11 Feb Viewer Mail, Viewer Mail ✉️
*Insert the old David Letterman “Viewer Mail” song here* I received an email from a listener of last week’s episode and, with her permission, I am reading an excerpt of it in this episode.
✔️ How do you weed out 💩 clients when it feels like there’s so much competition out there? Is there really enough business to go around?
✔️ When it’s your business or your name is on the door, how do you keep everything from feeling so personal?
✔️ You can, unfortunately, recreate the worst elements of Corporate America for yourself when you start your own business or you begin freelancing. You must preserve your own sanity and work in the way that you see fit. Don’t let other people run over you.
✔️ Is the customer always right? Nope. If the customer knew everything that you know, why would they hire you?
✔️ Fewer clients at a higher quality level and higher price point = a happier freelancer.
Need more? Email me: https://causeyconsultingllc.com/contact-causey/
Transcription by Otter.ai. Please forgive any typos in the text!
Hello, hello and welcome to today’s episode of the Causey Consulting podcast. I’m your host Sara Causey and I’m also the owner of Causey Consulting, which you can find online anytime. At Causey Consulting llc.com. I received several messages from people who really felt like the last episode resonated for them. Some of them just had similar January’s, they felt like they got sucked into a vortex of weirdness and were really eager for it to GTFO. Others really related to that experience that I think anybody in consulting or freelancing has had where someone seems really awesome at the intake call. But then after you bring them into the fold as a client, you realize that you should not have and then you have that holy crap balls Batman, what do I do now? What do I do when I realized that I have saddled up with the wrong person? How do I either extricate myself gently and amicably? Or do I try to finish the project, even though I’m miserable? Like, how do I handle this, and I want to read a passage from one of the emails that I received, I will call this person Jane Doe, and I will be very protective of her privacy, she does know that I am reading an excerpt from this email, and I have her permission to do so. And I’m just going to be very discreet. I feel that it’s important for you to hear a passage of this email because I think so many of us can relate to this. So I’m going to read this passage from Jane Doe. I enjoyed your episode about difficult clients. I relate to it, even though I wish I didn’t. I work in a creative industry. And it seems like there is so much competition out there. I know I’ve put up with bad behavior and unreasonable expectations from clients who didn’t pay enough, but then wanted unlimited numbers of rewrites and edits, sometimes it gets so bad, I actually miss my corporate job. I never thought I would say that. But it feels like my freelancing work is all on my shoulders. If I disappoint a client, I feel awful for weeks afterward, what you said about firing a bad client is something I aspire to. But the idea of actually doing it scares me to death. When I worked at an agency, if a client was unhappy or wanted unlimited edits, I could go to my manager, I and I didn’t feel I looked bad. If that client became angry with the agency, I never took it personally. Now everything feels personal. So first of all, Jane, I want to thank you for sending this email to me and forgiving me permission to read some of it on the air. There are so many golden nuggets, just just in this paragraph that I have read to the audience. And I want to go through them because I relate to what Jane is saying. And I know so many people listening to this broadcast will also relate to what she’s going through. I’m going to start at the beginning. One of the things that Jane says is it seems like there’s so much competition out there. She works in a creative industry. And it seems like there’s so much competition out there. And I understand. I’m not the only executive coach in the world. As I’ve mentioned before, it seems like the industry is incredibly bloated. And then you’ve got all of these other cottage industries springing up. It’s like other I hate to say scavengers, but honest to God, that’s the picture that’s coming up in my mind, you see these people that are going okay, well coaching has become a bloated industry, the barriers to entry are quite low, or in some cases non existent. So that looks like a really good place to go to try to pick up clients. And so they scavenge around for coaches who aren’t doing well. And there are a lot of them, and they make them all sorts of promises. I’m going to blow you up on social media, I’m going to make you an influencer, I’m going to help you get on Good Morning America or whatever they give you the promise that they’re going to help you become the next Deepak Chopra or the next Oprah Winfrey. And as you can probably imagine how many people in the world are really going to become the next Deepak or the next Oprah like, but yet these people are out there and they’re making tons of promises. Likewise, I’m not the only person out there that does, you know, staffing and recruiting and HR consulting and subject matter expert type of work. I’m the only one that does it in the way that I see the world. I’m unique in that regards, but I’m not the only staffing and recruiting consultant on planet Earth. Anybody in almost any industry, you can think of could say there’s so much competition out there. I feel like I need to put up with bad behavior from doodoo poopoo clients who treat me like dirt, because there’s so much competition out there. And I’ll make an interjection about the staffing world, I saw so much bad behavior, and a willingness to put up with just complete and utter bullshit when I was doing third party staffing and recruiting. And the excuse was, well, if we put up with this, if we don’t put up with this hiring manager, who acts like a complete a whole, he’ll just take his business to one of our competitors, they’ll put up with him. Or if you’re not willing to stay late, and work until eight o’clock at night and ignore your spouse and your kids, then you’re just not very dedicated. You’re your competitor is willing to stay late. But if you’re not, then you’re just not Sharky enough to be in this industry. So if we distill all of this down, it boils down to two things. One is the scarcity mindset. There’s so much competition out there, there are so many other people in my industry. So if I don’t deal with bad clients that are a time suck, there won’t be enough good clients who aren’t a time suck for me to make a living and have a good life. That’s one part of it. The other part of it is that feeling of being inferior or not being good enough, if I don’t jump through poodle hoops, if I don’t walk through a hot fire, walk across flaming coals for my clients, if I don’t go above and beyond the call of duty, then they won’t like me, and I won’t get any more business and the whole, the whole shebang will fall apart. One of the things that you need to do in that situation, other than taking a good deep cleansing breath, which is free of charge, and good not only for the body, but for the mind, and the spirit as well, is just to ask yourself, Is that really true? Is it really true that if I don’t bend over backwards and put up with bad or even abusive or illegal behavior from clients, there just won’t be enough to go around? Is that really true? there’s ample evidence to show you that there are people in this world who are making a good living, they’re providing for themselves and their family, they’re happy, and they’re not putting up with a lot of BS for nonsense clients. Almost any idea that you can imagine in your head is already existing out there somewhere, it’s been proven to be possible. If you look at the story of Roger Bannister, he was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. But I read that that record only stood for 46 days. Because after other people saw that it was possible. It’s not just a pie in the sky idea. Maybe someday somebody will do that it’s already actually been done, that other people were able to do the same thing. There’s no conjuration that you can come up with in your mind that somebody else hasn’t already done or tried. There’s so many things that that appeared to be impossible, until they weren’t impossible. So don’t sell yourself short. By taking on crap clients that treat you like dirt. This next part that Jane talks about, sometimes it gets so bad that I actually miss my corporate job. I feel like all of this freelancing work is on my shoulders. That’s definitely something that I relate to. And when I read her email, I I felt that in my gut, it was like, Yes, I i understand this. During my first iteration of self employment when I was trying to be my own staffing agency, I felt that way. Many times I would have these bailout fantasies. That’s one of the reasons why I have warned you guys before that a sign that your business is in trouble, a sign that you are on the road to a potential failure, and you need to make a course correction is the bailout fantasy. You sit and daydream about somebody coming up handing you a check or somebody calling and offering you a job that will magically solve all your problems, or some million dollar check falling out of the sky. Maybe I’ll win the Powerball tomorrow. And that’ll save me when you have those bailout fantasies of wanting to be saved from yourself or saved from your own business. That’s a sign of potential impending doom. One thing that has helped me is to understand that yes, you also have a lot of responsibility, but you also have a lot of freedom, as well. You know, when you’re freelancing or you own your own company, especially now. You know, at a time when the pandemic is still a reality for us so many people are working from home, in a home office or in their den in their pajamas or some athletic clothes. They don’t have a boss standing over their shoulder watching their every move, they don’t have some annoying office extrovert that wants to come by their cubicle every 10 minutes and bother them about inane conversation like we do have more freedom and privacy than historically we’ve had when most of us were, you know, I think of that line by staying in the police where it’s like packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes, contestants in a suicidal race, you like when we were all crammed jammed into our cars on the freeway just so we could be crammed jammed into a cubicle farm in an office somewhere under fluorescent lighting, like, it’s nice to be at home, you want to celebrate the fact that you are not beholden to some a whole boss that’s standing over the top of you all the time. You can create or recreate your own hell, if you go home and you start freelancing, and you allow your clients to become this, you know, overarching, I’m always watching you big brother type figure. But that’s the thing you ultimately have the control, and the final say and who you decide to work with. And you have to have to have to have to have to set the rules of engagement and demand compliance to those rules. You’re not a customer service rep, or a professional apologizer. It’s not your job to sit there and try to placate everybody. I’m sorry that your satellites not working today. Oh, I’m sorry that this didn’t work for you. Let’s issue you a refund. It’s not that’s not your job, I’m assuming now maybe that is your job, in which case that part’s not relevant. But my guess is if you’re listening to this episode today, you’re probably a freelancer, small business owner solopreneur. And you’re sitting there thinking, Well, yeah, I, I did leave corporate America to get away from surveillance and bad bosses and inflexible rigid schedules, like, I don’t want to turn around and recreate that same nightmare for myself at home. So take that pressure off yourself, for God’s sakes, you are the expert and the authority figure. And if you’re not, then you need to take the appropriate steps to become one, whether that’s continuing education, getting a certification of some kind, doing an apprenticeship with someone who knows and can teach you the correct way to do whatever it is that you do. But if you’ve got years of experience, and you are really damn good at your job in a company, then you don’t need to allow the clients to run over the top of you or to boss you around. And if you got brainwashed in a company that taught you well the customer’s always right, even when they’re lying, even when they’re wrong, even when they’re rude. Even when they’re cussing you out, the customer is always right. We’re nothing without our customers, and you need to bend over and kiss their butts, then you need to brainwash yourself, sometimes the customer is wrong as hell. And not every client that comes to you that wants to request information or wants to hop on a quick zoom call is going to necessarily be somebody that’s right for you to work with. There’s a concept in Judaism called tikkun olam, which is world repair. And the idea is we all have one piece of the puzzle that’s ours, some jobs, some, some something greater than ourselves that we can help in achieving to make the world a better place. But no one person can repair the world by themselves. It takes all of us doing a little bit. That’s our part of it. So if you get into the Messiah complex of well, I need to try to help everybody that asks, or I need to try to work 80 hours a week and drink a lot of coffee and Red Bull to perform all of these signs and wonders for everyone that asks me for something you’re going to burn out. I would much rather advise you to have fewer clients at a higher quality and a higher pay rate than to do the high volume take all comers model, you may have to do a little bit of that at the beginning just to get established and just to get some cash flow going. But if you continue to do that for a long period of time, you’re going to wear out. This next part of Jane’s email is also incredibly important because she talks about if I disappoint a client I feel awful for weeks afterwards. If when I was working in an agency if a client became angry with the agency, I never took it personally but now everything feels personal. It definitely can feel that way. When you are the face of your business, if you’re a solopreneur, or you’re a small business owner, the company is named after you or you’re the owner and your face is plastered all over the website. Yeah, hell yeah, of course, it’s gonna feel at least a little bit personal. Whenever somebody goes, Okay, well, you did this for me, and I didn’t like it. Or I wanted you to be available to me. 24, seven, you couldn’t do it. And now I’m upset with you. How dare you have a life outside of your business practice. I saw a poster the other day that said something like everything I need to know about life I learned from the Godfather. And one of those things was it’s not personal. It’s just business. You have to separate out your business persona, from your personal life. It’s sort of like putting on a hat that says, alright, I’m in business mode now. And then being able to take that hat off, at the end of the business day, and just relax and be yourself. It isn’t the end of the world if a client gets disappointed. And it’s also not personal. It’s not like if you drop the ball on a project, or you give a deliverable to a client, and they decide, no, I don’t really think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But thanks anyway, you’ve got to be able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off. After that happens. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you a bad business owner, a bad consultant, a bad freelancer, a bad creative, whatever, try to take those extremes out of it. If the client is happy, then I’m great. And I’m up here on the mountaintop. If the client is dissatisfied, or gets rude with me, then I’m down in the valley. And I feel like crap, you’re setting yourself up. When you do that for a lot of emotional turmoil and feeling like you’re on a roller coaster, the high highs and the low lows. And you’re also outsourcing your own self esteem to other people. And that is whether you’re talking about a romantic relationship, a marriage a friendship, parent, child dynamics, business, whatever, you cannot outsource the way that you feel about yourself, your self esteem, your self confidence, your value as a human on planet Earth, you cannot outsource that to other people. If you do, then you will always be at their mercy. And whatever whim that they’re on today. I like you tomorrow. I don’t next week, I’m in love with you. I can’t live without you. The week after that, I hate your guts. Don’t call me again, you you are signing up for so much drama, you, you’re gonna be exhausted all the freaking time. So don’t don’t do that. Now, I’m not gonna sit here and patronize you by saying some little trite cliche, like, well just learn to let things go. And just just learn to just learn to brush your shoulders off. And that that’s, it’s really difficult to do that in the moment. So one piece of advice I would give is to allow yourself to feel what you need to feel. If somebody pisses you off, then allow yourself to be angry. If somebody makes you feel sad, or you feel disappointed that a project didn’t go well or a client lied by omission or whatever, like allow yourself to feel what you need to feel. What I would suggest that you not do is go into ruminative thinking, where you just pick apart everything that happened over and over and over. When you do that you’re really in danger of going into the abyss. So it’s not like I just learned to let it go. Just Just brush your shoulders off immediately. No, feel what you need to feel. And if you can learn something from the experience, then it can be a blessing in disguise. It’s like in the last episode, I talked about having a wonky January with two people that wanted to act like Glenn Close and fatal attraction. Well, I learned some very valuable lessons from that did did going through it at the time suck and make me feel disappointed. Hell yeah, of course it did. And I’m human, just like all of you guys are. One of the things that I took from that was I need to better position myself as a subject matter expert, simply saying the word consultant might not be strong enough, you have got more than a decade of experience doing what I do. I’ve build millions of dollars. I know this world backwards, forward, sideways, up, down and back around again. So learning that valuable lesson of consultant may not be strong enough, you know, it’s really time or past time to refer to yourself as me and hopefully that will help to eliminate some of these individuals that are really just looking for an employee or a whipping boy somebody that they can just get right on top of and micromanage and shout their demands out to because As I’ve said before, I’m not the one for that. We can get stuck in taking things too personally and being way too leveraged on what other people think of us. If we’re a perfectionist, I’ve described myself before as a recovering, perfectionist. Because when you have that sort of Type A driven, ambitious personality, you really care about your business, you want to get things right, you want people to walk away happy, it’s easy to get into perfectionism. Like I have to go above and beyond this has to be the best experience ever. But it doesn’t. Like, there there is no perfect, we don’t live in a perfect world. You and I are not perfect. Your clients are not perfect. And there are some people like the the story about Anne and I told in the last episode from that blog, like, there’s some people that are not pleased. And it does not matter how hard that you work, how hard that you try how many poodle hoops that you jump through, they’re not going to be happy with what you do. And that very often says a hell of a lot more about them than it does about you. They might be going through something in their personal life that’s making them grouchy and unplayable. Or they might just be a butthole. You know, unfortunately, like some people are that way. I once heard dennis miller say that the current asshole rate in America was something like 36 to 38%. And I laughed so hard at that, because it’s like, well, yeah, I mean, I don’t disagree. Don’t take it personally, when these things happen. You know, if you have a setback, in your freelancing, consulting your business, feel what you need to feel about it, and then move on. Learn from it, what you can don’t ruminate on it, learn from it, what you can, and then move on. The last thing I want to cover in this message is Jane saying if a client was unhappy, or they wanted unlimited edits, I could go to my manager, sometimes I actually miss my corporate job, I she feels that she had an infrastructure there. So if somebody was disappointed if they wanted unlimited rewrites or edits, if they had unreasonable expectations, then she could move it up the food chain so to speak, she could abdicate the responsibility of being able to say anything to the client, she didn’t have to fire them, she didn’t have to get on the phone and dicker around with them, that was somebody else’s job. When you’re a solopreneur, or freelancer, then it is your responsibility to decide who you will work with and what kind of engagement there will be. One thing I’ll say here is you need to be conscientious and cautious about anything that you signed, do not get yourself obligated for some long engagement. Because what’s going to happen if you start working with a new client, you get two or three weeks or two or three months into it, realize that you have left up and on boarded someone you never should have gotten involved with but you’re trapped, you’re gonna be totally miserable. And then you’re, it’s like you’re hitched to this person. I think, right now in this the the Scripture is popping into my mind about not being unequally yoked, you don’t want to trap yourself with somebody. So be be cautious of signing anything that would trap you into a long term engagement, especially if it’s a brand new client, somebody unknown to you that you’ve never had any dealings with before. It feels really damn good to know that you can hit the escape hatch, if something goes wrong. In the event of an emergency, I can throw open the emergency exit and run it sometimes just that knowledge that you could run away if it got bad will keep you from running away. But if you’ve trapped yourself with somebody who’s a complete Stone Cold weirdo, you’re going to live to regret it and be cautious of things that are It may sound counterintuitive. But you know things that may might seem like a plausible excuse from the client, but that really aren’t. So in the example of and that I read from that blog post last week, her client had come to her saying that he didn’t want to pay a lot of money because he just needed something simple and straightforward. Here’s what you want to ask yourself in that situation. Why are you coming to me? I’m an expert. I’m an authority figure. I’m not the cheapest gig in town. So why are you coming to me? If you feel like you have something that could be processed by somebody that charges 10 bucks an hour? Why are you coming to somebody that charges 100 or if you feel like you have something that could be accomplished by someone who will only charge you $2,000 for the package? Why are you coming to somebody that charges 20,000 you so you want to ask Ask yourself those those questions, don’t get happy ears and don’t get into a rush to onboard the client no matter what. Like, why if it’s so damn easy that, you know, a train seal at the zoo could do it for a piece of fish in a beach ball. Why are you coming to me? The other thing is, like excuses about money or the budget, you know, I really want to work with you as a coach, but I can’t afford you Is there any way that you could just do it pro bono, or I really want to work with you, I need your help as a project manager as a consultant, but you know, I’m on a budget, be careful, be careful. If somebody can’t afford you, they can’t afford you. Maybe someday they can in the future, but cold hearted and screw just screwed Jewish as this might sound, it’s not your problem that they can’t afford you. If you want to help people pro bono, you want to give back to the community, I would suggest that you get hooked up with a legitimate organization, go to a charity, go to a nonprofit that already has a system and some infrastructure in place so that you can plug in help people for free, give give back to people that are less fortunate. But there’s a hedge of protection there. You know, there’s a system so that if at some point, you get too busy, and you can’t volunteer anymore for a while you’re protected. Or if the person that you’re mentoring decides that they don’t want to work with you anymore, you’re protected. Do your charity work through an actual organization don’t pick up random people from the internet that you don’t know, jack squat about and agree to help them for free? Yeah, remember Dan Locke talking about people guilt tripping him into mentoring them for free. And it never ever, ever, ever, ever worked out the way that he thought it would. The onus is on you to protect yourself. So when you give back and you do pro bono work, do it through a legitimate organization so that there’s a structure and there’s a wall of protection around you just in case some worst case scenario comes up, you’re protected. Typically, these clients who gripe about your hourly rate, or they gripe about the cost of the package, and they tell you well, I, you’re you’re expensive, I really want to work with you. But like I’ve got a really tight budget, you can just simply say, well, in order for me to perform effectively, these are the number of man hours I estimate that I will need. If you can’t afford that at my hourly rate, then I would suggest you check out some other consultants that are willing to work for less. But you’re not under any kind of obligation to bring people into your practice or into your freelancing work or your small business that just can’t afford you. It’s not your problem, or your responsibility that they can’t afford you. And it’s not your like, Messiah duty to help them no matter what those people have the tendency to be the most demanding. It’s like they’ll tell you, well, I just need something that’s straightforward and super easy. The train seal at the zoo could do it. Okay, then why do you want me to do it? Or I really want to work with you, but I can’t afford you. What can you do for me? Well, the only thing I can really do is say I’m more than happy to talk to you when you can afford me. But I’m not going to reduce my prices in order to accommodate you. And as Jane says in this email, the idea of actually firing a bad client or parting ways with someone scares her to death. Practice in the mirror, if you have to practice with a friend, if you get into a situation that you realize that you need to backpedal out of or part ways with with a client. And if you need to consult an attorney about it do that. I mean, this is again, again, another reason why I feel that it’s so important not to sign some contract with a long term engagement. Because if you can’t hit the escape hatch and extract yourself, if things are going wrong, you can be in a major pickle. So as always, this is kind of like the fine print in the pharmaceutical ads, please consult your doctor before doing this. If you feel that you need to talk to your attorney about Hey, things are going wrong here and I signed a document and now I need to figure out how to get the hell out of this then do that. The onus is always on you to protect yourself. And I’ll wrap this up by saying, you know, consultants, subject matter experts, freelancers, we don’t owe our clients the world. Sometimes in life, the customer is not right. And if we can counsel them and coach them so that they understand. Here’s where that expectation is not realistic pool. There. There are plenty of people out there that are teachable and they’re willing to learn from you. But if you get stuck with somebody who’s a hard head, someone who’s argumentative, abusive, they’re trying to get you to do things that are unethical, immoral, illegal, what have you. You owe it to yourself to protect yourself. Guard yourself and your business and your time jealously. There’s only one of you in the world. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please share it. If you haven’t already, take a quick second to subscribe to this podcast and leave a review for us on iTunes. Bye for now.