Here’s another exert from my new book, One in Ten, that will be published later this year. It’s about a lesson I learnt in the third year of my business, when I was still working as a copywriter. I discovered that sometimes in business you have to let go of clients who aren’t ideal.
The day that I first sacked one of my clients was a proud day for me. The work was fairly ad hoc as I never knew exactly when I would get the call to carry out a piece of work; yet it was relatively easy work which I enjoyed. When I first started writing for this client, we agreed a fee they would paid for each press release they asked me to write and I would send them an invoice each time I completed one. They were very slow to pay, even though my payment terms were twenty-eight days. Just printing this on an invoice makes virtually no difference, I discovered. For every single job, I found myself chasing payment of the invoice. Every time I heard a number of excuses. “We haven’t been paid by our client yet,” they would inform me. “You’ll have to speak to head office in London.” Since my arrangement was with the local agency, London always passed me back there! In an attempt to speed things up, I started submitting invoices as soon as I received the brief for a new project. It didn’t make much difference and I still had to chase my client in order to be paid.
When you’re new in business, every job you receive feels like a blessing. When your clients begin to take you for granted and not treat your skills and experience with respect, it can bring you down. It can also take up valuable time chasing for payment ? time that you would rather spend looking for your next client. In an attempt to improve the situation with this tricky client, I arranged to meet with him there and I gave him two options. “Please either pay me on time,” I suggested, “Or agree to a higher fee,” to make up for the inconvenience of late payment and the time it takes for me to chase you into paying. “We can?t do either,” was the reply I received. “We can always find someone else to do our writing for us.”I knew this to be true – there are many other freelance copywriters who will work for less or are happy with longer payment terms. I knew it would not be difficult for them to find one of these people, so that is what I suggested they should do.
For the first time, I had sacked a client! As I walked away from that meeting and that client, instead of feeling worried about the fact that I would receive no more work from them – work that cost me nothing to generate ? I actually felt relieved and rather liberated. Why should I carry on producing good work for someone who didn’t appear to appreciate it? Why should I put all my time and effort into writing great stories, which made my client look good in front of their clients, without the proper thanks? That felt like being back in a full-time job where I did all the work and someone else higher up the rankings received all the glory. Surely that was why I decided to get out and run my own business.
Sacking a client is not something that you should do lightly when your business is new and finding its feet. However, I firmly believe that it’s something that you should do, when you need to. Larger, more established companies can’t be allowed to walk all over you, just because your business is smaller or newer. When you let go of a client – or you lose one that walks away, for whatever reason – you should always see the experience in a positive light. When they go, they leave space for a better client to come