“Surviving a failure gives you more self-confidence. Failures are great learning tools.. but they must be kept to a minimum.”
– Jeffrey Immelt
Navigating the business world is brutal. I’ve found this out multiple times, the most recent of which cost me financially. Let me tell you, business blunders hurt even worse when they hit your wallet.
Thanks to those experiences, I’ve developed a list of rules to make navigating the business world a little easier. This allows me to cover my bases and prevent any potentially uncomfortable problems with my clients later on. These tips are applicable for job-seekers and business owners alike.
Here are 6 ways to make sure you’re not stuck in a tough business situation that could cost you later on down the road:
- Don’t Devalue Your Worth – I recently attended the PRSA Western District Conference and had the pleasure of hearing Cyndee Woolley speak about personal branding. One point that stuck with me was when she stressed not lowering your hourly rate just to get a client to sign. It devalues your brand as well as the profession as a whole. Understanding your relative “worth” can be hard when you’re starting out in an industry. Do your research and understand what the services you’re providing normally cost, adjust accordingly based and experience, and don’t negotiate below your worth just to sign a client. The best clients to work with are the clients who understand the value of your time!
- Have an Airtight Agreement – These agreements (sometimes called statements of work) can include deliverable expectations, hour expectations, payment information, late fee details and any other aspect of your business agreement. Trying to implement late fees and other touchy subjects half-way into a business agreement can be difficult (which I’m currently trying to work through) so avoid the problem entirely by being prepared. Set your standards at the beginning of any deal to safeguard against potentially uncomfortable situations later on.
- Trust Your Gut – I’ll be honest, I’ve been on a phone with a potential client call for fifteen minutes and decided it wouldn’t be a good fit. No matter what amount of money was tied to the deal, it wasn’t going to happen. Why? Because my gut told me I would be miserable if I did. If you can tell that a potential client/job will make your life a living hell, listen to it. Nine times out of ten, it’s right. Plus, if you go into a new job with the attitude that it’s not going to work, it won’t work. So, it’s a catch-22, and I suggest avoiding it at all costs.
- Secure Payments – As much as we like to think that everyone has consciences made of gold, that’s just not the case. There will come a time when you’ll get shafted on payment, the number of hours recorded, not getting overtime or something like that. The list goes on. That’s why it’s important to take precautions to prevent this from happening. For contractors, get paid up-front. Otherwise, you’re rolling the dice on if you’ll actually get paid. For employees, make sure you understand the payment terms you’re signing up for. This includes overtime, time tracking and what happens if you decide to quit/get fired.
- Set Realistic Client Expectations – I’ve been on calls with potential clients where sales people over-promise and set unrealistic expectations with clients just to get them to say “yes” and sign on the dotted line. This is not the way to start a successful and long-lasting business relationship. Be honest with your clients and if it’s not a good fit, say so. They’ll respect you for being up-front rather than trying to force something that isn’t meant to be. With social media, I see this problem a lot due to the never-ending debate about ROI (return on investment). That’s why it’s better to be honest and upfront so that expectations and deliverables are clear from the get-go.
- Know When to Walk Away – To me, the solution to this problem is the band-aid theory. You can slowly peel it off and be slightly in pain for an extended period of time, or you can just rip it off and get it over with. If you know you and a client or a job aren’t a good fit, first address the situation and try to fix the problem. If that doesn’t work, it might be best to walk away from the deal. I’ve worked with clients before that I would wake up dreading talking to. We took the slowly-peeling-off-the-band-aid approach, and let me tell you, it didn’t work out well for either of us. There will always be another job or another client, so don’t try to force something that you’re not happy with.
For me, enjoying my work is key to a happy life. We spend 8+ hours (and usually much more) a day working, so we might as well make it the best experience we can. Hopefully these words of advice will help you make your work/client life a little more painless and enjoyable!
~ Miss Soucie