Don’t Ever Do This To A Client

mooningSometimes I think I’m in the wrong business.

Has that ever happened to you? 

Especially during a dry spell, I start looking around, and I see people with a different skill set and a different level of education making tons of money.

All the time.

How fair is that?

Take Tom, for instance. Tom runs a small construction company. A few years ago, Tom and his team did a great job renovating part of our house. His business was still young, and he went above and beyond to make our home more modern. Tom was everything an average contractor isn’t. He was polite, communicative, affordable, he showed up on time, and he delivered on his promises. 

After weeks and weeks of hard work in the scorching July sun, the job was done. Before Tom gave us the keys to our brand new front door, his crew did something surprising. They carefully cleaned up the mess they had made during the renovation. Even our front and back yards received a make-over. How about that!

Needless to say, we sang Tom’s praises to anyone in need of a contractor, and it worked. For the next few months I saw Tom’s truck everywhere, and his business was booming.

He deserved every bit of success, and I was happy for him and his family. If only I could emulate his accomplishments… But, I was in the wrong business. Tom built walls, replaced windows, and renovated kitchens. It was tangible, visible work. All I did was talk for a living. 

Fast forward a couple of years.

Recently we were ready for the second phase of home improvement, and in our mind only one guy had proven himself worthy of the job. So, I called Tom again, and asked him to come over to take a look at what needed to be done.

I didn’t hear back from him for weeks. He did not respond to my messages, and I was worried that he might have left our Borough. However, his truck was parked next to his house, and he was still in business. When he finally answered his phone there was no explanation or apology. He almost sounded like I was inconveniencing him. I didn’t like that.

It took a few more weeks before Tom finally came over, and luckily he brought his old, cheery self. He assessed the work that we wanted done, and promised to give us an estimate within a matter of days. You can probably guess what happened next -or rather- what didn’t happen.

I lost count of how many times I called his business to remind him that we needed that estimate. I tried to sound upbeat and hopeful as I “talked” to Tom after the beep, but some of my messages might have revealed my increased frustration. Weeks and weeks passed, and Tom never returned any of my calls. It was as if I didn’t exist. 

I wondered what would happen if I would run my business like that. It would probably be “game over” in no time. You know what it’s like when an agent sends you a voice-over job that is making the rounds everywhere. You know what you need to do when you’ve spotted the perfect opportunity on a voice casting site. You’ve got to record that audition straight away, or else your voice will be lost in a whirlpool of other talent.

That’s one thing I imagine Tom doesn’t have to worry about. There are only a handful of reputable contractors in my area. Apparently Tom’s so busy, he doesn’t need more work. He can afford to ignore me.

And that’s where Tom and I differ.

At times I am pretty swamped, and job offers keep coming in. When it rains, it usually pours. But no matter how busy I am, I always get back to every client in a matter of hours. Some of them want me to start as soon as possible, and that’s not always an option. In that case I refer them to a reputable colleague. But quite often things are not as urgent as they seem, and I can fit the client in at a later point during the week.

To me this is not an earth-shattering approach, but I might be wrong. Just today, two clients thanked me for quickly getting back to them, as if it was something unusual. Isn’t that weird? I tend to think that the way I conduct business is the way everyone does it. I put in long hours. Others put in long hours. I have high standards. Others have high standards. But here’s what I have noticed.

Some colleagues just don’t seem to care as much, or they stopped caring, for whatever reason. And that’s the thing clients hate the most. They don’t want to be treated as a routine client with a routine job. They don’t want to be ignored or taken for granted. 

Clients are just like real people. People want to be acknowledged. Respected. Appreciated. They want to be treated as if they’re the only client in the world at that moment in time. And if you can give them that feeling, you do more than just a job. You are in the business of building long-lasting relationships.

So Tom… if you are reading this blog, I don’t know what happened to you since you started your company, but I don’t like it one bit. No matter how good you are at what you do, I will no longer recommend you. I will not hire you. I will find someone else to do the job.

Perhaps I will finally hear from you after you have read this, and you’ll give me some kind of lame excuse like: “I’ve been too busy, but it’s just business. Nothing personal.”

Well, you’re wrong about that.

It is always personal.

As a contractor, you come into people’s homes and invade their privacy. You tear up their walls, and you demolish their bathrooms. You fix what’s broken, and you make people feel safe under their own roof again.

I’m a contractor too. A so-called independent contractor. My voice gets in between people’s ears. Sometimes I tell them what to do or what to buy. Other times I read them a good book. It’s safe to say that we have a rather intimate relationship.

I will never take that relationship for granted, not just because it is the lifeblood of my business. I honor that relationship because it is the right thing to do. It’s how I was raised.

Let me end by saying this:

I vow to never let my success prevent me from treating my clients with professionalism, respect, and gratitude.

Even if all I do is talk for a living, I do my very best to walk my talk.

I’ve been doing this for over three decades.

Clients keep on coming, and I thoroughly enjoy what I am doing.

So… perhaps I’m in the right business after all!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet.

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs." goo.gl/ihVpMc

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Personal

9 Responses to Don’t Ever Do This To A Client

  1. Kent Ingram

    Artesanias: I translated your post and it’s nothing but spam. This site isn’t the proper place for your personal ads and I’m sure the author, Paul Strikwerda, will tell you that and more. Hopefully, you’ll be blocked.

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  2. Kent Ingram

    Paul, this is a story I’ve heard almost ad infinitum! If one is successful in business, there will be times of “over-plenty”. That’s when balance comes into it. Just be HONEST with clients and give them a reasonable date of completion. If you can’t handle a job, be honest enough to admit that, which means leaving one’s ego in the background. Once you do that, clients will come back to you, eventually. Just treat them like GOLD, that’s all you have to do! My former career, as a graphic artist, demanded that, as we couldn’t afford to lose customers due to crappy treatment!

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Great advice, Kent. In the contracting business I think it’s quite common for crews to work on multiple jobs on multiple sites at the same time. People work on job A in the morning, and go to job B in the afternoon. That’s a reason why some projects take forever to complete. Perhaps my guy was trying to keep too many plates in the air at once, but I am not amused.

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  3. Howard Ellison

    I’m going to speak up for your Tom! In our family we have a self-employed builder who is young to middle aged and conscientious. And because he never stops working, going the extra mile, seeing clients and mixing cement, he is perpetually exhausted. One day I fear he will come to feel trapped by his trade – as do those warring chefs in Gordon’s Kitchen Nightmares: passion spent, bank manager gnawing at their heels.
    We are very lucky to be in the voice biz. Yes it can be draining in its own way, and insecure, but there are recovery periods, and generally the mic doesn’t give us bad backs or clogged lungs. Naturally we look after our clients – they feed us, and some are actually quite nice!

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    Debbie Grattan Reply:

    I think many of us can relate to this…especially if we’ve ever dealt with a building contractor. Had the same experience, but got a quote, gave a deposit, and was put on his calendar for months down the road. Time came, and he didn’t return calls promptly. Weeks went by. Finally, we did hear from him, and it was going to be delayed even further. We asked for our deposit back. The job wasn’t urgent, and we decided not to complete. But had he been prompt in completing, I’m sure we would have our new mud room. Similar experience just this past week. Our family sees a local orthodontist. It seemed an awfully long time since my daughter had been on the schedule for an appointment, but since we’re so busy with everything else, I just kept waiting for a postcard or phone call. Finally, I called to see when she would be seen again. It had been 9 months! Generally, for braces, patients are seen every 6 weeks or so. Whoever answered the call said there was a note that the Mom would call back when she’d checked her schedule. So, I guess they just thought (since they’ve already been paid in full) it’s my job to make sure she’s got an appointment. And I’ll take some responsibility for this, but still, I expected some kind of apology for getting lost in the shuffle. Even when I took her in, and spoke in person to someone, there was still no apology. That seemed very bad business to me.
    My slogan in “More than just Lip Service” and that is not only about the variety of vocals I provide my clients, but also about quick response, good communication throughout a project, follow up afterwards. And like you Paul, I’m surprised when clients thank me for what I would think is standard operating practice of a good business. I guess there are folks out there, for whatever reason, who don’t think it’s important to provide good customer service. In this day and age of Yelp and TripAdvisor, and all the other online places complaints can be heard, I’d think it would be even MORE important.

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You gave some great examples of how not to run a business. You are right: in this day and age word of mouth has gone viral. Some reputations have been destroyed by one tweet. That’s absurd, but it happens. My motto is: “Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t take on jobs you can’t handle. Always communicate.” It’s that simple.

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    Meredith Alleruzzo Reply:

    All the contractor had to do to preserve the relationship and demonstrate respect was to e-mail or call and explain that he couldn’t take on any more work but to please contact him in X weeks. Easy. Respectful.

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I agree. I even told him in my message: “If you’re unable to do the job, let me know, and I’ll find someone else.”

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    This is precisely how people start sabotaging their own success, and it’s a shame. It may be caused by the “I can do everything better-syndrome” which is why some people refuse to delegate. It’s a sure strategy to burn the candle quickly, forgetting that work is just a means to an end.

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