Since I am new to the scene and most people don’t know me, I feel like I need to preface what I’m about to say with a little background info. My schooling is more business oriented, I have a degree in Business Management from Georgia Tech and soon an MBA from Rollins College. Before I started video production I spent 5 years in commercial real estate, so I have dealt with a lot of contract negotiations. During that time I started up three companies, one of which is a commercial real estate company.
So why am I telling you this? Because there is something that has been bothering me that I hope is just a fad and not a prolonged trend. A lot of what I am about to say has to do with the industry that you work in but it is becoming more common than I would like. So what am I talking about?
Doing business via Text Message.
Yes, that’s right, I just said doing business by Text Message. What’s next, doing contracts over Twitter DMs? Now I’m not saying that text messages and Twitter don’t have their place, in fact I think Twitter is one of the best new ways to market yourself, but that’s another post for another time. Now it is true, I have actually had someone try to negotiate a shooting gig with me through text message. And, just recently my wife had someone try to cancel an independent contractors agreement by texting her. Whatever happened to picking up a phone and calling someone? Now, I’m not the biggest fan of talking on the phone, in fact I really hate it. I have no reason or rationale for it, I just do. I would prefer to meet in person. Anyways, back to the point. Now it is true that you should get everything in writing and have a signed formal contract for every job that you do, but it’s best that the writing is not a list of abbreviated messages.
Now’s about the time you’re asking, ok know-it-all, what would you recommend? Well, some people are a bit introverted or just shy and would prefer to contact someone using the least amount of contact possible. As a first point of contact I think that text, email, or Twitter are fine, but as the discussion moves to negotiating the terms of a contract this is the time to move to a more suitable means of communication like the telephone. The telephone is the best and fastest way to come to an agreement about something. Even email, which is a slightly more acceptable means of communication, can sometimes lead to miscommunication and bring negotiations to a slow trickle.
What happens if the person you are trying to negotiate with just doesn’t want to talk on the phone? You can try to sum up all the information you have and draft up a contract, clearly specifying what YOU believe the job to be, and submit it. However, this will take some time and can lead to a lot of banging your head against the table. A word of caution: if someone is not willing to spend the time talking to you on the phone to work out an agreement, I don’t think they are worth doing business with. I would call this behavior a red flag (unless they are hard of hearing or have some impairment that would make phone communications difficult).
What happened in my situation is that the person that wanted to hire me was not big on talking on the phone and tried to negotiate the terms of the deal trough text message. Going back and forth via text meant that neither one of us had a clear understanding of what the other party needed, and meant that no deal was done. The best course of action when someone contacts you via one of the above mentioned inferior means of communications is to tell them that you would be happy to call them to work out all the details. Then just get their contact information and make the call. Sometimes, the first call that is the hardest to make. If you eliminate this from contention, you have just made your life easier.
Please share any personal experiences you’ve had with bad communication in the comments!