Do Your Due Diligence
My husband and I have been investigating local contractors prior to doing an update on our three bathrooms. Here are the results of our search. Stay with me, and I’ll relate this process to your writing career.
Contractor #1 has a modest showroom that offers a variety of product choices and designs. Their rep came to our house, took measurements, and made knowledgeable suggestions. He pointed out the electrical outlets that he said needed to be updated to code, and that would cost $150 for an electrician. He gave us a written estimate, and the pricing seemed reasonable.
We got the name of this company through ads in the unsolicited home circulars we receive. I looked the company up online. Bad reviews. Then I called an electrician as one of those outlets he’d mentioned failed. The electrician found the fault in the overhead light wiring, fixed it, put in a new dimmer switch at my request and charged only $85. He said the other outlet was fine and neither needed to be changed to be brought up to code. Uh-oh. If Contractor #1 wasn’t telling the truth about one item, what else might he suggest that would inflate the price? My husband was turned off by the negative reviews.
Here is what we have:
Contractor #2 has a ritzy showroom with high-end sinks, cabinets, toilets and accessories. A receptionist greeted us upon our entry and asked if we’d like coffee or a soda. Then a salesman came to guide us around and ask about our needs. Right up front, without viewing our measurements, he quoted a remodeled shower at $10-15,000. This wasn’t for anything else we needed and seemed extraordinarily high, nearly double what the first guy had quoted. We weren’t changing the configuration, just redoing the walls and fixtures. Glancing at our casual clothes, he didn’t bother to have us fill out a customer form but gave us his card.
How did we learn about this company? It was recommended by a friend, who knew another friend who’d used them and was happy. They lived in a waterfront condo on the Intracoastal and no doubt had funds to spare. Clearly this company, with its high overhead, catered to wealthy customers. My husband didn’t care for their arrogant attitude.
Here is what I want:
Contractor #3 has a showroom in a quiet back street downtown but not in a great area. The office is tiny with a few choice cabinetry samples as well as a narrow choice of hardware and sinks. You have to order your own tile but they would install it. We were referred to the owner by a friend who’d used her services and was pleased with the results. The lady in charge wouldn’t give us a quote until we gave her our measurements and picked samples of styles we might like. Her base quote was within range of what we’d like to spend. When I looked them up online, I found a basic website but not much else.
Contractor #4 we discovered by viewing their name on a truck in the neighborhood and seeing their workmen in action. I found their website and got the address. Where was it? It turned out to be a mail box in the local UPS store. No physical presence. As I walk around the block, I see their logo trucks in front of the neighbor’s home. They’re obviously working there. But no physical office or showroom? That’s always a warning sign for me.
So what’s our choice? We’ve asked Contractor #3 to come out with her installer and see our layout before giving us a more accurate quote, and that won’t include the cost of the tile. But so far, she’s the best of the bunch.
Which one, if any, would you choose?
So how does this lengthy dissertation relate to writing? You need to be just as careful when researching agents and editors. Do they work for a reputable firm? What can you find out about them online? Can your fellow authors provide recommendations? Who’s worked with this person or publishing house, and were they happy? Check over at Editors and Predators for warnings about unscrupulous persons to avoid. Google them online and see what pops up. Look for them on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook and other sites. In other words, do your due diligence. Don’t accept someone who looks good, like that company with the ritzy showroom. They might be perfect for certain clients but not for you. Check the approved publisher list of a professional writing organization in your genre. And determine your criteria before starting your search. If you get any negative vibes, listen to them. Here are some additional resources:
Tomorrow I’m at the Kill Zone speaking about “Avoiding Info Dumps.” Be sure to visit!