How do you respond to sincere, unsolicited service offers? I recently wrote to a website owner that I thought could use some free assistance. The following is a transcription of our emails over a few hours time:
Would you guys have any interest in working with me to redesign your website?
I’m not really trying to get paid as much as I’m just perturbed at the appearance of your site (I kid, but seriously…). I’ve been reading the Filthy Critic for four years or so and I figured one day I’d go to the site and it would just look better. Since that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon, I thought I might volunteer to help implement a redesign, as well as get the site into a content management system like WordPress.
I’m a developer and web consultant out of Chicago and normally I volunteer my services for nonprofits, but again, your site needs some serious attention. We could probably monetize it a little better, too, but the look and functionality are easier first steps.
Let me know if you interested–I think it would be a fun project. Thank you in advance.
Here’s his response:
Fuck off. The term monetize tells me you have no fucking clue what I’m doing or why.
So, I wrote back:
As far as monetization goes, I was more thinking along the lines of just allowing people to find your site. Promising to make folks bucket-fulls money isn’t really my style. I really wasn’t trying to come off as shady–I was just trying to be professional and give you every reason to want to work with me.
I wasn’t trying to come off as some kind of SEO expert, either, but I know that just getting your site into a standard CMS like WordPress, you would be able to put your title and meta tags where they’re supposed to be nearly automatically, and all your content could be indexed more efficiently. Obviously, improving the look/usability of your site would be icing on the cake–it would increase the amount of time your visitors spend on your site and decrease the amount of folks that jump off after viewing only one page.
If you’re writing all your reviews for yourself, I understand your reluctant to change your site. If you are writing for an audience, though, then I don’t think it was out of line to suggest increasing your audience size. (Anecdotally, I’ve probably read 95% of all your movie reviews over the last few years but I don’t know anyone else who has heard of your site. Every person I’ve shared it with, though, either laughed their ass off or stopped talking to me altogether.)
I’m sure you know this, but five ga-zillion idiots read the LOLCats blog every day and that site is garbage compared to yours. Their site actually makes its viewers dumber, but no one seems to care–they keep coming back to be hypnotized by baby talk and cat pictures. They also have several books for sale for some ungodly reason.
I know you don’t want to be the next LOLCats, but I’m really surprised you haven’t have a book published. I think you’re a great writer, with a unique voice and an interesting topic (the continuous trough of dumbass cookie-cutter movies). These days, those are the only three qualities you need to get into the bookstore or even on TV (i.e. Shit My Dad Says–and that started from creating about 50 Twitter posts).
Anyway, I’ve told plenty of hacks to fuck off, so I don’t take offense. Really, I just volunteered my services to help you out and take on a more interesting client/project. You’ve got a lot of content on your site and again, I’ve got a pretty good idea of how to display it. In the end, I think that both you and your readers would appreciate a site revamp, especially one that comes from one of your actual readers, to boot.
Truth be told, all I was looking for was a small credit link in your footer once your site was complete. I’m betting that I can really improve the look/usability/findability of your website, and some how, that would help you gain an ever larger following than you already have. If a few folks are impressed by my work, they might even click that credit link and check out my portfolio, as well. It wouldn’t be bad for me to tell people I built the site for the Filthy Critic, either. Right now, the only site I’ve built that a few people might recognize is What’s the Matter with Kansas and I’d like to add more conversation-worthy names to that list.
If your not interested, it’s no big deal. Again, I’m volunteering free work. To note, I’m a legitimate person with a legitimate career that I’m looking to grow through choosing better projects. Check out my portfolio if you get a chance and whatever you decide, I wish you good luck with your business and I thank you in advance.
To which he responded:
What you’re coming off as is an asshole who thinks he needs to tell me how to do my hobby. I didn’t ask for help, so don’t offer it.
As I said, fuck off. If I wanted to do my site different… guess what. I’d do it different.
At that point, I was quite frustrated, but after gathering my thoughts, I realized it was just best to move on, so I wrote:
You’re right. My apologies.
How would you have handled this situation? Do you think that I was out of line to offer help redevelop his site? Should I have asked permission to offer my services? Let me know what you think in the comments below.