All of us have had a lukewarm client at some point in our career. A lot of us have had many. They are hard to spot initially, because a lot of the time they say the right things. They seem enthusiastic, they go through the motions, but you often find yourself feeling unappreciated, or the project goes pear-shaped, because, through no fault of your own, you end up having to chase them down, pursue them, justify every decision.
I have been going through various aspects of personal growth, thinking philosophically about a lot of different things… what I want from relationships, what I expect and deserve from other people, being made to feel needy or desperate for pretty standard expectations… that sort of thing. This applies as much to the business philosophy as it does to other areas.
Some time ago, I read Greg Behrendt’s book “He’s Just Not That Into You”. I can’t remember where I even borrowed it — but with Greg being a friend of a few of my earlier clients, I checked it out. Being married, a lot of it really didn’t apply in a literal dating sense…. but in some ways over the years, having read the book has actually made some sense to me and often, you can find personal growth in the oddest of places. This was one of them.
Of course it’s since been made into a movie, and I haven’t seen it, so I imagine that you’re all pretty familiar with this as a concept… but just in case: a very quick and brief synopsis…
The main premise is that if you are having to second-guess your relationship, if you are having to chase them down, if you get no replies to calls or emails, if you get promises with no follow through… if you get frequent cancellations… well… He’s Just Not That Into You.
Of course the book is satirical and simplistic, but sometimes, that’s precisely what we need to hear in order to get some perspective. When someone loves you, they show it. And you know it.
How this applies in business
I am pretty sure that I am not the only person to have been strung along by a client or potential client. You know the ones: at the initial enquiry they are enthusiastic but non-committal. Still shopping around, still looking for that better deal… they say they want you and your services. They tell you you’re beautiful. All the right things. And usually they have a cool, fun project that makes you think you need them.
But somewhere along the line, after that first date, or sometimes the fourth, they start to string you along. They try to barter or bargain. They try to get you to do spec work. They take a week to reply to emails. They never say anything to make you think they aren’t interested, but you just get the feeling they aren’t. Sometimes, you will get through a whole project with this client, but they will disappear… or only get in touch when they need something… and often want it for free, because, you’re lucky to have them as a client, right?
And you start trying harder. You start working hard to try and impress them. You leave messages that go unanswered, emails that hint oh-so-nicely that their bill is 3 weeks overdue… and… let’s face it… drop other commitments with your comfortable, trustworthy “friend” clients, just to keep them happy.
Well, after a few years in business I have started to realise that I am worth more than that. Much like a woman with a ticking biological clock, I don’t have the time to be messing around with people who aren’t 100% onboard with what I am trying to do.
If I have to do the chasing, pretty soon I will move on because I am better than that.
And so is everyone else.
Is it worth your self respect to be chasing people who will never return the effort? No. Is it worth the money to put in triple the time pursuing a client that is never happy? No. Is it worth your valuable time and self esteem doing spec work? Endless revisions? Freebies? No.
Because like dating, there is a right fit… and those that love you will continue to love you. And it won’t be HARD.
So, in summary:
- If you have to pursue them after the first enquiry
- If you have to prove your worth more for them than usual
- If they don’t use you exclusively on their project
- If they call at midnight for a “quickie”
- If they are abusive or inappropriate
- If they don’t pay their invoices
- If they won’t pay a deposit
- If they don’t respect your timelines or work hours
- If they only contact you in a crisis (and noone else can fix it)
- If they ask everyone else’s opinion before they ask yours
Then they are Just Not That Into You. Period.
Move on. Find a better fit. Find someone who DOES put the effort in, who DOES respect you enough to return your calls or emails, who DOES tell their friends about you. You, your self-worth and your business are worth more than that.