(A Satire About On-Spec Freelance Work)
(The following text is not mine. It was originally published on the no longer available kampagnenstart.de, then re-posted in the forum of the Illustratoren Organisation e.V. where I found it and translated it from German into English)
It was one of those long, depressing winter Sundays. The television program consisted only of crap interrupted by other crap, and the sun was shining brightly. So brightly that I could no longer ignore the dark stains in the corners of my room wall. It had been ten years since the walls had last seen fresh paint. I decided to leave the painting to a real professional this time instead of coloring my own clothes white.
The following Monday I looked up telephone numbers of various painters, took my phone and called the first number.
Steppmüller Wall Painters and Stucco Plasterers, what can we do for you?"
Good day, this is Schmid from Düsseldorf. I intend to have my apartment walls newly painted. I'd like to invite you to a pitch. When can you be here?"
Pitch? You mean an estimate?"
No, a pitch, working on spec. You paint a part of the wall for free in advance to demonstrate your knowledge about off-white."
So... you want me to paint a wall? For free? So you can judge if I can paint? Listen, I am a registered diploma painter, I've been painting for 20 years-"
Yes, that's why I decided to invite you to the pitch. You have an excellent reputation. You know, me and my girlfriend care very much about quality. We also would like to get an idea of your creativity."
What, creativity? Am I supposed to paint the walls white, or what?"
Well, you know, your brushstroke and such. Your personal style..."
That's done with the roll. Into the paint bucket it goes, on the draining board, then on the wallpaper. Roll it off, ta-da, done! That's how I've done it for the last twenty years. Like my father, and my grandfather before that."
I appreciate your skill. I've long observed the development of your company and am familiar with your excellent work."
Then you already know how we work."
Yes and no. You know, every room is different, has individual needs. I have been looking at walls for 41 years now. Believe me, I know exactly when I like a wall and when I don't. It all has to fit perfectly."
What has to fit perfectly? The color? But you determine that."
Yes, yes... but we also need to get to know each other better, to check if the cooperation works. I need to make sure of that on my own apartment walls."
Now what, cooperation? I arrive with my assistant, paint the apartment, you write a check. Done!"
You're leaving out a lot there. I expect an in-between calculation to determine the direction of the work. Then my friends and family have to see the finished painted wall. It's possible you have to go back to work on it again then."
Am I getting this correct? You tell me to paint the wall off-white, and when I'm done your friend says red would be better, so I paint it all again in red for free...?"
Now we understand each other. Also, my girlfriend is rather peculiar. If you work for us you agree not to paint any walls in Düsseldorf for one year, and especially not in off-white. We would prefer some exclusiveness."
toot toot toot
To my astonishment the conversations with other painters went similar. No flexibility nor readiness for compromise, and no trace of politeness. One of the painters even possessed the audacity to make very unflattering speculations about my mother. Even though that has nothing to do with it. Another one asked me if I am from Candid Camera".
There I'd been ready to offer a contest on painting my apartment without guarantees and some demands but, hey, I offered more than an euro per hour plus materials!
It's an unfair world.