This has happened with me multiple times that I got from some unknown person who gives reference from my known indirect contacts..

And start directly putting his/her needs that I want so and so thing to be done, can you please start doing it now or as soon as possible without even asking me about I would like to work or what they would pay me to get work done or working terms..

Even when I ask for payment they say,

oh we can even pay you if you want to get paid for that work

Or sometimes

We were just thinking if you can help us out on phone itself

which means I will get nothing - Is there any chance of earning here as I am not aware how to act in such case?

I am totally surprised by such approaches of people asking me to help them without anything for me to earn in return.

  1. How should I handle such things into benefit of own and they getting want they want?
  2. How cash in where people ask for help over phone only?
  3. Sometimes people say they will pay after they get payment from their prospects and never return to pay, So is there any secure way to get paid with such?
  • Small pieces of advice or help that cost you little can be a good way to build up favor credit. Although it seems the world runs on hard cash, it turns out that being nice and helpful (not to the extreme) goes around and comes back later as helpful. Make sure you follow up with the referring party to let them know their referral called. This is networking, not billable work. If the advice asked is too big, then your job is to explain that you're happy to work with them to understand the problem, but the kind of thing they're talking about is usually X hours of work.
    – Jon Watte
    Apr 17, 2014 at 4:27

3 Answers 3


If I received the same call and the client started barking requests at me before I could even figure out to whom I was speaking, I think I'd become a bit defensive.

I think it's always important, as a creative professional, that you're able to engage with the client at a certain pace. My "pace" includes:

  • Who are you?
  • What line of business are you in?
  • What are you looking to accomplish -- in summary?
  • What are your constraints - time, money, or quality?

After these elements, I can gauge - through the speaker's technical depth, or lack of it, what I'm dealing with, and make a decision.

Anyone who rushes me to the end is going to set off some alarms. If such a prospective client went to the doctor or dentist and tried to rush directly into the examination room, the physician or dentist would probably refuse to see him/her, and for good reason. I can't attest to the finer points of your system of determining whether to engage with a client or not -- because they're all different -- but if the prospect makes you uncomfortable, back things up a bit, or turn the prospect away if necessary.

  • This part drew my attention "What are your constraints - time, money, or quality". Why do you ask a client such question? What answer do you expect to get?
    – Peter MV
    Feb 5, 2014 at 9:37
  • 5
    It's not something I'd ask directly. I learned from one of my IT mentors: "Good, fast, or cheap??? Pick any TWO". If a client wants the result to be good, and wants it fast, it won't be cheap. If the client wants the result fast, and wants it cheap, it won't be good. And so forth. It's important to weed out those who want the Ferrari experience on a Yugo budget.
    – Xavier J
    Feb 5, 2014 at 17:06

Regardless of a person is known or unknown, you should do like in any project. You connect with it, discuss all details, give your estimation, set milestones, take upfront (or not) and start working.

But you are probably asking about situations where you do all tasks until the estimation, and the clients says you're too expensive. Because of this, it is wise you state your hourly rate in advance so the client can immediately say if he has money for you or not.

After the client is aware of your rates and you invite him for meeting to discuss project details, 99% of fake clients will never attend this meeting.

And if you simply don't want to work, you can always be "politically (or freelancingly) correct" and say that you are overloaded with other project and you cannot accept his project.

  • And if you simply don't want to work, you can always be "politically (or freelancingly) correct" and say that you are overloaded with other project and you cannot accept his project. I want to work or not is decided only after going in details and once we get that far in details it get tough to say no.. because they ask why are you saying no.. you seem to be interested and we were talking about this just now.. and I have No better answer or way to deny in that case (it seems)..
    – Harsh Baid
    Feb 6, 2014 at 5:16
  • 1
    Yes, it happens as well. Once you cross price obstacle and you realize they can pay your rates, let them know that you are still evaluating the project. Keep them on distance until you are sure which way you want to proceed. the very moment you realize you do not want to pursue this project, tell them about them. It will have more sense then waiting until negotiations end.
    – Peter MV
    Feb 6, 2014 at 22:08

Here's how I usually approach this sort of question.

My approach is something like this:

  1. Offer a brief consultation to see what I can do to help.

  2. Inform customer that this is pre-sales support, to hammer out what I can do and for what rate.

  3. After talking with the prospect, let the prospect know what I am able to do and what it will cost.

This allows me to effectively avoid saying no, to set expectations, and to hopefully get business. It doesn't always work. I have had prospects walk away because they didn't like my recommendations only to eventually pay someone else to struggle with the way they wanted things done, and then eventually come around to seeing things my way after paying someone a bunch of money on a solution that didn't pan out.

Now maybe the conversation leads the prospect to do things themselves. This has happened. But the time I spend on it is minimal and I do get business this way.

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