I’m not ashamed to admit that some of my biggest mistakes (and biggest lessons) as a freelancer came as a result of letting my emotions get too far out of control and take over my decision making.
Such as the time long ago when I sent Mr. Henderson an email to the effect of, “YOU HAVEN’T PAID YET. PLEASE PAY NOW!” just three days removed from handing him a $50 invoice.
Then there was the other time when I dropped some f-bombs on beloved colleagues who have been providing me plenty of work the last three years. All without receiving a raised voice in return. Looking back, they did give me money to shut the f#!@ up… ah, nevermind.
The thing is I don’t know of one freelancer who never gets angry, no matter how trivial the reason is. Part of it, if not all, is due to the stress in our lives and our work. Some days nothing seems to go right and those who happen to touch a nerve, even the slightest bit, suddenly become victims of an “earful”.
Since, in most cases when a punching bag isn’t readily available, we get a nice relief of stress by unleashing that fury upon the client. As soon as we cool off, we’re left with a few nagging thoughts over what just happened.
- We could lose this dear client of ours (assuming you like the person)
- You now have a rep as a hothead and not fun at all to work with
- Face it, you’re probably an asshole too
It was immediately after the aforementioned colleague-bashing when I came upon my own realization that this can never happen again. Not even to clients I’ve made voodoo effigies of and poked nails in.
Fast forward two years later, I’ve outgrown my hothead-asshole persona and another weird thing happened as well.
Business improved. This while following only a few simple rules.
There will be a point after reading that email your blood gets boiling. Stop whatever you’re doing (yes even if it’s the middle of your work). Do not reply. Step away from the computer. It would be wise not to punch it either.
2. Vent (in private)
Here is where you can get crazy with the voodoo dolls or go out and buy a punching bag. You can also try my personal favorite, pacing back and forth in your office pretending to give an angry speech to your client. Just keep this out of public view, OK?
Then there are the more practical venting techniques such as a five-mile run or hitting the gym. Or just get an ice cream cone. Ice cream always brings a smile when you pretend the scoop of ice cream is the client’s face melting.
This is the hard part, but just let it go for the rest of the day. Get back to other work and just concentrate on that. I know thoughts of murder will seem to permeate your head but, if you relax, it will let go.
Another ice cream cone may help if not.
4. Answer (the next day)
Great, you just had a refreshing night of sleep and are in a proper mood to answer the client diplomatically. No threats or more ice cream needed. Plus you can tone down that memorized angry speech into polite arguments for that pending email.
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Have you ever responded to a client in anger and regretted it later? Please share in a nice comment.
And while we're on the subject...