If you sign up for this guff, you know I like to pluck a retro name out of the air and create a persona.
In this case, Denise: the worst prospect ever to cast a shadow over my inbox.
See, she’ll never hire me. To referred prospects like Denise, I’m just another unimaginative SEO content writer.
(How bloody dare she!)
She incorrectly thinks I’m a party pooper, a bit of a fun sponge, someone who would be terrible to go out for a drink with.
(I am hilarious to go out for a drink with, btw.)
This ain’t my first rodeo when it comes to writing about the worst prospect. I scribbled something down about 5 bad client traits some time ago, frothing at the mouth as I typed.
(In a rage, I didn’t contract rabies.)
As business owners, attracting awful clients is a recurring theme. Sure, we get better at repelling the tyre-kickers but occasionally some douche slips through the net.
Denise hates my process.
She thinks my business ways are inflexible and officious, I sound like I’ve got a rod up my arse (apparently).
(Yes, I too am thinking of Rod Stewart up my arse. Sorry, no one needs to read that / think that.)
This bollocks has a lot to do with that thing some twat called social selling. The ‘people buy from people’ mantra has somehow evolved to mean we must make friends with everyone who’s a potential client.
I’m of the opinion that people often become friends AFTER they’ve worked with you for a spell. The idea that I have to go through some mind-numbing pretence of being your bestie so that you’ll hire me, is ruddy nonsense.
Denise can’t believe I don’t do calls.
And that I especially dislike face-to-face Zoom meetings.
They. Don’t. Help. Me. Get. The. Job. Done.
But Denise becomes apoplectic when faced with a refusal to chat. How else can she explain what she needs from me?!
And it’s free time I cannot afford to spend on the mere whiff of actual paid work. Listen, I’m great at faking being at ease. I can do congenial but I don’t have to as I’m no longer an employee.
In the very early, dark days of self-employment, I had a Skype meeting with a prospect (yes, before Zoom) it lasted an hour but it felt much longer. He spent just ten minutes of that time alluding to what he actually wanted which meant the guy still had to email me all the details.
In my experience, when you write down what you need, it focuses your brain and you’re less likely to go off down Tangent Lane. I can also refer back to what you’ve said to avoid missing shit out. If you provide everything I ask and something still gets forgotten, that’s on me but you need to be willing to trust that I know what I’m doing.
So when potential clients excitedly send me a DM, asking to jump on a call, they get a bit put out by me not sharing their enthusiasm.
Your initial message/email will determine if a) I can do the work and b) if I want to do the work. Anything after that will go through my expertly cultivated process.
Denise would really like to have a relationship.
A relationship that might lead to further work, some hilarious bants, a night out, and maybe even sex.
(We’ve all been there!)
Hi, I’m Sarah Wilson-Blackwell and I’m an introvert.
(I know, I know, I can’t *possibly* be one coz I do loads of extrovert stuff, innit. Oh, fuck off!)
In this modern era of business making, we have become obsessed with building relationships. And before you have a meltdown, hear me out.
I often get pretty vague enquiries. Those first DMs have the same thing in common: they don’t provide any details about what the prospect expects me to do. And if they resist my attempts to know more, that’s a sign to me that we won’t be working together (because they’re not seriously looking for my services).
Another sign is when they ask to get to know me before we discuss the actual project.
I’m still not clear how familiar we need to become before they decide I’m worth hiring. Is kissing required, and with tongues?
Honey, that’s what my content is doing and if you’re a client I’ve attracted, you’ve been seduced long before you made the decision to get in touch. (We’ve already touched tongues.)
And this is why I bang on about blogging:
And that’s all anyone needs to know at the early stages.
The thought of a courtship that involves chats, emails, DMs, is my worst nightmare (well, one of them, being buried alive is probably at the top of that list). That’s an incredible amount of time to waste. And no one is getting paid throughout this routine and I think that’s rude. What Denise is saying here is, “wow me”, “impress me” and “let’s be ‘friends’ and who knows, you just might get the job”.
That’s lovely, Denise but I don’t pray that way. It’s overprescribed bullshit that’s not required to run a business.
Plumbers certainly don’t worry about getting to know you before they sort out your taps. You’ll build a truer relationship over time, not before potential customers decide to hire you.
My process will qualify Denise and her ilk pretty quickly. And I know almost instantly if I want to work with you. I am not about to shout “pick me!” at you. I don’t compete for work and I don’t think you should either.
Denise doesn’t like paying for proposals.
Those bitches take hella time.
But the really wonderful thing is you get that cost deducted if you book the work. Yay.
And if you don’t? You can ghost the shit outta me and I won’t care.
Also, I have some pretty specific Ts and Cs. Certain points get Denise in a lather though…
She doesn’t want to pay upfront, she can’t accept I don’t allow endless rewrites, and she won’t tolerate a freelancer who refuses to take writing advice from her and her team.
(Because she isn’t qualified to give said advice.)
Denise can go to hell.
When the worst prospect tries to make me dance to their tune, ignores my boundaries, and still insists on sending me a Zoom link, I know we’re not going to work. It’s not me, Denise, it’s most definitely you.
Yous reading this ain’t stupid.
You know this is about qualifying a client for YOU and absolutely not about fitting into a mould to please a prospect.
And it all comes under the banner of brand polarisation which starts with making you comfortable and happy in the work that you do.
My process exists to make my life easier, that’s my priority. But it also makes my clients’ lives easier—I’m actively saving them time. In real life, problems like Denise only happen when they’ve been referred to me. Some lovely person has done so with the best of intentions but I know the project is unlikely to go ahead.
Denise doesn’t know me.
She hasn’t come to me because she likes the cut of my jib.
If getting Denise to follow my process is like herding a bunch of pissed, one-eyed cats, the effort will always exceed the benefit. If she wants me to bend over backwards for her, we’re not a good fit (and I only ever do that for someone in the privacy of my own home).
If she, or indeed you think I’m self-important and have ideas above my station…
(you’re absolutely right) but again, we’re still not a good fit.
Frankly, Denise, you’re a time-wasting bastard. Go play email tennis with someone else. I have other things to do like watch Murder, Mystery & Makeup.
So, if you like the sound of the way I do business and if you need some content that doesn’t suck, click here.
I’m a freelance business content writer at The Sarky Type®. My thang is SEO-informed blurb that sets your words on fire (ablaze with LOLs and engagement not to be confused with real fire that destroys everything in sight. Metaphors are better when they don’t require explanation. Note to self).