The Problem Client Or Did I Ignore My Gut Feeling

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Have you ever had that gut feeling when interviewing a potential client that something is ‘off’? But because you had no ‘evidence’ of what it was, you went ahead and agreed to work with them. Just in case you are the one person out there who hasn’t, let me set the scene.

Client Jones contacted me for a resume. I politely exchanged chitchat on his goals, intention for the project and content that would be pertinent. We agreed on a price and Client Jones decided to hire me. I emailed him the homework assignment to gather the information needed.

Fast forward one month. Being the good business person that I am -

I followed up. Client Jones replies that life has gotten in the way of his completing his homework, but he is still working on it and will get it back to me shortly. At this point I HAD THAT FEELING IN MY GUT THAT THIS ISN’T GOING TO WORK OUT, but I told myself that I can’t just dismiss Client Jones –that wouldn’t be good business. So I hoped for the best and kept him on as a client.

Now, a significant amount of time has passed and I am preparing to leave on vacation. Client Jones calls again, just three days before I am out the door. You guessed it -he needs his project finished quickly -in three days. I politely explained I was leaving on vacation and that I didn’t have time to take on his project before I would leave. I politely explained again, and again, but before I hung up the phone I had agreed to rush his project through to accommodate him.

Of course, at the same time I was wondering what part of “no” the client did not understand, where I was going to get the extra time to complete this project, and I felt very unhappy with myself for giving in.

Are you still with me? Those of you who have encountered Client Jones are nodding and I can almost see the steam escaping from your head. Those of you that haven’t, hang on, there is a point to this story.

I am now committed to work overtime to get this project done. But I can tell I am resisting the task. However, I put my heart and energy into making this document not only good, but great and even get it done within the tight time constraints.

As I email this project to Client Jones, I feel really good having accomplished superwoman feats and I feel as though I could jump tall buildings with a single bound if asked to.

And then I get the call from Client Jones. My heart sinks just by the tone of his voice. He relays that he is disappointed with the outcome and that major revisions would be necessary. Ouch! That stung. Without getting defensive I asked, “Can you give me an example of what you mean by that statement?”

Client Jones cannot exactly point out any particular verbiage or example that is less than perfect. He says it just doesn’t feel right to him. So again, trying to keep in mind that losing my temper would not help the situation I inquired, “Could you give me some specifics so that I might better understand what you think would be a clearer statement?” (Caution: do not take your temperature at this point in time – the mercury could burst.)

Before noon on Friday I receive an email with what was supposed to be the help I needed to get the client’s perspective of how he wanted his resume to showcase him. I pulled up the document with anticipation, hoping for the clue to get inside his head. The document I pulled up was his old resume, the old wording, the old format, and very few changes, ones I could not even begin to grasp as making a difference in the overall resume. My heart sank again. (At this time I was considering putting my heart on a yo-yo string so that I could pull it back up as quickly as it sank because this was happening way too often with this client.)

With critical time passing I did the next best thing and left my office to get my hair and nails done – what any woman would do before leaving on vacation. Right? I have often wondered how men manage that last day in the office.

Time check… it is now 3:30, ask me if I care about Client Jones. I look beautiful, well okay, I look better than when I walked out of the office, well passable on the street and not scaring small children on the sidewalk. When I get back to the office I decided that no amount of money is worth trying to fix this project, especially because Client Jones perception of a good resume and mine were as far away in distance as California from New York. I determined there was no amount of rewriting that could make this person happy and I was not willing to spend the Friday night before vacation trying to do so.

I make the dreaded call (heart is now attached to the yo-yo string). “Client Jones, thank you for following up with me after your meeting this afternoon. I trust everything went well? Good. I have to be honest with you. I carefully reviewed the document you sent back to me and it actually appeared to be your old resume with a few changes on it. Oh, it was your original resume. Oh, you didn’t have time to really work out the changes that you wanted? Oh, I see. Yes, it is difficult to pull words out of the air to describe that (however, I have a few for you which I will keep to myself). Client Jones, after reviewing what you emailed over and the document I produced for you I realized that we are not on the same wavelength (this could be a Venus/Mars thing – but we won’t even go there – save that topic for another Oprah). That rarely happens with my clients, however, I attribute it to trying to rush this project through within a short time frame, not having enough time to interact with you to get the true essence of how you felt best to portray your talents, etc. I just don’t see how we can get this resume changed into the document you would prefer before I need to leave.” Client Jones agrees.

What happened next? I graciously fired the client, refunded partial payment (Client Jones and I agreed that I should be compensated for my valiant efforts) and then packed for vacation. Moral of the story: don’t take on a Client Jones before you leave on vacation. Listen to your head/heart/stomach or any other body parts that are telling you this will be a problem – because – it will be a problem. Of course I’m happy now because I’m now on vacation. My head left Friday afternoon, my other body parts are catching up and should arrive soon.

I swear, next time I get that sinking feeling in my stomach, I’m going to honor it by telling the Client, “You know, I just have the feeling that I’m not the best person to work on this for you. I have a colleague who I believe can serve you better. Here’s his number…” How sweet it is when I listen to my gut feelings. How exhausting it becomes when I don’t!

Word count: 1280


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