As a woman in business, this is my advice:
1.) Know your worth. Don’t discount your prices before the other party has a chance to speak, but know the power of negotiation.
2.) Don’t burn the bridges. (Even when it feels like warm sand on the toes.) Smile, grit your teeth and imagine you are in Hawaii and they are in Antartica. You’re wrong? Say you’re wrong. If you pretend to be 100% right all the time, you’ll make your client wonder what else you’re lying about. You can be real, without allowing yourself to be stepped on.
3.) If they are difficult, there’s a reason. Treat clients like dating partners. Respect their past. We’ve all been hurt by a vendor. We’ve all experienced broken promises. But, don’t let their baggage overwhelm your life. Show them with action, (instead of word) how you’re different. With respect, you’ll form longer-lasting relationships and get contract renewals. Additionally, scoop a client from a competitor? Don’t think too much about it. They are thinking the same thing when they get one of your past clients. Stop thinking the other company dropped the ball and start focusing on how you won’t.
4.) Never, ever, respond to an angry email without first getting a glass of water. (Preferably from across the street.) I type with purpose and my words can cut into the core of the issue and leave scars that are not able to be healed. I learned this the hard way. (I blame dating what I lovingly call, “1/4 of Minnesota’s attorney pool.”) My need to be right, could cost my children their college plan payment that month- I always remember that. The best way to handle a client fight, is to never have a fight to begin with. And if there’s tension? Address it, proactively plan and then move on.
5.) Know your triggers. I know one of my greatest faults and greatest strengths is my speed. A horrible musician, I wanted to go through the music lines as if I was on heavy, illicit drugs, just to see if I could do it. I’ve had to intentionally slow myself down, as to not overwhelm. My speed is one of the reasons I’m successful and also one of the reasons I sometimes fail. If you know your triggers, when you proactively address it/them, your clients appreciate that you are an authentic person who is open to feedback.
6.) Know when to fold them. (Kenny Rogers even says, “Know when to walk away and when to run.”) I’ve sat in the third meeting with clients and known in that exact moment that I we were going to part ways. It wasn’t because they were horrible business owners and I was unprepared for their needs; it’s because more often than we speak about, clients have unrealistic expectations and we strive to meet them- no matter what. I recently took on a client for 1/4 of what I normally charge. Because I liked her and I knew that given a month and my plan, I’d knock it out of the park. 2 meetings in, I realized they could easily cost me my entire margin and business. No client’s success story is worth risking my other clients or integrity over. Knowing when to let a client go, is a powerful, powerful tool in growth.
7.) Set the right precedent. I have toyed with a few ideas, (most recently turning on my out of office during typical non-business hours, or weekends.) A few months ago, I had a male client concerned that I wasn’t able to answer his question immediately, at 11pm on a Thursday night. The matter wasn’t urgent, but he brought up the next morning during our meeting that he was worried he missed my reply. Of course he was. I usually try to tackle replies asap. (I often tell my clients, 1-hour for urgent messages and 2 business days for a non-urgent reply or request.) But, even I don’t follow that. In fact, I just emailed someone back at 2am because I was awake. Bad, Bad, Kate. Bad precedent and terrible business strategy! He was only expecting what I had given him in the past and he wasn’t at all, out of line. I constantly correct myself on being too attached to my phone, (what life?!) I don’t believe there’s a work-life balance, but I do believe we all need to choose what works for us.