Work ethics : cutting a middleman

Gonrad

Sparrow
I'm a freelance guy from France and in my profession, I usually I don't find clients directly. Instead I through recruiters who have the clients and they call me, they take a cut in my daily rate, and they take care of paying me instead of the client.

This is a world of sharks, most of these people are very dishonest and will bullshit you all the time. But a few of these commercials have good work ethics, and a few days ago this rather honest commercial gave me orally the name of the client, a small company that is growing, without first getting my written confirmation that I would not cut him off of the deal. I checked his linkedin he just got out of business school 1 year ago, so I thought that if he finds out that I cut him off he won't ruin too much my reputation. And I had never done that so I thought it would be a good experience and could give me better business opportunities. Indeed, if you go through recruiters there is often a clause in the contract that forbids you to do business with the client directly.

Anyway I sent an email to the client directly and stopped replying to the middleman's emails and calls. The client replied 1 hour later and offered me an interview for monday. I'll add 100 euros to my daily rate since there is no middleman.



What are your opinion about doing that? I have a feeling that it's something that should only be done exceptionally as the professional world can be surprisingly small and you never know if a pissed off commercial will call his friends from other recruitment companies to blacklist you. But on the other hand, you gain more control over your relationship with the client, more money, and if you build a good relation with him you can go on without being locked in the contract with the middleman.
 

bucky

Ostrich
“If you have to ask the question..” comes to mind here

Sure you wouldn’t even know to contact them without this guy. You say they’re sharks, what are you?
I'm conflicted on what to tell OP. I work in a similar way, through middlemen, and they're absolute cutthroats with no honor as he describes. So are the clients. I learned the hard way when I was younger that they'll cut you loose and screw you over as soon as it's in their best interests, and I've had to adopt a more Machiavellian approach to my career because of it. For example, if it's Wednesday and I've agreed to start a job on the coming Monday and then a more attractive job offer comes along, I'll cancel on the first job last minute because both the recruiters and clients have no problem at all with "cancelling a position" at the last moment when it's more profitable to them. A correlation to this is that I never stop talking to other recruiters and looking for something that's better for me, clients are recruiters be damned. It sucks that my field is like this, but I didn't make it this way and so I play the game like everyone else.

That said, in the situation OP described where he's dealing with an inexperienced, naive recruiter, I probably wouldn't have taken advantage of him. I understand why OP did what he did, but deep down I'm a big softy and a nice guy and would probably have tried to do my little part to make my field and the world in general a nicer place, even though it wouldn't really change my industry in the long run.
 

Gonrad

Sparrow
^ And the recruiters / clients have gotten even worse since the plandemic. They love to test the water to try to get the rate as low as possible. They make you lose your time even more, it's now filled with bottom-rank arabs and women who only call you to fill their databases. I only accept to talk with white men nowadays. Recruiters are really vermin and in the past they have made me lose a lot of time with their bullshit. I was pretty naive back then because I started freelancing only one year after graduating. The most important thing with them is to make them think you're a senior guy who won't take their bullshit. So you really have to add the "senior" title or something like that so that they send you their "better" recruiters and not people who are supposed to clean my shoes.
 

bucky

Ostrich
^ And the recruiters / clients have gotten even worse since the plandemic. They love to test the water to try to get the rate as low as possible. They make you lose your time even more, it's now filled with bottom-rank arabs and women who only call you to fill their databases. I only accept to talk with white men nowadays. Recruiters are really vermin and in the past they have made me lose a lot of time with their bullshit. I was pretty naive back then because I started freelancing only one year after graduating. The most important thing with them is to make them think you're a senior guy who won't take their bullshit. So you really have to add the "senior" title or something like that so that they send you their "better" recruiters and not people who are supposed to clean my shoes.

Funny, over here in the US it's basically the same, we just have Indians instead of Arabs. I'd say at least 70% of the tech recruiters who try to contact me are Indian, and I do the same thing you do with the Arabs: all emails from Indians get deleted immediately (unless maybe I'm desperate). I don't think I'm the only one because I notice some of them have started using fake American-sounding names, so sometimes you don't know you're dealing with an Indian until you get on the phone.

I hadn't thought about the huge number of female recruiters, but now that you mention it, we have that too.
 

Gonrad

Sparrow
Females recruiters have no clue for the most part, I have noticed. They are just here to fill databases so that their male superiors, the business managers and the true "commercials" who come from business school can use the database to make the decisions. It's better just to ignore females, if the recruiters are really interested in you they'll pass you to someone else to get better luck that you reply to them.
 

Hootie

Kingfisher
I'm conflicted on what to tell OP. I work in a similar way, through middlemen, and they're absolute cutthroats with no honor as he describes. So are the clients. I learned the hard way when I was younger that they'll cut you loose and screw you over as soon as it's in their best interests, and I've had to adopt a more Machiavellian approach to my career because of it. For example, if it's Wednesday and I've agreed to start a job on the coming Monday and then a more attractive job offer comes along, I'll cancel on the first job last minute because both the recruiters and clients have no problem at all with "cancelling a position" at the last moment when it's more profitable to them. A correlation to this is that I never stop talking to other recruiters and looking for something that's better for me, clients are recruiters be damned. It sucks that my field is like this, but I didn't make it this way and so I play the game like everyone else.

That said, in the situation OP described where he's dealing with an inexperienced, naive recruiter, I probably wouldn't have taken advantage of him. I understand why OP did what he did, but deep down I'm a big softy and a nice guy and would probably have tried to do my little part to make my field and the world in general a nicer place, even though it wouldn't really change my industry in the long run.

I'm in complete agreement that humans, as opposed to just middlemen, are fully self serving. People can delude and twist their internal dialogue into whatever narrative fits their aims. My patience, providing the benefit of the doubt, and implicit trust has rarely been rewarded in business. These are tough but necessary lessons to learn in life.

OP is asking if human nature and industry norms make it acceptable to for him to be a shark too and eat this naive kids lunch. The answer is yes but don't pretend you're any different than the guy on the other side of the table. A middleman's job is to make a market. In this case, a recruiter was priming our friends mind that this opp @ said organization might be of interest.

We'll learn the outcome soon enough
 

Gonrad

Sparrow
OP is asking if human nature and industry norms make it acceptable to for him to be a shark too and eat this naive kids lunch. The answer is yes but don't pretend you're any different than the guy on the other side of the table. A middleman's job is to make a market. In this case, a recruiter was priming our friends mind that this opp @ said organization might be of interest.

I don't pretend to be any different. I am just worried about protecting my name so that I can continue to do business in the industry. So I was wondering if people had some experience about screwing middlemen over and if the guy tried to take revenge.
 
In this case I think it's unethical but it's debatable how unethical it is. Anyway is 100 euro/daily a big deal? What about continuing to work with this middleman? What about trying to not work with middlemen in general?
 
Wouldn't it be better long-term for both you and the naive middleman to forge a trusting relationship and then work from both streams as brothers-in-arms?

Just because MOST are sharks doesn't mean ALL are.

I'm a subcontractor (and also sometimes a middleman) and my closest partners would nuke a client if the client ever tried to go behind any of our backs, as would I. I'm not saying to go out and operate as if everyone is an angel, but you can build strong working relationships.
 

Gonrad

Sparrow
^ Well they are just useful at finding clients. Once the contract is signed they take their 20% cut every month and we barely communicate. Moreover there are tons of middlemen in the industry and these middlemen usually don't have a monopoly over a client. So if I lose a middleman, I don't really care. What I care about is that they don't destroy my reputation.
 

bucky

Ostrich
I don't pretend to be any different. I am just worried about protecting my name so that I can continue to do business in the industry. So I was wondering if people had some experience about screwing middlemen over and if the guy tried to take revenge.

Honestly, one of the middlemen I kind of "screwed over" years ago still contacts me sometimes with job offers. In this case I'd told him I'd take a job if I could get 3rd party health insurance for my non-US citizen wife and he'd run with it and told the client I'd taken the job, so it was really his fault when the insurance question didn't work out. Still, I think it's pretty hard to burn bridges with most of these recruiters.
 
^ Well they are just useful at finding clients. Once the contract is signed they take their 20% cut every month and we barely communicate. Moreover there are tons of middlemen in the industry and these middlemen usually don't have a monopoly over a client. So if I lose a middleman, I don't really care. What I care about is that they don't destroy my reputation.
Maybe I don't understand the peculiarities of your industry.

But it seems to me: middle can become great at getting (and in some cases retaining) clients. You can become great at whatever work you do for clients.

Much like big name actors have agents.

Doesn't matter if you lose one client, or middleman loses one, since he would in theory be priming the pipeline to always have new ones coming in. And if you execute he has all the incentive to keep handing you clients as it is his source of money.

Like anything else, cash concerns can be overcome by trust, and money+relationship is always more satisfying (and allows one to sleep better) than just one or the other.
 
I am not familiar with specifics so just giving advice from a general POV. Given that you need middlemen to find clients, and this one is not dishonest, wouldn't it be in your favor to continue to pay the toll so you can keep working with him? Maybe later on the line negotiate a rate decrease if possible.
 

Dr. Howard

Peacock
Gold Member
Interesting. My take is different than the others.

If it is someone that is just 1 year out of business school I would advise them of the mistake and tell them how less scrupulous people would screw them over and go to the client directly. I would then let business school newbie know that I would be happy to watch his back as he is new in the business if he keeps my best interests in mind going forward. It could result in him funneling clients to you over other contractors in the future.

If he is an ass with an established history of being a jerk, no harm done if its essentially an adversarial relationship and you take a client.
 

Gonrad

Sparrow
Maybe I forgot to mention a detail. It's usually for jobs between 3 months to 6 months. So it's not like I care about keeping working with one middleman in particular. By the time the contract is finished, 50 new middlemen companies have been created lol.
 

bucky

Ostrich
Maybe I forgot to mention a detail. It's usually for jobs between 3 months to 6 months. So it's not like I care about keeping working with one middleman in particular. By the time the contract is finished, 50 new middlemen companies have been created lol.
It sounds like your industry is similar to mine with recruiters. 50 new recruiting agencies out there between when you take one job and when you're looking for your next might sound like an exaggeration to some, but not so much to me. It's hard to imagine for people who haven't experienced it. A lot of the advice about being a little nicer the other posters are giving is good in theory but isn't so useful in a purely Machiavellian sense.
 
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