This entry isn’t specifically to do with Recruiters per se. Though the category of ‘client’ that I’m about to describe does sometimes manage to persuade a naïve recruiter to make an approach on their behalf.

I’m referring to individuals that do not have a job involving actual money to offer you. Instead, they have an idea that they ‘just’ need – you’ve guessed it – somebody to implement. So-called “sweat equity” deals.

One can only imagine these people have never seen an episode of Dragon’s Den. If they had, they’d realise that ideas in and of themselves are worth almost nothing. If it’s a truly ground-breaking idea that can be easily copied, especially so.

If you want a polite explanation why offering someone the wonderful opportunity to implement your idea for free is a truly dumb proposition, I suggest reading here or here. If you want the un- sugar-coated version, read on.

People who think their ideas have value in and of themselves are invariably – how can I put this? – fucking mental. Here is one such example. No money or indeed clue how to use apostrophes, but somehow you’re meant to believe that they have an idea that is worth you working on for free? There’s no shortage of other examples of this type of stupidity and wishful thinking, in real life and online.

Here’s the thing, Ideas Man: you can’t get a copyright or a patent on an idea alone. And for a good reason. Because if you could, somebody would already have ‘invented’ the idea of teleportation. Or the concept of generating energy from nothing. Or a time machine. Or a pill that reduced your chronological age by 5 years. Then all they’d have to do is sit back, wait for someone to invent an actual technology capable of realising their poorly-defined dreams, then claim ‘their’ cut for all the effort they put into coming up with the idea in the first place.

One thing I find again and again with such people is that they all have the following characteristics in common:

  • They can’t tell you what their idea is, because it’s super-secret. But they nonetheless want you to tell them how long it will take to implement working with no materials / software licences / money.
  • They invariably want you to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement that involves you “indemnifying” (read: “paying”) them if their idea leaks out. Which it probably will, because it’ll either have already been done, or will be so simple that someone else will be able to copy it as soon as they see any prototype you may produce. They are not, of course, offering to actually pay you for taking this substantial risk with their dodgy approach to information management. Even though they want you to pay them (with actual money!) if things don’t go as they naively expect.
  • They want to offer you equity rather than currency in exchange for your expertise in making their idea work. Translation: in exchange for you providing them with a black box that prints money, they will give you some of the money that gets printed. Brilliant.

I always tell such people that I will consider their proposal over the weekend, and will turn them down on Monday. I recommend you do the same. Either that or sign their NDA with an unintelligible squiggle, then piss off and copyright your implementation of their idea before they can say “Zuckerberg”.

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