Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Fired A Client And It Was A Lot Like Going Platinum Blonde

Let me start this out by saying I am in no position to turn work away. In fact, are small businesses ever in a position to do that? I think a lot of smart, sane people would advise that I should be taking everything. Everything I can to get upright, and to get stable but gluing myself to this desk reworking this proposal for the 90th time just wasn't sitting well with me.
It's not that I had other things I wanted to do right at that moment, or that I was sick of working on it. To the contrary I've been known to doggedly work at projects for hours and hours at a time until my eyeballs feel as though they might never go back to normal. This wasn't anything like that.

This was more that I knew this particular client wasn't going to like version 90 of this proposal either. Why? Because they wanted something for a price I wasn't willing to give. They wanted me to return with a quote that just wasn't going to happen. So I shave a deliverable here and there. I tell them that their team has to help me do some things. I tell them that we'll just do one thing at a time. They still want the whole kit and kaboodle for the price they want.
I feel like telling them that I stroll through Neiman Marcus all the time with the same idea. Instead I tell them I'll take a look again.

Eventually I realize that we probably can't work together. This is really scary because I'm pretty sure that they are going to tell the whole world that I have an evil plan to...... make money. Or that I'm unaccommodating. Unhelpful. My other alternative was to take a huge hit on the project which I can't do and I wondered how far I should go to reach an agreement? 90 proposals? 100?

Then I remember back when I wanted to be platinum blonde. My hair is nearly black. I went to a great salon in Las Vegas and after about half an hour of talking to me and brushing my hair, they stylist tells me "I won't do it". I was livid. "I don't think you know what kind of upkeep this is going to involve". I told him I knew just fine and just make it happen. No stylist had ever told me that they simply wouldn't provide what I asked for. I stormed out and vowed to never go to such an "awful salon" again and found a salon that happily took 7 hours and $350 to make me platinum blonde.

The short ending to this story is that my hair had to be cut off very short due to bleach damage and I spent hundreds of dollars keeping it up. I felt like sending a fruit basket to that first stylist for 1) telling me no to something he knew wouldn't work and 2) teaching me to say no to people that I am potentially being paid by.

I don't even speak to the salon that made me blonde.



Blogger Grace Boyle said...

A good story in understanding how to work with small businesses and writing proposals. Although we want to say "yes" at every chance we can get, it's just not viable. I'm glad you put your foot down and were firm. I love the blonde analogy too ;)

July 16, 2009 at 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your analogy was awesome.

So question: what do you do? Er what type of business I've just always sorta wondered.

You're also really pretty by the way (in a, non-creepy-hit-on-you-over-the-internet-sort-of-way)

July 16, 2009 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger Caitlin said...

Grace - Yep, saying no is really hard in business - weird because it's so much more acceptable in "regular life"

Christian - Thanks! I'm in the social media industry but I'm trying to bring design, art, events and architecture into the loop as well. I am helping to launch a new magazine in Madison too pretty soon.

July 17, 2009 at 5:09 AM  
Blogger La Petite Belle said...

what do you do? (what kind of business do you own?)

July 17, 2009 at 11:46 AM  
Blogger Caitlin said...

I help companies that want to use social media to use it correctly. For example, does the company really need a Facebook or can they make friends with some bloggers? Does it make sense to do a video and then I help to write the content for those things. That's the short version :)

July 17, 2009 at 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Dani O'Brien said...

One of the biggest lessons I've learned working in Sales is that you have to value your product, or no one else will. In your case, you were probably willing to budge on the price but it sounded like the client was just asking you to give away the farm. You did what all good salespeople do, you stood by the value of your service or product and therefore created an even higher value for it in the long run.

The businesses that consistently give their services away, will end up not getting the large, long-term clients that most thrive on. This is because the clients who only care about cost are not the kind that should really matter, because the next company that comes along selling the same thing for a little less (even if you know your service is better) will win.

I think you made the right decision and you should HOPE that other potential clients find out because it shows you have a product worth defending.

July 21, 2009 at 11:36 AM  

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