5 Client “Rules” You Should Break …!
I’ve recently noticed a lot of blogs floating around about “how to” have happy, long-lasting business relationships, so you can continue to send those monthly invoices. They are not wrong, but it makes me feel as though people may be afraid to talk about the flipside. There’s oh so many things one can do to keep the client happy but what some don’t realize is there are a handful of client “rules” one can break and have both sides successfully happy.
I know, I know … You’re questioning my sanity right now; I can feel it but don’t worry … I got your back because here are 5 “rules” should consider breaking:
Rule #1: Do not be too over-accommodating.
Part of owning your own show is to establish a set of rules, policies and systems to help you produce the best work you can and that is what sets you up for success. However, and speaking from personal experience here, some clients don’t care how you do business – they want things done their way, on their time and budget and that’s just how it is.
Don’t get me wrong, the occasional favour that pushes the limits and boundaries is okay. We all love helping people. That’s why we do what we do. But you must be careful of consistently yielding to pushy or over-demanding clients. Stop pulling those all-nighters to meet their rush deadlines because this can get in the way of doing an amazing job for this client as well as for your others. Be wary of the clients who always seem to have a “special” request to those who constantly place you under pressure to meet their needs.
Does this sound like you? Then ask yourself this: Is this client really worth all of the trouble they cause more than once?
If your answer is NO and you feel you’ve been asking yourself this often then it’s probably time to start planning an exit strategy and free yourself up for potential clients who better match your style and your flow.
Make improvements to your business through rock solid systems and they will stick like glue.
~ Mark Wardell, Founder and President of Wardell International
Rule #2: Do not do what you do not want to be known for.
It is so darn easy to keep getting involved with work you CAN do but not necessarily want to be doing. I’ve been stuck on this rinse n’ repeat cycle more than once. A client asks, you say yes (for whatever reasons you had in that moment) then this work becomes something of a habit or a new team role.
It is very important to consider what you want to be known for, your “secret sauce”. But also, how much work you can do/generate/bring in that is related to that “sauce”. So, what I’m saying here is do not accept every project that comes your way because undesirable work tends to beget more undesirable work. And if you’re working on those things that you do not want to be known for then those prized projects you are dreaming of could – and more than likely will — pass you by.
However, I’m not saying kick those clients to the curb because it’s not your passion. I’m not saying reject all these opportunities if you know you’re good at it or want to learn the task/platform. If the client is in a pinch and you truly want to help, just be very clear on the terms right from the start. Then when you see that your client’s needs are taken care of that’s a good time to remind them “it’s not you, it’s me” and assist them with an exit strategy.
But on the flipside, if you just plainly do not want to do it because you really do not want to be known for it, it’s okay to say no. You don’t need anyone’s permission.
The quality of work can be expected through personal satisfaction, dedication and enjoyment. In our profession, precision and perfection are not a dispensable luxury, but a simple necessity. ~ Niklaus Wirth, Computer Scientist
Rule #3: Do not lower your financial self-worth.
It is very important to think about how much time you spend with each client in proportion to how much they pay you. Does everything feel aligned? If not, it is time to adjust your secret sauce offers and raise your prices, off-load your time-hungry clients, streamline your operations, think about expanding your team or perhaps all the above.
Don’t put your business at risk and be sure to scale your deliverable. If the client can only pay for half of the contract/proposal, then they only get half. It sounds stern but it’s only fair. Nobody should have to decrease their self-worth because the other half cannot pay. And nobody should work for free.
“Action is the high road to self-confidence and self-esteem.” ~ Bruce Lee, Actor
Rule #4: Do not break any rules just because they asked.
I bet I’m not the only one … at some point or another we’ve all been asked to break the rules in our business. For me, having a business in design-land (graphic and web) this one comes up often. Sometimes design-land rules are easier to break because they’re not really hurting anyone – well except the eyes of the ones looking at “it”, LOL! But with all other forms of rule breaking, the best advice I can offer is to try to find a win-win situation whenever possible. Sometimes these tactics fall flat when faced with disputes of an ethical, moral or even legal nature. My advice here, just don’t do it and trust your gut!
You have permission to walk away from anything that doesn’t feel right. Trust your instincts and listen to your inner voice – it is trying to protect you. ~ Bryant McGill, Author
Rule #5: Do not allow yourself to be treated poorly.
When I first opened my business from part-time to full-time, I ran into this situation more often than I’d like to admit. I was afraid if I stood up against the client who was treating me poorly that it would leave a sour taste for future business, I would lose the client and it would place a bad rap on my name. However, after many meetings that ended in migraines and projects I completed while working through tears (and not small streams … huge ass puddles) I realized that there is absolutely no excuse for bad behavior. I wouldn’t let anyone in my personal life treat me this poorly so why was I letting people in my business life do so.
If a client is treating your poorly the answer is simple. It is time to move on. Don’t let the fear I experience, of a bad word-of-mouth, leave you stuck in a no-win situation. In the business world, there is no room for bullies. We teach the children of the world to not allow this at school and after-hours play, so why should we not follow suit?!
Find the best course of action (finish up the contract and move on or provide a refund that follow along with your contract/proposal), cut your loses and find someone else to work with. Someone who respects you. Trust me, there’s plenty wonderful people/businesses out there to work for/with.
Think about putting a couple personality screening practices in place, add a clause to your contract that involves emotional abuse and once again, always trust your gut!
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heat and intuition. ~ Steve Jobs, Business Magnate and Investor
Don’t let “rules” define your success. As an entrepreneur it is up to you to decide what rules to make for your business and even more importantly, which ones to break.
You are a product of your own success … after all there’s a reason you decided to break free from the 9-5 and become your own boss!
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