What’s Your A-Game?
On a small business forum I’m on, entrepreneurs have been having a frustration/giggle-sharing thread about the proposals they’ve gotten from potential clients.
Some of these proposals are absolutely riotous – even more so because at one point in our careers, many of us actually accepted these proposals – product trades, ridiculous retainers, free babysitting, jars of marijuana (disclaimer: I live in a place where this is okay)… these are some of the more gentle ones, honestly, and on surface-level, they sound more like sweet community barter than business exchange. But what’s really being said here, in many cases is, “I need what you do but I don’t want to pay you for it,” and it comes as an insult – especially when you literally witness a client spending lots and lots and lots of money elsewhere.
Eventually this process smooths itself out and clients come to you with a-game in place; but it can be a bumpy little road getting there.
How does one respond to this in a way that educates and informs?
I was at this point, too, getting started. I was afraid to say no, and what really helped me get past that was to trust my path and make sure my mission and my business goals stayed in focus, consistently. While community exchange is an HUGE thing for me (thus my support of things like Simbi), there’s a fine line between community exchange and what can also be seen, or felt, as insulting to someone’s work. And while my immediate response may be some grumbling and a step outside for some fresh air, in the end, the most positive thing I can do in this situation is to calm myself down, don’t take it personally, and respond, in love and gratitude, with my requirements, the reasons I ask what I do and stick to it.
“But you help non-profits and small businesses,” said one potential client, and another, “Well, it’s kind of insulting to me that you’d rather not trade for my product,” but then I remember that as a small business, investing in things that are important to your business is one of the things you need to do to make your business succeed. If the kind of work I do is not important enough to you to invest in it, well then… That says everything. We aren’t meant to work together, and that’s okay. I’m deeply grateful you thought of me, though.
Yes, it’s true, I absolutely do help non-profits and small businesses, so when I am approached by one, I am clear on what my baselines are. I know I can be effective. When I coach you through the process, I help you develop a strategy and a schedule for your content needs, show you efficient ways of maintaining and potentially tweaking that strategy, and provide ongoing support as agreed upon in that retainer. When I do the work for you, I’m using my experience and a wealth of knowledge I collect and nurture regularly, and I am deeply honoring the trust you’ve put in me to do so. I put my work in, on my time, in order to offer my skills. That is worth what I ask in return.
So, how does a client come to me with their A-game in place?
It’s so very simple. In fact, it’s so simple I can make this a short, bullet-point list.
- Come organized – even if that’s just a very simple list of things you think you need. While there might be people in my business who will sell you on all sorts of things you “need”, that’s not me. My niche is with ethical enterprise and nonprofit work because I have a focus on doing good works in the world and I just happen to be good at this. I might not be Nahko, but I’ve found some of my medicine and I’m using it. I know that when I do good work, good work keeps coming, so I’m honest and I work in integrity. Therefore… I’m not going to sell you on a bunch of shit you don’t need. Come with a list of things you think you need, and we’ll go from there.
- Come expecting that if you want to work with me, you will pay me money for my services, and you will work within my baselines. If I tell you something has a $200 minimum, it has a $200 minimum, and that is the price (see point one – I’m not going to try and sell you anything you don’t need). When I do this it’s because I’ve got years of experience doing this particular thing, and I know how long it’s going to take me and how many details I will have to manage while doing it. I’m okay with it if you think you can and need to find it more cheaply somewhere else. I know that for me, the universe provides when I stay in my A-game, live in my truths and stay confident.
- Pay your invoices. I use Cashboard, which is fantastic for managing projects and billing in a variety of ways – it allows me to set up projects, track and bill retainer fees, hourly fees, and per-project fees simply, and gives clients a way to pay online (I have my Cashboard set up to use the Stripe gateway, but you can also use Paypal and others).
- Treat me with respect. I love you, and I love the work you do, or I wouldn’t be here. Plain and simple.