Last week, I had a request from a contact on LinkedIn to phone him. There was no other information on the message, just a plea to call him (“pretty please” he said). This was a fairly new contact, so I didn’t call him. Instead, I replied to the message and asked what he wanted to discuss with me. The immediate reply was, “commissioning a poem.”
Flattery aside, I was a little uneasy with such a request from someone who did not know me very well. He had started a group on LinkedIn that he invited me to be part of around the holidays and, since I’m in a lot of writers’ groups on LinkedIn, I didn’t think that was particularly unusual. I noted that he was very active in the group and always quick to respond whenever anyone posted a comment. He seemed to be quite professional.
Nevertheless, I decided to do some checking before I engaged in further communication with him. I went back to his profile, noted a major university that he claimed employed him as adjunct faculty, then went to that university’s website to look at their list of faculty members. I couldn’t find him, so I messaged him again and asked him if he would mind telling me which department he was attached to.
His communication with me stopped immediately. I returned to his profile later that same day and saw that his “adjunct faculty” position was no longer listed. A Google search of his name turned up several references to fraud within the last five years. The complaints against him included “con artist”, “scammer”, “preys on women”, and an assortment of other accusations. I noticed one complaint that specifically stated this man asked for an article for which the author never received payment.
I immediately removed him from my contact list. But I did wonder how many writers there are out there who are so anxious to have their work recognized that they don’t do a complete check on someone who initiates any sort of work-for-hire arrangement with them. If this man has been doing this sort of activity for several years, that says there must be quite a few – enough to make it profitable for him to keep going with it. Certainly, there are many others like him.
The lesson? If you don’t know the person who is trying to commission work from you, check that person out before you give them anything of yours. Don’t get excited about a commission until you know it’s legit. There are too many good opportunities to waste your time and talent on one that’s bogus.
DO A KIND THING