If we can avoid these red flags, we’ll be safe from bad situations.
But sometimes, we still might get bamboozled. (I did.) Then what do we do?
A smooth-talking wedding deejay found me online. Of course, looking back now, I realize he was “too smooth.” Yes, I should have heard the giant red-flagging subwoofers a mile away, but … I didn’t. He needed help writing his website copy, and I agreed.
Here’s brief rundown:
- He said, “If we can keep it to $600, I’d appreciate it.” So I did.
- He said, “Can I pay less up front?” So I billed 25% instead of 50%.
- I sent an agreement with the deadline of September 1, 2011.
- Halfway through the project, his response time lagged.
- September came and he told me he had to switch design firms.
- October, November, December, January, no response.
- I emailed. I left messages. I said, “I’d love to finalize this project. Please call me back.”
- His website was up … with the copy I wrote. Still no response.
- Finally, I said, “I’m sending the final invoice,” and I did.
- And I followed up, again, and again, and again.
- It seemed he was trying to skip the bill.
- I got in touch with his assistant, and followed up with her—again, and again.
- Obviously annoyed by me not just going away, I received an extremely rude email from him.
He owed me $450. But since his going missing prevented me from completing the last outstanding pages, I suggested he pay $300. He said, “I'm NOT going to pay $300 - if you want any monies, I suggest you take my $150 while it's still on the table!”
Wow. It was like a smack in the face. He was nice in the beginning. He got what he wanted. Then he went missing.
I felt like crying. I felt angry. I felt nauseated. I questioned whether or not I was a failure. Was this my fault? The feelings crept up in my stomach, my throat.
Alas, this post isn’t about this unprofessional meanie.
It’s about me—and how I dealt with this situation.
I spared myself the negative feelings, the crying, the anger, the nausea. His rudeness wasn’t because of me—it was because of him. I momentarily felt bad for him. (How could he treat someone this way?) I momentarily felt bad for his other vendors. (Has he done this before?) I took five minutes to contemplate—and then I moved on.
I’ve written before about how there’s no room for (negative) feelings in business. This was one of those days.
No matter how good, creative, professional and accommodating we are—we can’t change other people. If this guy wanted to treat me like crap, my getting upset wasn’t going to fix anything.
What did I do?
I bit my tongue, and I said, “Sure. It was a pleasure doing business with you.” He paid the $150 and I learned my lesson. Yes, my lesson is about paying attention to the red flags, but beyond that, it’s about NOT internalizing, and it’s about moving on.
Take the good, leave the bad. Because no matter how hard we try, sometimes a jerky wedding deejay might sneak past the radar, and we can’t break down because of it.
What might I have done differently?
I would have noticed the red flags:
- He found me online, and had never worked with a copywriter before.
- He wasn’t my usual client (I usually work with web designers).
- He wanted “the works” for a lowered price.
- He asked me to lower the initial payment.
- He sounded “too smooth.”
But here's the thing: even if I’d noticed these things, I’m still not sure it would have stopped me. I would have never predicted this outcome, even now.
What could I have done differently and when? Would you recommend different policies for first-time clients?
BTW: If this is something you struggle with, come to CFC in June in Boston and hear Marcia Hoeck on "Skillful Communication with Clients."