going to do business with someone, if they extended the courtesy of a reply you owe them the same courtesy in return.

    The oblivious lack of courtesy of dropping an email exchange is like walking through a door and letting it slam shut in the face of the person behind you. It isn't very pleasant to the slam-e, and it reflects poorly upon you.
  • Conversely, if you judge suitability based upon the how quickly one responds, you aren't looking for a relationship but a one-night stand.

    Look, as a freelance programmer I'm not seeking to date you or marry you.  But I do have an expectation of a certain amount of reciprocal attentiveness and return on my investment of time.  Treating your search for help as if you are casting chum and netting the first fish that bites, shows that you are not very conscientious. Or at least, when push comes to shove you become neglectful.   
I'm less and less interested in giving people second chances, perhaps because I've often been so long-suffering on the first go-round.  What is really beginning to annoy me though is the attitude that we're just "resources" or "commodities".  Damn it, Jim, I'm a person, not a commodity.  If you care so little about who you employ and you can't communicate and you consider the effort to be so small, why would I want to bother doing business with you?

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