There is an art that every entrepreneur should learn, but I warn him right away – it is not an easy task. Like any art, this one also requires a certain amount of skill, but as the old proverb says, everyone knows it well – practice makes a master. The more often we encounter a situation in business where a red light comes on in our head, the easier it will be for us to make difficult decisions in the future. And that certainly includes the saying ‘no’, especially at the beginning of the business.
Why am I writing about this? Because, in recent years, I have had many situations in which I have had to say ‘no’. Sometimes I knew from the very beginning that I wouldn’t agree to something. Another time I had to refuse practically at the very end, almost the day before the cooperation started. It wasn’t easy for me every time, but I can’t imagine it could have been any different. Sometimes it is simply worth (and even necessary!) to forgive, especially if we then have to reproach ourselves (this is in the best case!). What do I disagree with and categorically disagree with?
I do not agree to work at a lower rate.
Paweł Tkaczyk once wrote a great deal about this on his blog, on the occasion of a text about discounts. It was all about how to behave when a customer negotiates hard on the service or product rate. There are basically two choices: you can agree to a lower price, but for a smaller range of activities, or you can just let go. I know from experience that a customer who is getting tired of the price from the very beginning will be problematic in the future. Of course, you can always negotiate, but you also need to know the value of the services you provide.
In my work, I sometimes talk to potential clients who, when I tell them how much it costs to operate a PR agency, look as if they are about to get a heart attack. At the beginning everything is great – when discussing the scope of activities, the customer is interested in comprehensive communication, and then, at the stage of the offer “ojej, Ms Katarzyno, my budget for all these activities is 2,000 USD”. The more courageous add: “Maybe we will start at a lower rate, and if the cooperation goes well, we will increase it.
No. If the customer’s budget is smaller, I reduce the scope of activities proportionally. I do not accept full-time work at a lower rate, let alone work at a lower rate with no change in scope, but with the prospect of higher wages. Hence such a decision? If we make concessions once and if the cooperation goes well, it will be difficult for the client to understand why he has to pay more for the same set of actions. And if he agrees to a higher rate, he will probably add some new obligations to the package. I do not know anyone who would do well with such a system.
I do not agree to work strange hours.
When it comes to working at a lower rate, I immediately have to add that I work strange hours. Of course, I am not talking here about working at events that also happen in the evenings. I mean the normal tasks, which should usually be carried out from 9 to 17, I admit – I have sometimes hanged with a customer on the phone at 23 and made his presentation at the conference more pleasant. Now I am not doing it anymore. I respect my free time. I am at the customer’s disposal during the day. After 18, my phone is silent.
The same applies to e-mails and social media. If the client expects me to reply to him by e-mail after 19, I assume that in most cases it will be my fault. I made the customer accustomed to being non stop “on”. How many times have you happened to sit late at night and catch up with the mail? Once, again, the third and the exception becomes the norm and then the requirement.
Set clear rules from the outset. You will be available at the specified times. And even if the customer calls at 7:30 am (because they are eating breakfast and would like to chat with someone), and you see that someone is calling and in principle you have a free time of 5 minutes – do not answer.
I say no extra work without extra pay.
A few months ago I was in such a situation: the customer was implementing a new website and needed texts for it. I don’t know why, but he assumed that since we are responsible for his activities, media relations and social media, we will prepare texts within the framework of cooperation. This was an uncomfortable situation for both sides. The customer was convinced that copywriting was a must. We have valued the work at the standard agency rate for this type of activities. Of course, as we have been working together for several months now, I could, in theory, make concessions and agree to prepare the texts free of charge. I did not do that. I evaluated my work and the client finally accepted the terms and conditions.
Why did I not agree to extra work without pay? Because these extra activities were not covered by the contract, I had to plan them, organize the work of a specialist I employ in the agency, who after all receives a salary from me. If I had agreed on every time to such an extra