5 Lessons Learned From Firing My First Client : Under30CEO 5 Lessons Learned From Firing My First Client : Under30CEO
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5 Lessons Learned From Firing My First Client

| August 25, 2013 | 4 Comments

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Earlier this year, I had the displeasure of having to part ways with a client. While it cost me some money, the lessons I learned from letting the client go are priceless. This was the first and only client that I ever made the decision to stop working with, and I’m hoping that I never have to do it again. I won’t reveal the name of the client for obvious reasons. For the purposes of this article, I’ll just refer to them as Company X.

1: Don’t underestimate your value

When I initially started off as a freelance writer, I wrote for next to nothing. I figured I had to earn my stripes and build up my reputation before I could start charging the prices I actually deserved. Also, I had always done freelance writing in addition to a regular 9-5 so the money wasn’t a huge issue in the beginning.

However, after I began working with Company X, I soon realized that the value I was bringing to the table far outweighed the amount of money I was charging. Now before I take on a job or quote a price, I thoroughly examine the value I am contributing. When you know how much value you offer and can clearly explain it to a client, they should have no problem paying what you’re worth. Company X didn’t see it that way, which is one of the reasons I had to let them go.

2: Don’t feel obligated to work with everyone

This was a big lesson that I learned from Company X. Prior to this, I would take on any and all clients. If you had money, you were my target client. Now, I’m a bit more selective of who I work with. I’ve realized that I don’t have to take every client that I come across.

That doesn’t mean that I turn down clients left and right. It’s more about establishing a good connection with clients before you start working with them. Make sure that the job is a good fit on your end as well as theirs. Sometimes your visions don’t match or you may flat out not like client. After my experience with Company X, I discovered that the stress that comes along with some clients just isn’t worth it.

For example, I was once approached to do ongoing writing for a company blog. However, they had a huge laundry list of requirements, specifications, and demands. This type of client almost always leads to problems so I politely declined.

3: If you give an inch, they will take a mile

I always try to allow some leniency for my clients. I have cut deals with clients that might not have a huge budget to work with or do something extra like establishing contacts for them. The mistake I made with Company X was letting them take advantage of me.

Because Company X was in an industry I knew a lot about and genuinely wanted to work for, I did A LOT for them that I probably should have charged for. I charge less to edit content that I do to write original content. Part of the work I performed for this client involved editing content written by another writer. I never found out who this other writer was, but they didn’t have a firm grasp of the English language.

So editing actually turned into rewriting entire articles. I explained this to Company X and they didn’t see the problem—RED FLAG. There were several other instances similar to this including payment issues. What I learned here is that there is a difference between great customer service and being taken advantage of. I still try to do special things for clients, but I’m careful not to let it go too far.

4: Work WITH a client, not FOR them

When you work with a client, you give your expertise and suggestions on how you can help them. They’re hiring you to use your skills for them. As a freelancer, we get the benefit of being able to work within our own schedule as long as we meet the given deadlines. When you work for a company, you are told what you need to do, how to do it, and are supervised. With Company X, I was basically an employee and worked for them.

Now, I make it a point to always work with clients instead of for them. In order to do this, you have to assert some level of control. After talking over the client’s needs, let them know how you fulfill it and give them a general timeline. This keeps them informed and makes it more of a collaborative effort.

5: Set your terms and have a meeting of the minds

Prior to this client, I had never written out formal agreements with clients. I just discussed their needs over e-mail or Skype and got to work. Company X showed me the importance of having a meeting of the minds.

When I first took on this client, I was charging them flat rates per project. However, they wanted me to do other tasks that included researching and networking. So we came to an agreement on an hourly rate. What we didn’t come to an agreement on however, was the time needed to complete each task.

Company X had an idea of how long it should take me to complete certain tasks. In reality, their numbers were way short of reality, resulting in a discrepancy in the amount of money they owed me.

Traditionally, I would have given them an estimate of how much time it would take to complete each task. But due to the nature of jobs I was doing (e-mailing back and forth with other companies) it was nearly impossible to predict. So instead I just logged the time spent on every bit of work I did for them. Company X didn’t believe my numbers which showed that they didn’t trust me and didn’t acknowledge the work I was doing for them.

This was actually what finally made me contact Company X and let them go as a client. They pleaded to work things out but I did not want to be in business with someone who didn’t trust me and didn’t see everything I was doing.

Always know your worth, and don’t be afraid to be assertive when you need to. These are important lessons for freelancers or any type of entrepreneur. Luckily, I’ve changed a lot of my procedures after this incident and have had nothing but great experiences with all of my clients since then. Overall, I definitely have to say that I learned a lot from dealing with this client and it helped me elevate my business to the next level.

Dominique Jackson is a freelance writer, internet marketer, techie, and entrepreneur. You can read his blog for business tips, tech news, and general awesomeness. 
Read more at http://under30ceo.com/5-reasons-nobody-is-reading-your-company-blog/#Rz9IhoAuSrS5UbSm.99 

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Category: Entrepreneurship, Startup Advice

  • Austin Piper

    “I did not want to be in business with someone who didn’t trust me and didn’t see everything I was doing.”

    Best part of the whole article. That last line was why I fired my own company’s first client, particularly the latter part. Disagreements over value/worth and level of partnership are always dicey.

    Only thing I’d add in terms of payment/value: Once you’ve established a relationship with a company/client, you should make certain (at least once) to have a meeting with the actual decision makers. That doesn’t always mean the CEO/owner, but if you can’t meet with the real decision makers even once, that should give you a pretty good idea of where your services are valued. After you’ve had that meeting, you don’t need to harass upper management with every little thing, but the relationship with upper management has to be established or you’ll only be an invisible contributor instead of a valued partner (whether you are a freelancer, small business/startup owner, or employee of a large corporation).

    Thanks for writing and best wishes to you!

  • http://thedsmgroup.com/ Darren Magarro

    Dominique, couldn’t agree with you more here. We started 6+ years ago basically taking on anyone that had a budget as well. In our second year, we had a client go out of business owing us over $27K. Lucky we didn’t sink the company. That said, THE RELATIONSHIP is of the utmost importance. In order to really feel good about working with a client, you need to have a basic understanding and trust that both parties are “in it to win it”. If that is not there, that sense of distrust can overwhelm the relationship prior to it ever getting started in a fruitful manner. Really insightful piece. Brought back a ton of memories for me.

  • Dominique Jackson

    Thanks for reading Austin. My theory is that if a client does not see the value that you’re bringing to the table, then it’s not a great match. Thanks for the added insight.

  • Dominique Jackson

    Nice to see you were able to bounce back even after losing that big client. A lot of people might have considered throwing in the towel. You’re right on point about the importance of building a good relationship with clients in order to be successful. Thanks for reading Darren.