I referred a friend to a freelancer I work with and it went badly

A reader writes:

A few years ago, I found a really excellent freelancer, Jane, to do some design work for the small firm I work at. She did such a great job and was so lovely to work with that we have continued to contract with her for various projects, and I’ve referred several colleagues to her who have all been really happy with her work.

Jane works remotely from another state and we have always had a great working relationship, but I’m worried it might be affected by a referral I gave her that went sour, and I’m wondering what (if anything) I should do.

A while back, I was catching up with a friend, Lee, who lives in a different state and who I haven’t seen in several years. Lee had just quit their full-time job to run their own business when we previously spoke, and they mentioned it’s really taken off and asked for a referral for a designer for a project for them. I was happy to give Lee Jane’s information and said we’ve been really happy with her work, but cautioned them that she’s quite expensive (rightfully so — she is really good at what she does) and she has a fixed hourly fee schedule for consults and does not do them for free. Lee said they were fine with that and would give her a call, but told me later they were not going to move forward with Jane due to cost.

About a month later, Lee texted me, enraged, saying that Jane had charged their credit card double what their invoice said for the consult and would not refund the difference. Lee claimed Jane committed fraud and told me they are working with their credit card company to recover the money Jane stole from them.

There are a number of reasons why I doubt Lee’s version of events. Jane has always been extremely professional in the years that I have known her. She is up-front with her fee schedule and doesn’t go over her allotted time without written agreement from the client. She also requires clients to approve invoice amounts, and collects payment via a third party software so she does not ever have access to her clients’ financial information. It’s very difficult for me to imagine a situation where Jane would be able to overcharge someone without them agreeing to the charges in writing. I asked my colleagues who have used her services if they have ever had issues with Jane and no one ever has. They all love working with her.

Lee wouldn’t answer any of my questions about what was going on and I have not heard from them in several weeks. I recognize that I don’t know the whole story, but I recently heard from a mutual acquaintance that Lee’s business has NOT actually taken off and that they are in a bad financial place trying to keep it afloat. The acquaintance told me Lee has been trying to get out of paying various bills or trying to get things for free because they are in so much debt. I’m really concerned that is what they are doing with Jane. I hate the thought of a credit card company coming after her because someone didn’t feel like paying.

I haven’t seen Lee in person in several years at this point and we are not super close friends. I didn’t know about any of their financial troubles and I certainly wouldn’t have referred them to Jane if I thought something like this would happen. I’m very upset by the thought that they would try to take advantage of Jane, but I don’t know the whole story, and I’m not sure if there is anything I should do.

Jane had just finished a project for us when I referred Lee, and I haven’t talked to her since. We have another project coming up in the new year that we would like her to take on, but I’m not sure if I should address what happened with Lee or leave it alone. What do you think?

Oh no — I can see why you’re concluding what you’re concluding.

For what it’s worth, it sounds like Jane is careful enough about how she bills that she should be able to demonstrate to the credit card company that Lee agreed to the charges. One hopes, anyway — but credit card companies do investigate and get both sides rather than just reversing any disputed charge.

I don’t think you need to say anything to Jane about the situation — she presumably knows you’re not Lee and knows you’ve always used integrity in your dealings with her — but I can also see why you might feel partially responsible since you referred Lee. You’re not, to be clear! It doesn’t sound like you vouched for Lee to Jane in any particular way, or like she took Lee on as a favor to you (two circumstances where I would see more of a need for you to speak to to her).

On the other hand, it does feel icky when you connect two people and one of them behaves badly. Also, for all we know, Jane might be worried that you’ll hear Lee’s side of the story and believe it.

If you do want to say something to her, you could say, “I heard you ran into issues with Lee. I’m so sorry, I never would have referred them to you if I’d suspected there would be problems. I trust you and your professionalism implicitly and know you are scrupulous about billing accurately and transparently.”

Read an update to this letter

{ 83 comments… read them below }

  1. Kes*

    As Alison said, I don’t think referring a friend as a potential client is the same as referring someone as an employee – you aren’t vouching for what they’d be like in that role in the same way. That said it’s understandable you feel bad that they’re now in this situation as a result of an action you took, even if it’s not your fault or responsibility. If you do want to address it I think Alison’s script is good to make it clear that you didn’t foresee this, you’re sorry it’s happening and you do believe in Jane and aren’t swayed by anything Lee is saying about her.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Exactly. The wording is great. It communicates to Jane that you understand Lee has been a pain and that this dispute with them won’t affect how you see and work with Jane in the future. Once you’ve said that, leave it and let Jane handle things. You don’t want to blow this up into a bigger deal than it has to be.

      I’m guessing that Jane knows full well about how some clients / prospective clients try to screw over contractors. That’s why she has all those policies and practices in place. Unfortunately, this scenario is probably not a shock to her.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, I’m sure I would feel weird about it if I were OP but recommending a service to friends is a very normal thing to do–and presumably they generally *want* people to think “oh we were so happy with her work we will recommend them to everyone we know!” But recommending a service doesn’t in any way equate to vouching for the client.

      I’m not sure if Jane would really even know, as it doesn’t sound like OP connected them directly–just recommended Jane to Lee and let Lee reach out to initiate things. It’s certainly possible or even likely that Lee would have started with “I heard you did great things for OP and am interested in your services” but that doesn’t really make OP responsible for anything that went down and I would be very surprised if Jane saw it that way.

  2. hiptobesquare*

    I don’t think I am this “Jane” but I have been in her shoes and I don’t hold anything against the referrer as they have always been professional, kind, and paid their bills on time – it’s not their fault their friend(?) doesn’t pay their invoices!

    1. Mztery*

      While most adults understand that the OP is not responsible for Lee’s behavior, I still would say something. It’s always good to clear the air so that Jane knows that you didn’t realize what could happen in the situation. Especially if you want to continue working with her

    2. ursula*

      This is also exactly the kind of thing you wouldn’t necessarily know about a friend you know socially and haven’t worked with. I don’t think I’d hold it against the LW either, in Jane’s position, especially if they continued to be a good client who showed no signs of contracting Lee’s weirdness. I bet Jane’s dealt with this kind of thing before, unpleasant as it is.

  3. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Ugggh this kind of thing always makes me so hesitant to make connections like this. Obviously I want to! That’s a big part of how businesses grow and I want to promote good services. But it can be such a crapshoot when you only have tenuous connections with either party.

    1. Double A*

      The thing is, this isn’t referring someone as an employee, it’s referring a customer. I don’t really feel like you are vouching for someone’s character when you do that, you’re saying, “This person I know is in need of your services!”

      I would expect most freelancers know people don’t know how their friends are as clients.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, it seems to me that OP was vouching for Jane, not saying anything good or bad about Lee. If I tell a relative about a great local restaurant, that doesn’t mean I’m guaranteeing my relative tips well and is polite to waiters.

        I’m sorry this went badly, OP, but it sounds like you did make sure Lee understood what he was agreeing to (even if he later reneged on that agreement).

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I like this analogy! Jane didn’t agree to meet with Lee as a favour to the LW. The LW doesn’t have any responsibility to make sure that any business relationship between two other people goes smoothly.

          It’s a nice thing to briefly acknowledge to Jane that things went sideways with Lee and the LW is not going to hold any of that against Jane.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          I do think though that if I were in LW’s shoes, I would use Alison’s script and say something. It would reassure me as Jane to hear that LW knows about the situation and that our working relationship is not going to change based on lies LW hears from Lee. It would also make me feel more confident about accepting referrals initiated by LW in the future.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yes, I agree the bigger risk here is not that Jane thinks badly of OP but that Jane worries OP may think badly of them based on things Lee says. So addressing it up front may clear the air on that point.

      2. ReallyBadPerson*

        I have learned the hard way not to refer people I don’t know very well (and people I know to be entitled) to people whose services I want to continue to use. When someone asks if I know a good —–, I make certain that I know the asker really well, have seen how they treat vendors and service providers, and know that they will pay on time and not be dreadful to work with. Sure, it doesn’t necessarily affect my relationship with the vendor or provider if my friend is a jerk, but why inflict a jerk on anyone if you can help it?

        1. Kay*

          This has been how I operate as well, for the reasons you mention. I also appreciate when my clients don’t refer me to difficult people either, at least not without my permission or at minimum a heads up.

        2. Stormfly*

          I don’t know if that’s the best policy as an absolute rule. You absolutely shouldn’t refer a jerk to someone. But, unless the person has all the clients that they could want, they’d probably prefer the small chance that the person is secretly a jerk, to losing out on the business.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I agree. I don’t think I would literally ever know if any of my friends or relatives pay their vendors on time, that’s not really something we would discuss over dinner. I think most businesses *want* the free advertising that comes from satisfied clients referring them around. Then it’s up to them to decide whether or not they want to work with that client.

            1. Relentlessly Socratic*

              I kinda know the people in my circle who I’d send to vendors/contractors/etc that I like and I definitely know the ones that I wouldn’t.

              The person that’s *always* commenting how expensive their [service person] is or how all [service industry people] just love to screw over their customers, or you have to watch every little thing that [yet another service provider] does or they won’t do it right….yeah, no, I’m not telling you who worked on my kitchen, who painted my living room, or who my favorite copy editor is.

          2. Long Time Lurker*

            Yeah, if I know someone’s a jerk I wouldn’t refer them, but if it’s someone I know and like socially, I wouldn’t think twice. (Maybe now I will!)

    2. Antilles*

      I don’t think you need to be hesitant because it’s just suggesting a client or service provider.
      It’s still on your friend/family to do their own research and judge Jane themselves, while it’s still on Jane to evaluate Lee as a client.

  4. Sloanicota*

    I was a freelancer for years, and I always consider it part of my job to vet clients carefully and make sure we’re all in agreement. Just personally I would never blame the person who referred them to me – I’d just be grateful they wanted to send me business!

  5. Alisaurus*

    FWIW, as someone who does small freelance jobs here and there, I certainly never hold a referral against the person who connected us. I’ve had some… interesting clients, but to me they’re separate. There are always people out there who are unprofessional, dishonest, etc, and I trust my regular clients enough to know they wouldn’t connect me to someone who they know is terrible.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      Same. I’m not a full-time freelancer, but I have done small jobs based on referral. I can’t imagine holding a referral against someone unless they purposely didn’t tell me key information. That’s not the case here.

    2. Antilles*

      The only way I’d hold it against you is if you had worked with Lee before professionally, directly knew they were a terrible client, and sent them my way anyways. Like, if the scenario was instead that Lee had been OP’s client before and OP wanted to “fire” Lee for not paying invoices, so she pointed Lee my way? Dude, not cool. Don’t dump your problem child on my doorstep or at the very least, give me a quiet call heads-up. It’s still on me to evaluate Lee before deciding to work with him, but c’mon.

      But that’s a pretty specific scenario; in the far more common scenario like OP’s where someone you know socially but have never worked with professionally? Not your fault, not going to hold it against anyone.

      1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        There was a letter with this scenario a few years ago. IIRC a manager got a problem employee referred to them in glowing terms, and it turned out the referring manager was just trying to get rid of the employee.

  6. oranges*

    Most successful, longtime freelancers have run into plenty of Lees in their day and know how to handle it.
    Alison’s script is good, but she’s right, Jane has likely dealt with this before, knows it’s not your fault, and can likely hold her own with the BS.

    1. Web of Pies*

      Yep, I was thinking exactly this as I read. Small businesses—and especially first-time businesses—can be total nightmares to deal with as a freelancer. All my worst clients have been novice business owners. They just tend to just be way too involved/emotional, picky and cheap, and want you to give them all sorts of work for free (looking at you, revisions). Jane’s probably not sad about missing out on this one, though WHY Lee went nuclear on this is anyone’s guess, you did warn them.

  7. Ann O'Nemity*

    I wouldn’t want to get in the middle of this. If the LW really wants to say something to Jane, I’d leave it at, “I heard you ran into issues with Lee. I’m so sorry, I never would have referred him to you if I’d suspected there would be problems.”

    I wouldn’t include Alison’s suggested last line, “I trust you and your professionalism implicitly and know you are scrupulous about billing accurately and transparently,” just because it sounds too much like testimony that could be used against Lee.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Agreed, about both parts. I’d leave off the last part because it sort of sounds like the LW might have suspected Jane of something. There shouldn’t be a qualifier here.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Maybe instead of the last line from the script, note that from the LW’s perspective, the nonsense with Lee does not affect the business relationship with Jane. Basically, the LW isn’t going to hold any of this against Jane.

    3. ParseThePotatoes*

      This is actually what I was going to suggest – leaving off the last sentence. It almost reminds me of the ‘dress code complaint’ from a few days ago – the freelancer doesn’t need to hear the jerk’s complaints, even in a denial (unless there’s a chance that it will affect them professionally).

    4. Kevin Sours*

      I wouldn’t include it because it comes across as “raising questions answered by my tshirt”. Sometimes it’s bet to let subtext be subtext.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I don’t think I’d say anything that specific to what the issues were. No need for Jane to even know what specifically Lee has said to you unless she for some reason directly asks IMO.

  8. Jennifer Strange*

    I think the fact that you’ve referred several other friends who have been great for Jane to work with makes it clear that Lee was an anomaly. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to just close the loop on it with the language Alison recommended, but I wouldn’t worry about your reputation with her taking a hit.

  9. Kelly L.*

    Lee was charged exactly twice as much as they were supposed to be?

    My money is on “one charge was a hold, the other was the real charge, the hold has since fallen off and they’ve gone quiet because they’re embarrassed that they went nuclear.”

    1. Heidi*

      I’d been wondering why Lee would send the OP the enraged text when it was Lee who was trying to unfairly stop payment to Jane. This would explain that.

      1. OP here*

        OP here – I didn’t think of this as a possibility! However after some thought, I think it was more likely that Lee wanted me to reach out to Jane and try to get their money back, or tell her I wouldn’t do business with her again unless she refunded them, or something along those lines. Obviously I didn’t do this and I think when they realized I wasn’t going to, they stopped responding to me.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          She overestimated/misunderstood your relationship with Lee.
          If Jane has been defrauded, you, in your role as a business connection would recommend doing what Jane did, contacting Jane and the credit card company., “making it right” by getting involved and contacting Lee.
          This is all kinds of desperation.

    2. Statler von Waldorf*

      I agree fully. I’ve seen that exact situation play out in a very similar manner. Bank holds are a thing, and lots of people don’t understand how they work.

    3. Morgan Proctor*

      Also if Jane is using a third-party website like bill dot com to do invoicing, there’s literally no way for her to double charge without Lee knowing. Freelancers don’t typically come into direct contact with clients’ credit card information.

      1. OP here*

        I’m not in billing so I don’t know what she uses but it’s something along those lines. I’m not sure if it shows up as her business name, or the invoicing company with an invoice number. Either way she doesn’t have access to cc information.

  10. Mellie Bellie*

    I would just interact with Jane like normal and pretend that Lee never brought this issue that is really between Lee and Jane to my attention. Because, really, LW, it’s actually not any of your business and it’s…not great…that Lee tried to bring you into it. If Lee hadn’t said anything, you wouldn’t know and Jane probably doesn’t know Lee said anything to you and, if she does, hasn’t sought to involve you in it, so just proceed as if this is not your concern and move on accordingly.

    And yeah, this is why I am so, so hesitant to mix my friend life with my business life. I’ll take on friends of friends as clients, carefully, and will, again carefully, refer friends to friends. but I have a very firm rule about not working with or hiring friends. Full stop.

    1. Claire*

      As a freelancer, I agree with this. I would not want a client to get in the middle of a sticky situation with another client. Also, OP, you did not refer Lee to Jane. You referred Jane to Lee. It’s Jane’s job to get her clients, not yours.

  11. MK*

    Given that OP doesn’t actually know what happened, and her information about Lee is hearsay, I wouldn’t go with Alison’s script, at least not taking sides so explicitly. It is possible Jane did mess up charging Lee or that there was some mixup or misunderstanding.

  12. Sparkles McFadden*

    You tried to do a good thing, LW. You thought “This person needs a good designer and I know a good designer.” From that point on, it was out of your hands, so none of this is your fault. You wouldn’t even have known about any friction had Lee not called you to complain, which tells you all you need to know about Lee. I think it would be fine to mention to Jane that you had no idea Lee would be so problematic. I don’t think Jane would hold it against you, either way.

  13. learnedthehardway*

    OP – there’s no reason for you to bring it up to Jane unless she broaches the topic. You’ve been a good client to Jane and she’s been a good service provider to you – that’s really what matters.

    If you feel really badly about it and are concerned that Jane might think poorly of you / your company, you could say that you heard that things did not work out with Lee and that you are sorry JANE had to deal with this situation. And then leave it. Let Jane respond as she wishes, but don’t push or over-apologize.

    Anyway, you’ve learned something about Lee – I wouldn’t do business with him.

    Speaking as a small business owner, I’ve been referred to business that didn’t work out, and didn’t hold it against the person who referred me. In fact, I referred them to other business AFTER such a debacle – it wasn’t their fault that their referral didn’t work out.

  14. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    Stay out of it no matter what. Giving a referral doesn’t mean you are responsible for anything about their interaction afterward. Lee is trying to keep you involved you as though you are Jane’s agent…or parent. “but told me later they were not going to move forward with Jane due to cost.” Even this early update to you was unnecessary. Don’t try to get more information from Lee; don’t interview other people about their interactions with Jane (wow); there’s no reason to “investigate” to determine fault.

    1. Ticotac*

      >Don’t try to get more information from Lee; don’t interview other people about their interactions with Jane (wow); there’s no reason to “investigate” to determine fault.

      Why the “wow”? If a friend of mine tells me that X, the person I frequently work with and refer many people to, committed fraud against them, I am absolutely going to ask the other people I have referred to X if they ever had issues. It’s not about investigating to determine fault, it’s about the fact that if Jane *did* commit fraud then OP has to check the previous work Jane has done for them and never work with her again.

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        No she doesn’t need to check the work Jane has done for other clients. Jane is not the OP’s employee. This is a weird attitude of controlling or ownership over a vendor. OP should base her judgement on her own experience.

        1. Ticotac*

          Let’s put it this way; if I recommend a restaurant to a friend and the friend tells me they got food poisoning from the place, it would be very silly of me not to check the reviews of the restaurant to see if other people got food poisoning, especially when I am planning to go to that restaurant in a month.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            But in that scenario it’s more likely the restaurant’s fault. In this one, it suuuuure sounds like Lee is the problem.

            1. Ticotac*

              Yes, it’s very likely Lee is the problem, and OP knows that for sure because they called the other clients and found out that none of them ever had issues.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                Yeah, that is a very normal thing to check on–especially if you think you might continue to recommend Jane to other people in the future–I don’t understand the pushback here lol

          2. you will never find me*

            When people say that work relationships are built on trust, what they mean is that you operate on “well, they never defrauded ME so I’m just gonna ignore it”

        2. redflagday701*

          It’s totally reasonable to ask people in your network about a contractor who works for them, even if she works for you too. Even if Jane has always done good work for me, after an experience like this, I’d want to double-check that was the case for other people too, if I’m going to continue to refer her. I wouldn’t go overboard (and it doesn’t sound like OP has), and I would go into it taking Lee’s opinion with a giant grain of salt, but I would want to get external confirmation that my instincts were correctly calibrated.

      2. Jellyfish Catcher*

        Don’t drag other people, much less Jane’s previous clients, into this unnecessary drama. The disagreement is between Jane and your referral.
        Jane can handle this herself and doesn’t need anyone stirring up doubts or questions in any of her previous clients.

        1. Ticotac*

          Is this unnecessary drama? Or is this using a business network in the way it was intended? Because call me dramatic, but if a person I regularly work with is accused of defrauding someone, I feel like the least I can do is ask my network what their experiences with that person was like.

        2. Ticotac*

          I’ve re-read the comment and maybe I see where the miscommunication happened.

          Checking with the other clients is not about protecting Jane. It’s not about proving that Jane is innocent and Lee is guilty. It’s about hearing that Jane may have defrauded someone and wanting to find out if this one accusation is an outlier or part of a bigger pattern, because if it is part of a bigger pattern then OP could be in trouble.

    2. OP here*

      That’s ridiculous. Of course if I’m regularly referring people to someone and everyone is having problems with them but no one has mentioned anything, I want to know so I stop referring business to them.

  15. redflagday701*

    A freelancer as experienced and as good as Jane has her own ways of vetting potential clients and knows you’re allowed to decline to work with someone, even if a friend or longtime client referred them. She made the choice to work with Lee (and obviously had protections in place in case they turned out to be a problem). You didn’t do anything wrong, OP.

    But speaking as a freelancer myself, I would urge you to reach out to Jane with a message like what Alison suggests, because she may be feeling anxious that Lee is going to complain to you — and even if she knows she’s in the right, it can be a bit scary when you know a client is hearing negative things from someone else. I would be reassured to get such a message, and even if Jane isn’t feeling anxious about this, it certainly won’t hurt.

  16. Ticotac*

    OP, it’s totally possible that someone out there would blame you for sending [what seems to be] a bad client their way. I don’t think it’s likely, however, and I highly doubt that kind of person would be otherwise lovely and a general delight to work with.

    In all likelihood, Jane doesn’t blame you at all; you’re a good client who has sent many people their way, all of which have been reasonable. One fluke happens.

    What is possible is that Jane may worry that Lee has badmouthed her to you. I doubt it’s a pressing concern – you have an otherwise great working relationship – but still, for all she knows, you have a deeper relationship with your friend and would trust them over a working relationship, so I can imagine her being slightly wary.

    So personally, I would reach out. I don’t think Jane expects an apology, although it’s likely she’d appreciate something like, “I heard the job with my friend didn’t work out, I’m sorry to hear that! Looking forward to working with you again.” If you don’t want to open with an apology, you could send a “just wanted to say that we received great feedback on the last job you did for us! I am looking forward to working with you again on X” message, something positive and somewhat vague to reinforce that you still think the best of her. Jane is then free to ask if you know about the situation with your friend, and what you think of it.

    There’s also the possibility that Lee actually never complained to Jane. You know how likely that is, but in that case it’s possible that Jane has no clue Lee ever had an issue with her, and would be surprised to get an apology out of nowhere. Would she appreciate a heads up in that case? Is it worth it? Only you know that.

  17. Quercus*

    I wouldn’t go as far as Allison’s praise either. Something like “I don’t know much about it, and am definitely not getting involved, but I did hear you and Lee didn’t work out. If there’s anything we need to talk about, let me know, but I don’t think it should affect our working relationship.”

    That way Jane doesn’t have to worry about negative fallout from you, and, since you’ve given Jane a chance to bring anything up, you don’t have to worry about fallout from her.

  18. Pikachu*

    I agree with the other commenters who say to just not bring it up. Returning to Jane for more work says everything you need to say.

    If she brings it up, maybe turn to a version of Alison’s script, but I would just move forward and leave it out of the conversation.

  19. kalli*

    “I heard you ran into issues with Lee. I’m so sorry, I never would have referred them to you if I’d suspected there would be problems.” is enough. Genuinely, you don’t know enough to say anything else and it’s 100% better for you to stay out of it than to even possibly accidentally give the appearance of taking sides.

    Also, it’s close enough to the new year now that reaching out to Jane to ask about her availability for the next project you have planned wouldn’t be unusual- a quick ‘Hi Jane! (I heard things didn’t go well with Lee. I’m so sorry; I wouldn’t have referred him if I thought it might not work out!) By the way, I’m hoping to have another job for you early next year [brief description, cost/time estimate]. I’d love to lock you in, how about we make a time in January to finalise the contract?’

    Giving her work indicates you still trust her and her work. It also means if she’s taking a break over the holidays you’ll find that out and be able to plan your timeline accordingly etc etc.

  20. OP here*

    Thank you all! I am not going to broach the topic unless an opportunity arises. I appreciate the input from y’all!

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      I think you have that backwards. Jane isn’t slandering anybody but Lee is behaving terribly.

  21. Lilo*

    It sounds like most of the referrals you’ve sent to Jane have gone well, so I wouldn’t stress it. Difficult clients happen and Jane seems to have a good handle on how to document and protect herself.

  22. Raida*

    Mate, just contact Jane and say you’re looking forward to working with her again.

    And then say you heard the last referral wasn’t painless, and you hope that’s the exception for the Clients you’ve sent her way!

  23. EA*

    I disagree with the advice; I’d say definitely don’t say anything unless she mentions it, and even then just stay as neutral as possible. There’s no benefit to you to getting involved, and it’s certainly not your fault. Just contact Jane to offer her more work and you’ll be good.

  24. boof*

    If Jane is as experienced and professional as you say she won’t blame you / understand you don’t control Lee. I think the only reason to bring it up to Jane is if you are worried Lee might be leveraging your relationship somehow (ie, “OP is on my side and I’ll get you blacklisted if you don’t drop my bill!”), maybe a word of reassurance “Hello, Lee told me things didn’t go well, and I was shocked to hear it. I’ve always found you to be extremely reliable and professional as have all my other colleagues, though please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to talk about.” IDK mildly awkward but basically Lee isn’t your fault though maybe Jane will appreciate hearing that their rep speaks for itself on the issue.

  25. Claire*

    As a freelancer, I would recommend you not say anything. It will make the whole situation more awkward for Jane. You did not refer Lee to Jane, you referred Jane to Lee, so you don’t have responsibility here and should stay out of it. As others have said, the best way to signal to Jane that your relationship with her hasn’t changed is to hire her again.

  26. MooCow*

    OP, stay out of this mess.
    If Jane has done good work for you, then she has done good work for you. You already know she is conscientious and careful.
    If you really are worried, talk to both Jane and Lee, but make your own decisions.

    I sure did:
    I actually know a freelancer with a difficult track record (educated, interviews well, gets fired after a few months, rinse and repeat) who almost made me and others go nuts with a doomed startup of his, as I later found out. I got out, and no longer recommend this person. Self medicated ADD of his own admittance is involved.

    Another freelancer, Luke (without any obvious issues), bombed a job I recommended him for years ago, and it reflected badly on my yearly review.
    When his name came up at my new company as a potential consultant, I talked to the project leader in confidence and did a full disclosure of Luke’s strengths, weaknesses, and track record. And did not recommend him.
    Luke was hired and bombed the task. I later reminded the project leader of my warning to protect my own reputation.

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