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A more professional based question, but I think it's a good one.

I left my old agency to start pursuing freelance design and development very recently. I recalled a client from 6 months ago that I really enjoyed doing work with, but they completely stopped working with the agency. More specifically, I put together the plans for getting their product on Amazon, building the web store, and designing/developing a brand website–strictly research, which the agency was paid for. I would be executing the plans if they were green-lit.

I'm assuming their hesitation was rooted in costs (paying an agency to set up an untested market would dig deep into any revenue it generated) and, acting alone, I would be able to cut those costs pretty drastically (freelance rate, no managers/directors involvement). It doesn't look like they've executed any of the plans I laid out. I have no issues in contacting them (NDA, agreements, etc) and have their contact info.

My questions are these:

  1. Professionally, how do I approach a client that only knows me from a previous agency, but may not have known I wrote the entire research doc and would have been responsible for the entire design and development?
  2. What repercussions should I be aware of from the agency? (IE, is this a unprofessional move? This is technically stealing a client.) I'd still like to use them as a reference in the future.
  3. Because the research was done at the agency, I no longer have the document and would have to be working from memory, am I open for any liabilities? What if the company provides the document to me?

One part of me exclaims "FAIR GAME" but another asks "how professionally gauche is this?" Just looking for some opinions.

Thanks!

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A very interesting question indeed.

Rest assured, its common in business to poach clients from other businesses.

Scenario 1 is where the client is a live client. There are tenders on the table or have been won and money has exchanged hands and projects have been started. In this scenario it would be wrong on many levels to paoch that client.

Scenario 2 (which seems like your situation) is a client that has had work done, paid for and moved on. In this scenario, if the client has a contract with the agency you worked with for future work, then don't go near the client.

However, if there is no contract, there is nothing stopping you putting your proposal to them across. Unless you signed a non compete with your previous agency when you left.

Professionally, how do I approach a client that only knows me from a previous agency, but may not have known I wrote the entire research doc and would have been responsible for the entire design and development?

Write them a letter, detailing who you are and what you do first. Invite them to dinner and layout your propsal to them.

What repercussions should I be aware of from the agency? (IE, is this a unprofessional move? This is technically stealing a client.) I'd still like to use them as a reference in the future.

As long as there are no wirtten agreements between them and your old agency, or between you and your old agency, you are free to approach them and them to work with whoever they want.

Because the research was done at the agency, I no longer have the document and would have to be working from memory, am I open for any liabilities? What if the company provides the document to me?

Usually, such documentation is the property of the company, even if it was you that performed the work. You have no right to it. Even from memory. You will have to approach your old agency and attain the rights to the documentation - which may not go down well.

  • An added question: those plans were pretty simple development schemes though–it would definitely take me time to recreate them (specific programs, plugins, fulfillment services) and figure out the budgets, but essentially it came down to "Plan A: Use this fulfillment service. Integrate with this plugin. Amazon pulls from webstore. Webstore hosted at ___. Plan B: just use Amazon. We'll set it up." Without the doc, I could manage, but since I can recall most of the executables, does that still count as rights issues? – Coll Feb 3 '17 at 17:37
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    You solved a probelm for your client, If said problem had to be solved using custom made programs and plugins, then those would be the property of your old company which you would have no right to. If they were programs and plugs freely available to anyone to use and solve that problem - then you could use your recall. – Aasim Azam Feb 3 '17 at 17:43
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I work in the trade show business but not in sales. I do know that if my company hires someone in sales we go after every single client that person had contact with. When we hire someone in sales we are not only hiring that person, we are also getting them for what leads they can bring to my company.

If a sales employee leaves my company, you better believe they will try to bring along as many clients as possible to their new company (even if they manage a show as freelancer) because they work on commission.

Since you're now a freelance designer you're responsible for bringing in sales/leads. As long as they don't have a contract with the agency then I would say this is business as usual.

As for contacting them, I would explain that you were the lead or in charge of that project and you would like to continue doing business with each other. Ask them if you can setup a time for a meeting and explain how you can help them complete their project.

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