I've had one of those infuriating exchanges this afternoon with an agency looking to bring in freelance talent to help with their projects.
I'm always looking to expand my comms network and have had a couple of conversations with this agency before. So I responded to the person putting out the call, explained a little about my background and the kind of projects I'm currently - and previously - have worked on.
It must have sparked a little interest as she came back almost immediately and asked my date/hourly rates.
Now I'm probably upper quartile for writing/editing but cheap for consultancy - I sent back some rates but explained that I'd far rather quote on a project basis as I work a lot quicker than many others in my situation. How do I know that? Mainly from a year where I've commissioned a lot of writing from other sources - and have been gobsmacked by how long it takes some people to produce the goods (or how little they seem to think merits a day's pay).
The contact came back almost as quickly stating they paid about a third of my day rate to freelancers - and was I still interested?
No! No! A thousand times no!!!!
When will agencies realise that they have to treat freelancers as individuals and actually marry the skills on offer to the projects they're handling. Freelancer skills can't simply be commoditised. We have different experience and skills to bring, and judging people only on price brings everyone down to a 'word rate' which takes no account of the insight an individual brings to a job.
If we were making widgets to a set formula, then fine.
But comms isn't like that and while agencies select talent on price alone, the only people who suffer are clients.
Now not all agencies are like that - but in the UK at least, too many still are.
It's more effort to get work directly from new sources - but I keep coming back to the thought that it's so much more satisfactory than working through an agency whose goals are maximising their own profits while minimising their costs.
Funny enough, if this agency invested a little more time in selecting their freelances, they'd probably not spend a whole lot more and gain far higher client satisfaction.