Remember how I used an image of Jack Torrance from The Shining in my last post? Well that turned out to be quite fitting, because the job opportunity I wrote about morphed into a horror story.
Day 9 started off very promising. My mini AdWords audit was well-received and the California software company representative I was dealing with had just sent me an email titled: “Can you begin effective tomorrow?”. They had accepted my retainer proposal and agreed to hire me for a three month trial.
I sent off my first invoice and was pleasantly surprised when it was paid online within the hour. So I blocked out the time in my schedule for the next three months and celebrated with an espresso and some peanut butter cookies.
Meanwhile, I’d received an overnight message on Facebook from a US-based colleague (and fellow search marketing agency owner) who alerted me that he had also been invited to pitch on the same AdWords project. He asked if I realized that there were five agencies – including mine – currently poking around the client account, presumably preparing similar audits.
“Perhaps this company is trying to cobble together some free advice from multiple agencies“, he said. “Should we be providing advice at all? My spider sense says this is a bad situation.”
I knew I was the only agency granted admin access when I was last in the account, so logged in to double check. My friend was right – there were now multiple agencies with admin rights to the account. Now why would they grant access rights to other agencies if they had just hired me to clean up the account?
As I’d already been paid for my first month, I wasn’t overly worried. Perhaps they had just been obtaining comparison proposals from those agencies and had forgotten to turn off access after they hired me. I mean everyone knows that you can’t logistically have more than one agency managing your account. Too many cooks and all that. So I sent off an email as follows:
“I have been alerted to the fact that four competing agencies currently have full access to editing your AdWords account. I’m a little confused about this. What is stopping staff from those agencies from undoing any of the changes I make to your account? I’m not really comfortable proceeding until their access is removed. Please advise.”
The response I received back from the company rep raised my hackles, especially as my US colleague had been cc’d in:
“You’ve already been paid for the month, if you are uncomfortable with additional simultaneous audits, please refund the payment at your discretion. Otherwise, we are happy to trial you out as you suggested.”
But then he forwarded an email that had been sent to my US colleague earlier, threatening legal action for revealing the bulk agency situation to me in the first place. I’m not going to post the email here, but needless to say, it included phrases such as “Expect legal repercussions and loss of status with Google” and “We’re happy to help clear up vermin from the industry” and ended with “You ought to seek professional help”.
That pretty much told me everything I needed to know about this client. I should have heeded my colleague’s warning. And even though I really, really needed the guaranteed income, there was no way I would feel comfortable helping the client after that. So, waving goodbye to money I had already mentally spent on overdue bills, I let out a big sigh, refunded their payment and sent off a final email:
“It’s simply not viable or professional to have multiple agencies working on the same campaign at once. As you are not willing to allow me solo account management, my performance on the account will always be compromised or undermined by the potential activity by other users with edit access. Also, you forwarded commercial-in-confidence emails between us to persons in a competing agency, as well as sending me your private email correspondence with them, which is highly unprofessional. Therefore I have no choice but to withdraw my proposal and refund monies paid.”
To which I received the delightful response:
“Please send me a copy of the refund receipt or we will start a charge-back process against you.”
Lesson learned. Some projects are just not worth taking on, regardless of how badly you need the money.
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