Behaving like a business

Imagine this: Your car breaks down, and you don’t know what’s wrong with it. You take it to a mechanic, and drop it off. You call them two hours later, asking if they’re finished yet – tell them that it can’t take them long, because it’s clearly just a small problem and they’re professionals. They call you back 2 hours later and leave a message (you didn’t answer). They say that your alternator is kaput, and needs a replacement – can you please call back ASAP to approve the price.

You don’t call them back for 5 days.

When you do call them back, you’re furious with them because they haven’t fixed the car yet, and they want you to spend more money. You eventually tell them that they can put a new alternator in, but you’re picking it up on Sunday and they better be there. After they finish the work and send you the invoice, you don’t pay it because your cousin’s son “knows cars” and thinks that an alternator should never fail – he only got his licence a few months ago, but he’s never seen one fail.

Obviously, this isn’t how a sane person would deal with a mechanic. You wouldn’t tell a plumber that it’s “just pipes and water”, so you’ll only pay them $20, instead of the $250 on their bill. You wouldn’t call a building contractor every other day to get them to move a wall back and forth a few inches. Why? Because they’re businesses.

You are a business, not an employee

This is a hard lesson to learn, especially if you’ve only ever been an employee in your career to now. It’s a significant mental hurdle to cross that your clients are your customers not your boss.

While negotiation with a client is perfectly fine, remember that they cannot dictate terms to you – negotiations go in both directions. If they want something rushed, or delivered outside normal hours, you should inform the client that those requests cost more. If the client gets abusive or dismissive of your work, you can refuse to serve them.

Once you overcome the hurdle of seeing yourself as a business, your relationship with clients will dramatically improve. Remember: if you wouldn’t do it to a mechanic, plumber, electrician, builder, or any other business, then it’s not appropriate for a client to do it to you.

For more tips, tricks, and thoughts on freelancing, please look through our other posts.

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