And it will happen. Not to be the Debby Downer, but it’s a fact – it’s just part of business. The one thing you’ll learn quickly as a business owner is that no one cares as much about your business as you do. Yes, you can find amazing people who will work really hard for you and never let you down — I’m fortunately to have several people like that on my team. These are the people with a solid work ethic; with decent core values.
But then there are those who couldn’t care less about you, your clients, or your professional reputation.
Let me paint you a little picture…
You land a phenomenal new client – one with the potential to earn your business a nice chunk of change based on a potentially long-lasting relationship. You’ve laid all the ground work, you’ve nurtured the lead, you’ve had numerous meetings and phone conversations … and you’re finally ready to start delivering.
So what do you do? You turn to a former colleague – one you’ve worked alongside in a former agency life. One who’s been reaching out to you repeatedly wanting to work with you and your agency. You know she’s capable and you have no reason to doubt her ability or commitment. After all, she’s been hounding you for years to give her a shot.
So you do.
You reach out with the details of the project and ask if she’s interested. Of course she responds with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” You tell her what you need, when you need it (end of day tomorrow, first thing the next day at the very latest) and quote the price you’ll pay for the piece (double what you’d quoted in the past for similar work). Again, she replies with a confident, “No problem, I’m on it.”
So you bring her on board. She signs the NDA, agrees to the scope of the project and you send her all the information she could possibly need to get started. But there’s a nagging feeling in your gut. You pass it off as simple nerves about working with a new writer on a tight deadline.
24 Hour Later… crickets.
You reach out just to check in to be sure she’s not stuck on anything. After all, you’re there to help her in any way you can. Her response:
“I am good with everything. I will send it over to you tomorrow morning.”
OK. She’s pushing the deadline to the max, but what writer hasn’t? Fingers crossed, you eagerly await the finished piece.
The next morning… an email. Yay!
No. Shit is more like it. It reads:
“I have a client emergency. I’m going to have to send you the article later tonight.”
Your first thought – I’m going to miss the deadline with my new, promising client. Your second thought – I am the client and this is an emergency! And your final thought – now what do I do?
This is why they pay you the big bucks
When you run your own business, you’re responsible for everything that you put forward. Your clients don’t’ care that your writer crapped out on you. They don’t care if you’re sick, or uninspired. And they certainly don’t want to hear that you have other clients more important than them who’ve just bumped them down on the priority list.
So what do you do when your contractor fails you? You step up and you produce the final product yourself. It sucks. It leaves you annoyed, under pressure and working against the clock. A scenario not exactly conducive to creativity. But you’re the boss and your client needs you. So you soldier on, and despite everything else working against you, you ultimately create a masterpiece you’re proud to share with your client. You save the day. You’re a rock star. That is, after all, why they pay you the big bucks.
The mistakes I made (so you don’t have to)
Were there warning signs early on that could have prevented this disaster? Yes – but as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Still, looking back, there were a couple of things that could have tipped me off had I not been so “willing to give someone a shot.”
Over quoting: When this writer first reached out to me looking for contract work, I asked for her rates. She quoted me an outrageous amount – nearly 10 times the standard industry rate.
The second time she reached out asking for work, I politely reminded her that her rates were far higher than we’d ever be able to pay. Suddenly, and without reason, she was eager to work at my rates (10 times lower than she’d originally quoted me). At first, I was bothered that she tried to gouge me the first time around. But I pushed that feeling aside (there’s that gut check) and chalked it up to inexperience and simply misquoting.
Now that we had the fee structure back on track, my next request was to see some recent samples, to which she agreed. Again … crickets. They never came. This time I chalked it up to “hey, we all get busy … she’ll send them when I have an actual project for her.” Yep – that should have been another gut check.
The lo and behold… an assignment arises, I give her a shot and she completely lets me down. The article never did arrive, by the way. The writer just dropped off the face of the earth.
The moral of the story is…
That feeling you get in your gut is there for a reason. Listen to it. It’s there to serve you, to guide you in the right direction. Learn to recognize it and you’ll avoid these mishaps more often than not. But when you do stumble like this (and you will), don’t be too hard on yourself. There are worse traits than wanting to have faith in someone; in wanting to give someone a chance to prove themselves. It just stings a little when it doesn’t work out the way you’d hoped. But you’re a rock star, right? Vent your frustration, move on and don’t give it one more ounce of wasted energy.
On to bigger and better things!