I’ve been around various business enclaves and individuals for many, many, moons, and I feel compelled to write about and share what I’ve learned over these moon cycles. Most of my writings here are from the point of view of dealing with clients, but hopefully applicable as well to whatever business situation you find yourself in.
- You can’t change them: I recently did work for a man who had a skewed view that people were out to get him, especially from a financial standpoint. No matter what the true situation and real intentions were, this man felt exploited and acted from that perception. The moral of this story is to make the effort to understand where your business contacts are coming from and act accordingly by either accommodating their quirks, or exiting stage left. In my situation, I should have exited long, long before I did, but retrospect is golden.
- Beware of focus issues: One of the most stressful and ultimately disastrous experiences I had was dealing with an individual who simply could not remain focused on the project tasks at hand. In fact, on most of his projects he would change direction multiple times, never allowing for the time it takes to see the fruits of our labors.
- Watch out for hyper rabbit behaviors: Similar to Number 2, but ultimately more disastrous. The same individual would become discouraged if a project, in this case websites, did not make immediate returns, and I mean immediate. He’d then launch into this rabbit jumping thing and move onto something else. Frankly, it was crazy behavior, and my advice to you is to get out quick if you see this kind of thing going on because no matter what you do, you’ll be blamed. You simply won’t win.
- Make sure you have a contract: Oh what a fool I was! (Isn’t there a song with that title?) I “trusted” one fool client and never wrote up a contract. I did work for him for 4 years and one day he simply closed shop and I was left with a big fat nothing, as in zero, as in no provision for some sort of separation accommodation. This was a VERY rough lesson to learn the hard way.
- Avoid falling on deaf ears: This is one of those things that happens often in business and frankly, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. But, what you CAN do is watch for danger signals such as when what you do say is turned against you in manipulative ways, or consider quitting when you see things beginning to crumble when your ideas could have contributed to a more successful outcome.
- Guard against control, control, control: If you are working as a service provider/independent contractor, MAKE SURE that you make it clear that you are charging for deliverables where time is not a consideration, or you’re billing by the hour, where obviously time is an issue. In your contract, spell out either that you’re charging a flat fee for specific projects or that you will bill only for the hours you work and you will determine when you work those hours, not the client. It’s important that you get this straight from the start to prevent future stress and misunderstanding as well as to maintain control of your professional life.
- Be on guard against mood swings and other mental health issues: I worked for one guy whose mood swings were not only scary, but also detrimental to the work at hand. One day he was high as the sky, the next day, low as mowed lawn. Unless you are a trained shrink, there’s not a darn thing you can do in these situations but run as fast and as far as you can.
I think the most important piece of advice I can pass on to you is to keep the focus on yourself, and take care of yourself, no matter what the situation you find yourself in. It’s very easy to fall victim to business bullies and those who otherwise prey on those of us who aim to please. But ultimately, if you have not pleased yourself by finding good work, working for reasonable and fair people, your reputation and confidence will suffer and set you up for future failure. Not a good place to be, and a place you can definitely avoid.