Richard's reply to the references post brings up an interesting question. How do you deal directly with the client without having to go through the general contractor or the architect or the "designer"?
These are often in the position of being "gate keepers" and many of them protect that position for a reason. Actually there are several reasons. For one thing, most want to keep tight control over the project. In many cases, this is motivated by a genuine concern for the ultimate integrity of the project. But in just as many cases, the motivation is "markup". Especially with architects and designers who are limited to charging the client for "billable hours". There is a lot of extra money to be made in marking up various components that are provided by "subs".
So the gate keeper wants you to submit your bid to them directly allowing them to pass a higher price along to the customer thus adding to the profit margin. Even if you do manage to get around the gate keeper, you will only do it once and your life for the duration of that project may well be a living hell.
More often than not, the gate keeper has the confidence of the client and they may well be furious with you for cutting them out of the loop. But working directly through them can cost you big time because if a customer is willing to pay a large percentage above and beyond what you are quoting, you are missing out on profit from your own work that is going into someone else's pocket.
Now, before the hackles go up, let me say that I completely understand the need to make profit and that the contractor or designer needs to make money. But so do I. I don't mind giving a contractor or a designer ten or fifteen percent on a good sized project as long as they allow me to make some money too.
But playing "cut throat" in order to get the job just so the "go between" can mark it up 30 - 40 percent is a killer. So, a lot of how you deal with this situation depends largely on how "honorable" the gate keeper is. If they are fair, they will be fair with you and can provide you with a steady stream of work. If not, I have found that the best policy is to look elsewhere for jobs. More to come on this ...