You like me, you really, really like me.
I don’t think there is any better feeling in the world than feeling seen. The feeling when another person compliments you on something that you love doing. A little taste and I want more and my brain, as with jelly beans, will do almost anything to get more. Including sometimes, giving work away for free.
But when we enter the state of bliss brought on by positive affirmation, we must take note and take care.
When a client compliments us on a job well done, we say thank you. Of course, we want more adulation so it is tempting to work hard and overdeliver. Sometimes, when a client compliments, he or she might add in with that compliment a request for more. This is a normal part of being a client. They see that you have skill beyond what they had seen before. We cannot assume they are trying to be exploitive, we can only assume they are seeking the best work and solutions for their business. That is their job.
But if you find yourself so high from the compliment that you agree to do additional work without acknowledging the additional time and effort this work will involve, you have just compromised your business for the sake of someone else’s.
Flattery will get you everywhere, or nowhere.
When flattery is used as a manipulative tactic, it is the flatterer who appears to win. But long term, nobody wins as the added expectations for more work without additional compensation create resentment and sours the relationship.
After school tricks that you are too smart to fall for.
When I was a child I would use a naughty trick with my sister while we watched after-school specials in the family room. “I bet you can’t get to the kitchen and bring me some ice cream in three minutes.” “Yes, I can!” She would exclaim. “Really?” I’d say. “Prove it.” Off she’d dash. A few moments later I’d be sitting in front of the tv, a giant bowl of rocky road on my lap. This scenario only repeated a few times before she got wise.
If we are to run successful and sustainable businesses we must wake up and not just know but make clear the value we represent to our clients. We must thank them for their acknowledgment of our hard-earned skills and talents, and at the same time, charge appropriately for our expertise.
Gratitude and curiosity.
As a small business owner, this can be scary. We love it when people want more of our work, and asking for more money after you’ve just received a nice compliment and a small request seems petty. So what do you do? I find the simplest approach is to go to your heart and answer from there. Say thank you to your client, for the compliment. Then let them know you would love to fulfill this new need, how they would like you to handle the time needed to address it?
You are not chicken, you are a brave and talented soul.
Let me remind you that you did not get into this business because you’re a chicken. You are doing this because you are a brave, brilliant, talented person who can think and create in ways that other people cannot.
Ok. I’m not a chicken. But I feel like one right now so what do I do?
Start by noticing if you’re feeling annoyance or anger. A psychologist would say that behind your anger is fear. Put the fear to the side for the moment. Then recognize that your client is only seeing what looks like brilliance, with no effort on your part. To them, your skill is the equivalent of magic.
Magic = billable.
What they aren’t thinking about is that this skill is not a magic trick that we can do without thinking. This is a skill developed through thousands of hours of practice. And just because the result of thousands of hours of practice is that we make something look easy, doesn’t mean that it has no value. It means the reverse. The easier something looks, the more time and effort went into learning how to do it, and thus, the more valuable it is.
Muzzles sometimes required.
The one thing I have done and wish I hadn’t at times (long, long ago of course – like last week) was to become defensive. Don’t be defensive. Don’t let these kinds of requests trigger deeply buried personal feelings of not being valuable or acceptable or worthy. You are valuable and you are capable of communicating that calmly and confidently.
You can do this.
In summary, when a client seeks the very best from you they are doing what they must do to support their business. Your business depends upon you doing everything in your power to run sustainably and that means charging the appropriate fees for the value you bring as the result of your excellence in your craft. Just because you enjoy what you do, and you make it look easy, does not mean that it is to be given away free.
Quite the opposite.
Now go. Do something brilliant and bill appropriately. I promise, it will feel just as good if not better than getting that compliment.