This is the second installment in the Positive Business series on how to use ideas from positive reinforcement (R+) in your business and your creative projects.
My friend Susan, the amazing dog trainer, has a saying:
In other words, striving to make your relationship with your dog (or your kids, your partner, your customers, your blog readers, etc.) positive doesn’t mean there are no rules.
Last week, thoughtful reader Jen wrote in a comment:
… so much of this is not that mysterious at all — it boils down to being a decent human being and treating others how we’d want to be treated … whether puppy or potential client. :)”
And being a Good Egg in general is a really important part of Positive Business. You want to make it a pleasure for people to interact with you.
But sometimes we get into a pattern of:
- I have to make everyone happy with my business decisions
- People in my audience didn’t like it when I tried to sell something, so I stopped
- My pricing has to work for everyone
- I can’t make changes because someone will get mad at me
Yeah … no.
Boundaries are healthy
Over in the Authority community last week, we had a great question from a new freelance writer, talking about a potential client who wanted to talk her down on her rates.
Virtually every freelancer I’ve worked with has had clients who do this. And I always advise the same thing.
In an incredibly nice, positive tone of voice, say something along the lines of,
My schedule doesn’t permit me taking work for under my regular rates, but I hope you find a great resource to help you with your project!”
You may have to practice it a few times until you can say it without sounding (or feeling) condescending. Because it’s the truth.
If you’ve worked hard to be able to help people at a high level, you need to protect your schedule so you can put that quality of work out.
Reality is a thing
Now, if you have very little experience and you’re pitching $10,000-a-month retainer gigs — you probably should take a step back.
You have to provide value for money. If you’re not willing to do that, you’re going to find my blog extremely annoying, because everything I talk about here rests on that.
You have to be worth what you’re asking.
But if you’re working at a solid professional level in what you do, investing time and probably some money in improving your skills, and you have happy clients who let you know you’ve created terrific results for them:
I’ll admit, sometimes finding that balance is tricky.
- The attitude that you are innately owed a huge income because you’re so special is a profoundly unattractive belief.
- But the attitude that you are innately unworthy of a professional fee because You’re Crap and There Is Something Deeply Wrong With You is also an unattractive (and unhealthy) belief.
You’ve got to find the reality-based middle ground. If it’s too hard to see objectively, band together with some trustworthy colleagues to help each other out.
My #1 rule when working with clients
I read this proverb somewhere recently (if you know where it’s from, please let me know!). I find it’s an amazing articulation of something I noticed when I did client work.
If it stinks at breakfast, it’s not going to smell good at dinner.”
(I think this may be less true of dogs.Truth be told, I think I have more faith in dogs’ ability to reinvent themselves as good dogs than I do in humans’ ability to reinvent themselves as good humans.)
If a prospect comes along who gaslights you by alternating flattery (“OMG I love your work”) with put-downs (“you seriously expect people to pay that rate?”), in my experience that will not get better. That person has found reinforcement for being manipulative for a long time, and it’s not your job to fix them.
You are not the Jackass Whisperer” – Scott Stratten
Funnily, my friend, the very fine copywriter Beth Hayden, had this to say on Facebook the other day:
Something I’ve learned in the past year…when a potential client says they’ve already worked with three copywriters and they’ve all failed to capture her voice, RUN THE OTHER DIRECTION.” – Beth Hayden
And just as a fun P.S., I’ve also found that clients who beat you up on price often end up not paying their bills.
So … if that’s where they start, that’s where you walk away and let them go find someone else.
If you can’t bring yourself to do that (sometimes we really do need the dough, and there’s no shame in that), put the project in a very tightly-bounded box. Put in place a clear start and end date, absurdly well-defined milestones, and a written agreement (signed by both sides!). You retain copyright until your final invoice is paid, and you get half the fee in advance.
If you’re new to freelancing, you’ll probably ignore this advice and have at least one painful learning experience. It sucks, but nearly all of us do it. Don’t beat yourself up, just keep moving forward.
Rules give clarity
Something that I love about content-based business is, when you create a blog, video channel, or podcast … you get to set up the rules for your space.
Some of mine are:
- No spam or dodgy comments
- Thoughtful disagreement is great; disrespect is not
- Racist, homophobic, etc. stuff is a clear sign that You Do Not Belong Here
- Evidence matters
- Sometimes the truth lies in the middle … and sometimes one side is just whack
Get the earlier posts
More thoughts on lessons we can learn from puppy training (and positive reinforcement theory) and apply to business and success:
- How to Make Progress in Your Business … Even if You Don’t Feel Like It
- Drawing the Line Between Marketing and Manipulation
You can get the rest of the series sent straight to your in-box (plus a new mini-course I’m doing on how to find more freedom) by dropping your info into the box below …
Next week I’m putting together a post on how to make your writing (or other content) inherently rewarding to consume.
How about you?
What do the rules look like around your place? Would you like to tighten them up? What rule would you put in place if you could figure out how to make it happen?
Let us know in the comments. 🙂