Friday, April 29, 2022

Being Shitty Has a Cost.

A friend of mine is a very successful freelance creative. He, she or it has made a living--a good one--for the better part of a decade by hanging his, her or their hat in many different agencies.

I'll be blunt about this. And I'll stop the pronoun joke.

Most agencies treat most people like shit. Especially freelancers.

They need you they need you they need you.

Then they don't get back to you.

Or if they do get back to you, it's only to tell you they'll get back to you and then they don't.

Advertising is a funny business.

As humans we know how we like to be treated. We can identify the brands we like. Very often, in that pantheon of brands we like, we include the Four Seasons Hotel chain--a chain famous for its personal service. And they make you feel important...imagine that?

In other words, we like being treated well. We like being called back. And being thanked and appreciated. We like when people treat us politely.

Except when it comes to how agencies treat people--we forget about how we like to be treated. 

That's one tarnished golden rule.

In the agency business today, it seems like most agencies are using freelancers to stay alive. I'd wager there's hardly an agency in town that has staff enough to handle the daily press of business--especially when there's a pitch or a fire drill, which there almost always is.

I know there's some holding company MBA who's run a thousand spreadsheets and come up with irrefutable proof that it's ok to treat freelancers like shit. I'm sure he can talk about it over a $400 dinner with a $200 bottle of wine. I'm sure the cost/benefit makes sense.

But here's the thing.

Freelancers talk. So far, there's no NDA that bans gossip.

Most of the busy ones know the ins-and-outs of most agencies like cops know the local drug dealers. 

They keep a scorecard. You would too, if it were your livelihood.

They know who treats people badly. Who cuts your rate. Who makes you wait seven months to be paid. Who gladly dumps you with all of the responsibility and none of the power. Who knows you are entitled to a few benefits (like sick time) but doesn't make it easy to use it.

The cost of treating people well, of saying please and thank you, of maybe having an ECD phone you up and thank you personally when a job is well done, is nominal.

This whole post is probably dumb.

As Budd Schulberg wrote in "What Makes Sammy Run," "Going through life with a conscience is like driving with your brake on."

In other words, there's no vig in being human. There's no money in it. Decency, unlike crime, doesn't pay.

Forget I mentioned it.

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