Isaiah and I are creative freelancers. We have sent many an RFP (request for proposal) and received plenty of emails that read, “I like your style, you’re just not right for this project.” We call those emails, collectively, The Man. Sometimes The Man raineth upon us. Or shiteth upon us, whatever floats your boat.
We’re working right now on rebranding and developing all original content and marketing collateral for Isaiah’s mom’s salon. Really, she’s a fantastic stylist and her business has thrived for more than 15 years based solely on word of mouth. We’re really excited about being able to help her out and the project is a really fun creative testing ground for us as well.
Part of the project is to find models and a photographer for a styled shoot. We want to showcase her unique style and the vibe of her salon with an über-amazing shoot-to-end-all-shoots that will provide all the photos for the website, the blog and submissions to print publications.
We decided to start by posting a Craigslist ad for a photographer. It’s a paying gig and the shoot will be great for someone’s portfolio, but heaven help you if you ask a photographer to come out “just for their portfolio.” We would be damned. We’ve been asked to design logos “just for our portfolio.” I’ve been asked to write editorial stories for teeny-tiny print publications “just for my portfolio.” Isaiah’s been asked to model nude “just for his portfolio.” That guy turned out to be a creeper, who would have thought? Just kidding.
Anyway, we asked for going rates and a link to a portfolio. Kept it basic. Made sure people knew it is a legit shoot and we offered pay. That’s what we went for. It was 3 sentences long.
We put it up the night before last at 11:48 p.m.
We got our first email at 11:49.
The emails continued to pour in until last night at 11:13 p.m. when we had to take down the ad. We found two perfect photographers and now it’s all up to Isaiah’s mom to pick the one she likes best.
It was easy-peasy. We knew the top two the second we opened their portfolios.
What wasn’t easy was getting link after link to portfolios that weren’t a good fit. For one reason or another, their work screamed amateur with over-editing, the style was just wrong or they just weren’t good enough for what we’re looking for.
I hate waiting and waiting for a response to an email that never comes – especially if I put the energy some of these photographers put into it. So we decided we were going to respond to each and every email, no matter how painful and time consuming it was … it’s better to know that you’re not right for a project than drive yourself crazy wondering if you’re still under consideration.
We wrote the emails very kindly: Think “It’s not you. It’s me.”
We hoped that would put an end to it all. It would have for us. Maybe we would have sent back, “Thanks for the consideration. Keep us in mind for any future projects.” But, really, that would have been it.
Instead, we received responses pushing for the job, “No, you don’t understand, you will pick me.” At that point, we had no option but to respond with a long-winded, “Look, we get it. But you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.”
Still, the responses came back to us, pushing harder, explaining why they were perfect for the project, even though we knew they weren’t.
We were systematically killing a dream many of them said was exactly what they needed and everything they’re looking for.
In the end, it’s just a single shoot. It may or may not get a photographer some exposure. It definitely will get “the chosen one” a hefty paycheck. It’s likely not going to change anyone’s life but Isaiah’s mom. That’s why we need to keep her best interests at heart and be picky and short and cut off a pushy conversation before it gets worse.
But one thing’s for sure: It’s not a position we like being in.