Today I got a call from a really brave recruiter (let’s call him Jamie F.). Why brave? Last year he got me on project where I was robbed by its project manager, Jamie didn’t care at all and the agency even didn’t pay one of my invoices. Trying to recruit me for a new project and claiming that all invoices would be paid this time requires great courage. Or a lack of good sense…
I was contacted by the agency several times in last few months and they always stopped communicating as soon as I asked about the unpaid invoice. But today it was Jamie himself who obviously has stronger stomach than others – and it was what finally pushed me to write this post.
It started when I was helping XL Video in Ghent, Belgium, with their Dynamics AX implementation (e.g. pretty complicated rental pricing). It went relatively well until I dared to ask for a calculation and a receipt for some money that Mr. Maree (project manager) wanted from me – I can only speculate why it was so important for him to do it without any evidence. What followed were threats (that it would cost me much more that the money he asked for) and soon a termination of my contract while I was on holiday. He refused to give me access to the office (which he did to another colleague too, so I was no exception) and promised to send my property to me by a carrier. Because it didn’t make any sense (is it easier and cheaper to allow somebody to pick up his stuff or to pack it and sent abroad?), I was not surprised that I’ve never seen anything of it again. I hope Mr. Maree enjoys my computer accessories, clothing, books and so on.
The upper management never gave me any response except that they would look at the matter – I guess they simply wanted to believe whatever fairy tale Mr. Maree made up for them.
As far as I know, the agency didn’t do anything – they didn’t even mind that they (and I) didn’t get paid. I know that Mr. Maree threatened them that they would never get any contract from him and it seems that they don’t mind his practices, so they wrote off me rather than him. They clearly think that they can find many other fools looking for work, but I really didn’t expect that would try to get the same fool to work for them again.
It occurred that I could have avoided this experience, if I asked around about the people involved. I was not the first one who got some “interesting” experience with the project, just the information didn’t reach me soon enough.
The experience led me to some notes to myself:
- Make your own reference check, especially if the project is in a country you’re not familiar with.
- Certain agencies are exactly as untrustworthy and short-sighted as you think.
- If you see people desperately running from your project, ask them why. Don’t pretend it’s not your problem.
- If you doubt your client’s mental health, pack and get out immediately. Don’t wait for something serious to happen.
Note that there is nothing like “don’t trust your client, never keep anything in the office because it might get stolen” or so. We have to trust each other, at least for the time being, to be able to work together efficiently. Otherwise it’s time to leave.
The remaining question is how to help others not to suffer the same fate. I did some research last year and found a few things like Freelancers Union Client Scorecard (currently off-line), which had exactly the same goal but it was US-oriented and not used very actively. I spoke to some people in Europe with ambition to organize freelancers but didn’t get much from them. Eventually I just let it be. If you know about something useful, please let me know.
Without any systematic approach, what remains is staying in touch with others, asking people who worked on the same project before (which can be found on LinkedIn, for example), who work in the same area and so on.
Not only that we can avoid some unpleasant experience, but also some crooks won’t survive on the market if nobody wants to work with them.