– by Albert Berkshire
I liked Nick.
I’d still like Nick just as much if he would return my call from 7 months ago with acknowledgement that he still owes me lunch. Of course, you don’t get to be a multi-millionaire by spending your money buying other people lunch. At first I thought he was offended by my eating habits. I’m a vegetarian. He eats a steak a day. Probably nothing else. If it grows in the ground, he has an aversion to eating it. If it gave birth, you know, like your mother, I have an aversion to eating it.
We are diabolical opposites…save for one important point. We both know that there are far smarter people in the world than us, and when we need them, we should call on them.
Nick once told me (several scotches in) that the reason he’s had such business success was because he surrounded himself with people who were far more talented than he. I took it as a compliment that he trusted me and respected what I do. But I’d still like to get my free lunch.
Some clients, like Nick, get it. They get that when you hire someone to give you professional advice, guidance, direction (or any other corporate-friendly term that makes you feel giddy), and to do what it is that you do professionally, that hiring a person also includes actually listening to said person.
Seriously, apart from an absolute aversion to many acronyms (most notably ASAP), very little bugs me more professionally than a person who hires you to do “A”, then demands “B”, and ultimately tells you he/she really wanted “C”. “A” having been the original request, and still the best option – offered by said hired professional hired to provide “A”.
But sometimes we suck it up and provide “C”, n’est pas?
OTHER times we say, “No, Thanks” and move on. And then your “No, Thanks” gets ignored and you feel like you have a professional stalker. Only not the kind of stalker who sends you really mean emails (oh, I’ve had them) or just constantly solicits your advice for free with no intention of ever doing business with you (had them, too), but the kind that assumes you LOVE to be abused and you were only joking when you politely say, “No, Thanks.”
Some of my colleagues and most trusted advisors try to tell me that ditching good clients in a downed economy is paramount to professional suicide. Well, let’s establish a point before I address that. I’m in demand. In fact, most people who do what I do (sadly, there are many) are in demand during an economic downturn because we know what the hell we’re doing, we know how to execute projects affordably, and we’re darn fun and enjoyable business partners.
Now, to address that professional suicide thing: “Yeah. Thanks for your input. I was only paying you for your advice so I could ignore it. How could you possibly know more about what you do than me?”
Ridiculous, isn’t it. That was the most asinine comment ever. But that’s what I’m talking about. Clients who pay you to do things that you tell them they shouldn’t do. It’s like a child asking you what colour the grass is and when you say, “green”, they look at you and say, “Brown…got it.” (Actually, that would be more accurate at my home since I also have an aversion to using chemically treated potable water to make my yard look pretty.)
I feel like it’s Purge The Aversion Day in the Great Creative.com studios.
So, onwards. Turning down business is tough. Working with someone who in no way gets what you can do is even tougher. And if you’re open to me working towards a third suffix (I do love Trinities), saying goodbye to great money is the toughest.
But sometimes you just have to suck it up and say “adios dinero”. (I do not have an aversion to the beauty of the Spanish language).
The bottom line, which I’m sure you’ve been hoping to read, is this: The best feeling in business – any business, thinks I – is when you let go of your financial and emotional connection to a project, client, customer or acronym and free yourself to do what it is that you do best.
In my case, my remaining clients (really, it was only one that I punted) afford me the freedom to do what I do best. I create for them…and they appreciate my work.
My “No, Thanks” client showed up again recently. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, but being vague is a game we creatives like to play from time to time. So I took it as a sign that “No, Thanks” is sometimes interpreted as “Yes, Please” and can also translate into, “Fuck it. I’ll take the money.”
That’s probably how Nick got to be so freakin’ rich.
Which reminds me. I am bloody hungry. Nick? Pick up the phone.
Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. There’s a lot of decidedly formal “blah blah blah” in his typical work day, most of which comes from his own mouth. To learn more about Albert, visit the website his consultant feels should be immediately updated at www.greatcreative.com. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, devoid of cynicism, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.