When my wife Cristie and I were very young (and before she was my wife), we took two months to backpack around Europe. We reached Paris fairly early in the trip, and went right to the Eiffel Tower, of course. We bought ice cream cones, sat down on a park bench to wonder at our happy young good luck. A little gypsy girl—I don’t know if that’s the right term these days, but there was no other name for her then—ran up to us and motioned that she would like one of our ice cream cones. Cristie hadn’t had a lick of hers yet, so she handed it over with a smile—a pattern of unconditional generosity that would continue through our lives together. The girl took it, burst out laughing, her golden front teeth glinting in the Parisian sun, ran around in several figure eights, and dunked the cone into the nearest trash can.
That’s not exactly how I feel when someone comes to me, as someones often do, to ask for recommendations for speechwriters they might hire for contract or full-time work—and then treat the people I recommend badly.
But it’s not far off.
After all: You came to me, hat in hand, on a busy Thursday afternoon, and I made time for the call. You’re lucky to talk to me (as you said, over and over on the call) … because after all, if you’re looking to hire a steelworker, you don’t usually get the head of the National Manufacturer’s Association on the phone. But that’s not the attitude I take, obviously. I’m the head of the Professional Speechwriters Association, and speechwriters are hard to find. And on behalf of the professional speechwriters who belong to the PSA (and the less professional speechwriters who don’t), I consider it part of my job to talk to people who are desperately seeking scribes.
But when I have drawn on my three decades of relationships in this business (and after I have provided you 30 minutes of warm and energetic and and thoughtfully encouraging conversation about whatever project you’re hiring for) … and after I have given you one or two or three people to talk to on my recommendation … and after I’ve maybe even made an email introduction myself—I think I goddamn well have the right to expect you’re going to treat these sainted speechwriters I’ve sent with supreme care and consideration, motherfucker.
There’s an apocryphal but universally true Chicago legend about a guy who showed up to an alderman’s office looking for a job. Naturally, the guy was asked who’d sent him. “Nobody,” the guy said. “Yeah,” came the reply, “we don’t want nobody nobody sent.”
But if you’re talking to one of my speechwriters, boy, that’s somebody somebody sent. That’s a needle in a haystack that I found you. That’s someone you can rely on, because I said so. That’s probably someone who’s already in demand themselves and doesn’t need any distractions from their paying clients.
Do not treat them like some cold-calling jamoke because you got busy in the meantime and the writing project is on hold. Do not ask them for an RFP and then ghost them. Do not make them come to me, as a writer did the other day, and say, “Your friend at ______ never got back to me after our initial discussion about writing some articles for their client base. He sounded so enthusiastic about me. I wrote back to him earlier this month and still no reply.”
If you ever want another goddamned thing from me again, including the time of day, do not throw my ice cream cone in the trash.