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Don’t Fight Customers

Recommended reading: Thank You vs. Sorry, Contract Killer 3

Work with trustworthy people.

Select your customers carefully; a single bad client will weigh you down for years.

Court your customers before committing to anything. Make certain that you’re a good fit. Your customers transitively benefit from vetting you, too.

Communicate your intentions to potential clients. Ask them if you can chat on the phone or meet in-person before signing anything. Be friendly and get to know each other.

Never take money that you can’t give back.

If a business relationship turns sour, fire your customer. When you fire customers, don’t leave them hanging – put them in contact with a suitable replacement.

If you take customers’ cash before completing a project, treat it like a magic parachute. Fully refund clients before lawyers get involved. Everybody loses in trench warfare.

Without lawyers, your bank can forcibly refund money out of your account for 120 days after the service has been provided. “Your” money isn’t yours for at least 4 months.

If you can’t afford money, don’t take it. As long as you have other people’s money, you are an indentured servant. Don’t let others own you.

Count chickens.

Don’t confuse cash with commitments.

You are doing volunteer work until money hits your bank account (or an escrow account).

Be kind to clients who can’t pay. Money is fickle and accidents happen. Be empathetic – it’s always embarassing and stressful to realize you don’t have enough money for something.

Keep a clean slate.

Revenge is wasteful. Reputation is worth more than petty justice.

If you prematurely cut ties with a customer, leave them on good terms. Give them a full refund, all intermediate assets, and your best advice. Go out of your way to set ex-clients up for success. It’s the right thing to do.

Accept criticism gracefully.

Find kernels of truth in all feedback.

Harsh criticism is always a gift when you want to grow. If people are willing, lean in and ask for specifics.

Steelman others’ opinions. Distill their feedback into actionable advice.

Don’t apologize if you aren’t sorry. But always give gratitude for honesty and opinions. People want to feel heard and understood. Write out exactly what you did wrong and what steps you will take to change for other clients.

No, my other clients don’t have problems with my organizational skills. Thank you. In the future, do you think my other clients would appreciate an outline beforehand?
Uh, I delivered everything to you on schedule. Thanks for explaining. Do you think I should send mockups earlier in the process?
You aren’t understanding my artistic vision. Interesting. If I want to become better, which factors am I missing? Is it the contrast, saturation, or overall color combination?

This essay is part of How to Productize Yourself.