Thursday, November 3, 2011
I write a lot about trusting your gut here at BIKE WITH JACKIE. It's something I learned while riding my bike to move past a difficult time in my life. Like a do or die effort, it was learn that or go crazy making the same mistakes over and over again.
On the seat of my bike, I learned to pay closer attention to my instincts. I realized I hadn't been doing that much at all in my prior life. I was not well-practiced and certainly not clearly tuned in to what my inner thoughts might even mean. They mean to protect you (via sensory perception), to steer you back in the right direction, and to lead you away from trouble, whether it's on-coming traffic or mistaken business decisions.
What I know now is that this takes constant practice. To train your mind to focus on a new and better habit, such as paying attention to warning signs, takes time and lots and lots of continued practice. You have to train your mind to be alert, and the key word is: CONTINUED. You have to keep at it. Otherwise, you slip and wind back up in the nuthouse.
This knock on my noggin came from a recent experience with a now-former client. I took on a job that, in the beginning, I suspected might not be a good fit for various reasons. But this person needed the kind of help I had to offer, and I let ego get in the way. I thought I could help this person achieve the desired result, but I knew it would take a lot of coaxing. And I knew it would take a lot of one-on-one time. I thought this client was prepared for that, and I wanted to be the hero. So I offered a cut-rate deal, thinking we'd get through it soon enough.
What I wasn't expecting was the resistance to the amount of work necessary. And even I didn't know the full scope of the work that would be needed until we got into it, but I was committed. I wanted to help with this project more than I wanted to earn anything from it. That was another mistake on my part. To court personal satisfaction about seeing the person achieve the desired result above courting the bigger paycheck is downplaying the consultant's role, and that's bad business.
That attitude allowed me to ignored the signs that my deal might have been a good deal on the client's end but not such a good deal on mine. Here's why I know that now. The signs. They were there. I just chose to ignore them:
WHEN A CLIENT DISSES YOU
_During a discussion of ours early in the process, I called myself a consultant, and the client literally said to me, "Yeah, whatever you want to call yourself..." It was a blatant show of disrespect toward my abilities, and I ignored it so we could get on with the task at hand. There was work to do. Was this insult representative of my low fee? I think it might have been. SOLUTION: If you are ever dissed during a business meeting, chances are the person who dissed you does not respect you. Choose right then and there to acknowledge the comment. Find out where it's coming from. Perhaps the business relationship should end on that note. Perhaps there's something else going on. Whatever it is, you need to know about it so you can move forward successfully.
WHEN YOUR PASSION FOR THE PROJECT EXCEEDS THEIRS
_Midpoint, I developed the nagging feeling that I wanted the project more than the client wanted it. There were telltale signs I noted: lack of focus, irritability, work avoidance, distractions, introducing new project ideas with more excitement than placed on the current one. SOLUTION: If this ever happens with a client of yours, call a spade a spade. Ask the pointed question: Do you want this project as much as I do, or not? If any hemming and hawing (another sign) ensues, it's time to cut 'er loose.
_Finally, if meetings, consultations, get-togethers, or the communication between the two of you feels frequently strained, the only solution is to pay attention to that, notice it, and make sure you've included an exit strategy in your contract. It might be coming from either end. Regardless, it's not the way to do business.
If you continue to underprice yourself by offering discounts where they aren't necessary, taking on clients who can't afford you, or accepting work from those who don't fully appreciate your skills, talents and abilities, you're not doing yourself any favors. And you're only going to drive yourself crazy with second-guessing. This is not the way to grow a business.
SOLUTION: Set your fee and stick to it. As my sister told me: The only discounts worth giving out are the ones you give to long-standing clients. They've earned it.
What are your thoughts about underpricing? Do you have a story to share that might illustrate another solution to this challenge? If so, post your comment here.