By Caitlin Kelly
Have you ever had a client who talked a lot about doing business with you — but never actually did it?
In a time of rising costs and taxes, I understand why some people are reluctant to commit to laying out cash. I’m hardly a wild spender, but I keep writing checks — albeit small ones — to my assistant, even for ideas we’ve had that just didn’t work out as we’d hoped. If I only spent money on sure things (oooh, sign me up!), I’d be a lot richer.
We all want ROI — return on investment. But how many of us know exactly, beforehand, which business decision is a totally sure thing and which is not?
When someone decides they might want to work with me, there are hundreds of articles on-line they can read to see my product. (But how heavily were they edited?) Do some due diligence and ask around; we all have reputations, for good and ill. Some writers’ copy arrives clean and ready to edit, while others offer what I call Swiss cheese journalism — all holes, little substance. I recently met a writer who felt compelled to tell me how Very Successful he is. Then I had lunch this week with someone who previously worked closely with him and told me a very different tale.
When you work for yourself, cashflow is key, which includes deciding when someone’s just kicking your tires and is never actually going to hire you or pay you for your time and skills.
Last year, I did an event for my book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” at Saks, an upscale store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. A woman stopped by my table and bought a copy and I couldn’t believe my luck — she works in HR at another huge retailer. It was, I hoped, a golden opportunity for future consulting, or a speaking engagement or book sales.
And then began a months-long courtship that went exactly….nowhere. She’d read my book, seen my video, had plenty of time to assess my potential value to her company. She would email me to arrange a phone call, with no agenda or plan. Our one in-person meeting, when I was in her city far away from me, got cancelled after she took a horrible fall. The call arranged for 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, (she simply assigned me the time, horribly inconvenient for me), she completely blew off.
I finally emailed her a terse note suggesting that if or when she wished to do business with me, I’d be happy to hear from her.
Another Canadian recently decided they might want me to keynote a major conference, with barely a month’s notice — paying my own way to Toronto from New York for no fee. Really?
Then they simply stopped returning my assistant’s calls and emails. This sort of hand-wringing, passive-aggressive, risk-averse bullshit is crazy. Rude. Cowardly.
The ongoing challenge of working for yourself is determining which potential clients really are, eventually, going to open their wallets and get on with it — and those just dicking you around because:
1) they’re indecisive; 2) they’re cheap; 3) they don’t have the authority to hire or pay you; 4) they’re terrified of any risk; 5) they don’t have the funds 6) and/or don’t want you to know it; 7) it makes them feel powerful to know they can.
I hate wasting time. I hate wasting energy. I really try not to do it to others. It’s disrespectful. It’s a time-suck. And all the time you waste on foreplay, so to speak, you could be enjoying the real deal with someone who actually really does want to do business with you.
Have you run into this?
How do you suss these losers out (more) quickly so they don’t waste your time?