I fear I am becoming the type of service provider I try to avoid: the one who contractualizes everything. The one who qualifies promises of superior service with phrases which begin, “In the event,” “Should you,” and “Just in case.” The kind of service provider who focuses more on business, i.e., getting paid, than on service, i.e., providing value.
Now, I haven’t crossed over to the bad side yet, but I clearly see how consultants and freelancers can start with the very best of intentions, but after getting burned a few times, vow to never get burned again—and take drastic measures to ensure that. Sadly, my experience is one which is all-too familiar to other solo entrepreneurs and service providers. Where to begin? Let’s see, there’s…
The client who doesn’t pay.
The client who does pay. Late.
The client who nickel-and-dimes you from the beginning, and almost always turns out to be the one who doesn’t pay.
The client who requests a three-page sales letter and then says, “Did I say that? I meant to say, 300-word blog post.” (Never mind that in our original, written agreement, the client signed off on the three-page sales letter!)
More seasoned solo entrepreneurs would say that had I more clearly defined my target market, I’d avoid these types of scenarios. Possibly, but I think our bargain-til-the-seller-drops mentality encourages most people to try to get something for nothing, or at the very least, to test their limits.
I think the bigger issue is that I did not draw clearer lines in the sand to begin with. I was so focused on service that I forgot the business aspect.
And so, I’ve taken out my red pen, this time inking through my own text and putting in writing what should’ve been there from the beginning. Things like:
“Two revisions are included in this price. A revision is defined as…”
“Should you change the scope of work…” “Scope of work is defined as…”
And for those clients who would carry and birth a baby in less time than it takes to suggest revisions, a timeline now for requesting changes to copy: “All signed revisions must be submitted within two weeks of receipt of this draft.”
Some days, I can’t figure out if I’m a writer or a drill sergeant. But one thing I’m figuring out as I go along is how not to get burned.