February 15th, 2010
It was January 1999 when I received an email from the CEO of a large corporation stating that my company has been chosen to bid for their web site redesign. There were only three companies chosen and if I want to compete, I should reply to the email. I replayed to the email and they sent the specs.
The first thing in the specs, they wanted to know what my company structure was. I am a freelancer not a company. There was me and my ex-girlfriend, the copywriter. This would be the first large corporation site that I would bid on and had no idea what would be involved. My day had been in the corporate world until he started his own company, so, I gave him a call.
My dad’s advice: large companies and corporations work in teams. When a large company has a project, they form teams from the different departments to get the project done. They want to know that you have a team that can get website design and development finished on time and on budget. Just as I was about to hang-up, I heard hey! I answer what! Put on a suit, polish your shoes, and go get a manicure before you go. Why, you will see why! So, StarChaser Web Design just became a company, kind of, and I became a suit wearing executive.
I made a few call to people I have contracted work out to. Explaining about the job bid and I may need them if I get the job. My phantom company was now complete; all I needed to do was make a chart of the structure. The rest of the specs were pretty much the norm; Navigation, pages, newsletter, et cetera. Now, I only had 6 days to put it all together and have it printed and bound. You have to remember at that time laptops were very expensive and were pure crap. I polished the presentation, sent it to the Kinko’s, dropped the suit off for cleaning, and went for my manicure.
The Game is Afoot
I crawled out bed early the morning of the interview, taking as much time as need to primp. Their headquarters was 45mi/72K away; so I had a lot of time to rehearse what I was going to say. Upon arrival I was met in the lobby by the head of the IT department. Looking around I could see why the suit and shoes, I was in Brooks Brothers heaven. When we got to the top floor I was ready. The IT guy opened the door to the boardroom and I remember thinking Tallyho, the game is afoot! Don’t know why that popped into my head but it did. Walked in shook all hands, gave out the presentations booklets and started right in.
To make a long story shorter, I didn’t get the job. So, why did I write all this? To lay the groundwork for what came next. About 3 months later I decided to go back and look at their web site. What I saw floored me. They had used every one of my ideas and all my suggested changes. The sites didn’t look that good and whoever built it used heir menus. All I could say, you don’t always get what you pay for!
Six months later I ran into the CEO at a charity function. We shook hand and I couldn’t resist asking "You used all my ideas and suggested changes, why not me?" He smiled and answered "your bid was to low". We didn’t think you could get the job done for what you bid. As for you ideas, you didn’t make us sign paperwork forbidding us from using them without paying you.
In the end there were only 2 bids the third bid was rejected because he was a freelance designer and they thought he could do the job. What’s the moral of this longwinded story of mine?
I made the mistake of not checking their financial records to see what they were spending on public relations and what their IT department was costing. If I had done my homework right, I would of bid higher. Never bid low!!! You can always negotiate down, never up!
Never give away your ideas. Make them sign an NDA stating that they can’t disclose or use your ideas with paying you
Dress to the max and sell yourself as much as you sell the product. Make them believe without you the project will fail. How could they turn you down if you are the god or goddess of web design?
As the Grayscale Gorilla says. "Work for free, work for full price, but never work cheap"!