Rules? What rules? If you’re an online content developer, Internet journalist, professional blogger, or social media guru (among other social media/IT professionals) pay heed to the following (suggested) rules of online (and real-time) protocol before you advance to your next professional online project:
Got a brilliant marketing plan that’s unique to your specific methodology? While we can’t trademark every process or routine, there are some Website predators … er… owners, who will stop at nothing to steal your precious mental commodities for personal (and financial) gain. How? Website owner contacts you for a potential contract position. Being the nice guy (or gal) you are, you attempt to explain how online marketing works and the ways that you’ve facilitated the Internet to bring traffic to a site. But, it’s an employer-market, so you try to be as informative as possible without giving away the whole cake. Website owner then asks if you can write a proposal or outline of “how you’re going to be able to help market his site(s).” Which brings me to Rule #1:
1. Time is Money. Don’t be afraid to ask for advance compensation for your time. Marketing proposals and outlines take time and effort. Your time and effort. An ethical, reputable website owner will offer compensation to prospective contractors to do this initial screening/preview work. I’m not saying that online contractors should not offer a free phone consultation – I always do that; and that is absolutely fine…but when it goes beyond the standard consultation, “Contractor Beware!” Case in point: I personally made the mistake of putting together an in-depth proposal that included an outline (as the gentleman had asked) of the steps that I would implement in a social media marketing campaign. After assuring me that I was the person he was looking for, and after being strung along for about three weeks and after obtaining my online marketing plan, I was told that he’d decided to go with another company.
As an online contractor, you may sometimes run into situations where a client or prospective client wants to schedule “face time” with you. Unlike other professions, Internet journalism, online marketing, web administration, and social media consulting (among other related IT positions) do not require travel unless you, as an online journalist, have pre-arranged an in-person interview for one of your target articles and/or blogs; or you have to meet a potential client for an initial interview … however, let’s go to Rule #2:
2. Travel Expenses. Clients and potential clients, who want to see you personally (for professional reasons, of course) should foot the bill if travel goes beyond your local area. What can’t be discussed over the phone, via email, instant messaging, or in your local vicinity, is the responsibility of the Contractee. Imagine driving over two hours one way (or further) for a face meeting, paying for lunch, and your trip back…and then to find out that your trip was fruitless? Today, lumber and other home merchandise companies charge paying consumers trip fees to deliver goods that the consumers have purchased. These fees range in price, but are often no less than $50 – and that’s within a 30-mile radius. Be smart. Don’t allow prospective contractees to take advantage of your generosity.
The next item on the agenda is project time. So often, we want to win the approval and appraisal of our counterparts and business clients that we in the social media world typically work more for less; routinely working on-demand. As social media professionals, we extend these services as a courtesy to our clients. But for how long is too long to stay on one project? This brings me to Rule #3:
3. Set Renegotiation Time-Tables. We’ve all at one time or another carried on a relationship (professionally or personally) way beyond the time we should have…but, we do it any way for one reason or another. So how do we set renegotiation time tables? It’s probably a good idea to establish ground rules before any work begins. For example, three, six, nine, or even 12-month intervals would be good renegotiation points. Don’t set yourself up for an economic disaster by agreeing to being paid the same amount for over two years. That’s not being selfish or greedy, it’s keeping it real…especially during tough economic times. That being said, social media and IT contractors should not take advantage of the generosity of clients either. Offer respectable, ethical, and competitive rates in trade of quality services and workmanship.
Keep business professional. <– I can’t stress that enough. There are a number of online contractors who have suffered personal tragedy from the direct result of other than positive intentions. In some cases, it can be difficult to: 1) prove any allegations, and 2) recover from the financial loss that some individuals may cause you. This brings me to Rule #4:
4. Steer clear of personal business. While some employers or Website owners may have genuinely good intentions, there are some who will maliciously misuse your personal information for personal gain, or for less-than-honorable deeds. Be careful about what you disclose and to whom you disclose personal information. As awful as that sounds, it’s important to always keep business professional. You can talk about the weather, talk about current events but never about your home life.
5. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. The final rule, which I’ve learned over time is to meticulously examine potential contracts. If you’re a home-office entrepreneur and you’re eager to get a jump on a possible online media campaign, be sure to review the prospective contract with a fine-toothed comb. For example, if you are expecting payment upon invoice remittance, you must specify this in the contract. Secondly, any time the rules are changed/modified by your client — you too, have the right to modify your end of the agreement. But most importantly, if you’re contacted for hire purposes, you must do what prospective clients do: Do a background investigation. No, I don’t mean a literal private investigation; but conduct a Google search on the individual or organization. Check for how long the Website has been in business and what type of business is conducted on the prospective site. Sites like WhoIs.com and Alexa.com can sometimes provide you with general information regarding Websites. In addition, social media networking sites like Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and FriendFeed (among others) can provide a wealth of information about prospective clients and Websites; so don’t be shy about probing these sites to get a feel for the individual, and the services and/or products s/he might be promoting.
- One more unwritten rule for social media entrepreneurs: Never Stop Learning. Being armed with the latest industry news, tips, techniques, and apps is critical in expanding your professional reach and goals. The more you know…
OPED: 5 Rules that every Social Media Entrepreneur should Follow
CarolAnnB – Social Media Sorceress