Transcript: Negotiate red flags, or just say no?

All Work, No Pay - a podcast that answers real questions that consultants, freelancers and business owners have asked

You can listen to this episode on Anchor

Listen Now


Here is a full transcript of this week’s episode

Baz Baruah – host:

This is All Work, No Pay, a show that answers real questions that consultants, freelancers, and business owners have asked.

So, this is All Work, No Pay, a show where we take real questions asked by consultants, freelancers, and business owners, and answer them.

Today, I’m joined by Nathan Thomas from Coded4, who is a web developer. Hiya, Nathan.

Nathan Thomas:

Hi, Baz. How’s it going?

Baz Baruah – host:

It’s going really well, thank you. So, tell us a little bit about what you do.

Nathan Thomas:

Yeah, so, I’m a geek: I sit behind my computer all day building gorgeous, fast websites from the ground up.

Baz Baruah – host:

Fantastic. And that’s also really good to know, the fact that you put ‘fast’ in there straightaway, as that’s quite important nowadays for your websites.

So, today, what we’re going to be talking about – we have got a particular question that’s been asked, which is ‘Should I negotiate these red flags, or should I just say no?’ This is something that’s very dear to my heart. The actual question that’s been asked was about someone who had someone reach out to them, discussing some possible marketing, communication, social media opportunities with them. They asked for a proposal, which they wrote up, which included some strategies, and deliverables, and stuff like that. But then, in this particular case, before the job goes live, the client keeps coming back, saying, changing what they want from the proposal, asking for more deliverables, and so on, and so on. So, from the questioner’s point of view, there’s some red flags there coming up right away.

So, first thing to ask you, Nathan, is do you get red flags when you’re meeting with your clients?

Nathan Thomas:

Yes, absolutely. I think everyone will have situations where they’re dealing with a client, and something’s kind of making them think, ‘Mm, I’m not too sure about working with these.’

Baz Baruah – host:

Do you have anything in particular that you look out for, or do you take it on a sort of case-by-case basis?

Nathan Thomas:

I’m a bit old-school in the things that I look out for. So, if people are taking a while getting back to my emails or arranging meetings, and they’re being very slack and disorganised, that’s kind of one of the first red flags for me because at Coded4, we try to make sure we are very, very organised. And if we’re working with clients who aren’t, it is going to have a greater impact on the entire project because it’s probably going to take a lot longer. There’s a little…

Baz Baruah – host:

Sorry… that’s the exact opposite to me: I like the people who are disorganised. I feel like that probably reflects on me, though.

Nathan Thomas:

Well, you know, different strokes for different folks is how they put it, isn’t it?

Baz Baruah – host:

Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Sorry, carry on.

Nathan Thomas:

Yeah, I think there’s an element of language in there, as well, like the way people talk and say things, also, kind of – especially if you’re having a face-to-face meeting, or as face-to-face as you can at the moment in time, you can get a lot from their body language, and you can tell whether they are friendly, nice clients, or whether they are stern, serious, ‘I know what I want, and I want it now,’ kind of clients. And that’ll affect things, as well. You might come across someone who’s very, very demanding in what they’re after, and that’s a big red flag for us.

And like the question mentions, people that are kind of changing their ideas about what it is they’re after is definitely a massive red flag because if it’s happening right now at the start of a project, it’s no doubt going to happen further down the line when the project is ongoing.

Baz Baruah – host:

Right, yeah. So, okay. So, it’s almost like a demeanour kind of thing for you, then. It’s like how they’re approaching stuff.

Nathan Thomas:

Yeah, yeah.

Baz Baruah – host:

Because…

Nathan Thomas:

I…

Baz Baruah – host:

Sorry, go ahead.

Nathan Thomas:

Sorry! I was going to say I think you’ve got this, as well, but you want to work with clients that you’re going to get along with and build a relationship with. It’s not just that you’ve got a service and people want to pay for that service; you want to have longer-term relationships with these clients so that if you’re doing something that’s going to help their business, they’re hopefully going to help you in the future and come back to you when they need something else.

Baz Baruah – host:

Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that I do – so, actually, let’s – so, looking back on your previous clients, Nathan, would you say that there’s stuff that the best clients and the worst clients, would you say there’s stuff they have in common? What is it about them that makes them a good client for you? What is it about them that makes them a bad client?

Nathan Thomas:

I think the stuff that our clients, our good clients have in common is that they are these organised people. They’re also the understanding people. When it comes to web development, people often don’t know what is involved, especially when you’re building things from scratch, they might think, ‘Oh yeah, can we just add this feature? Can we just add that feature?’ When it’s a client that appreciates, ‘This might be something extra. It might take longer, and we’re fine expanding the deadlines,’ we really get on with them because we do want to help our clients achieve the goal that’s going to work for them.

And if they understand asking for something, some changes is going to prolong the project, but it’s going to be done right, that’s fantastic. And on the flipside, if it’s somebody who’s completely changing course and wants it now or wants it yesterday, but still wants all these additional extras, that’s the kind that we don’t get along with massively.

Baz Baruah – host:

Right, fair enough.

So, what I did, I have a little exercise, and I kind of developed it myself, and then I found this book, The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz, and he has a very similar exercise, but he does it much more formally than I did. So, I took his version of it.

So, he talks about things, he talks about your immutable laws, which are the things that really, really matter to you; the things that you won’t compromise on. And then, he talks about drawing up a matrix – so, you maybe open a spreadsheet – and you list all your clients down one side, and then across the top, you put: ‘Profitability’, so, was this project a profitable project? ‘Referability’, will this client get you referrals for more work? ‘Repeat business,’ is it going to lead to repeat business? ‘Enjoyment’, was it a good project to work on?

And then, you add in columns for your immutable laws, whatever they might be. And then, you just go through all your existing clients, all your existing projects, and you give them a score, like one to five, for each of those things, and you figure out what the average is, and then you rank all your clients by that score.

Nathan Thomas:

Yeah.

Baz Baruah – host:

And then, in theory, that then gives you a listing of who your best clients are and who your worst clients are. And you can look at that, and then pick out the factors that they have in common, so things like you were saying about the willingness to roll with the punches as the development goes on, or whatever it might be.

What I found was my five immutable laws are five questions that I came up with, and all the stuff about profitability, and referability, and all that stuff, that didn’t matter for whether it was a good client or not; it all came down to those five questions.

And for me, they’re five questions that I ask myself before I say yes to a project, which is ‘Do you like people?’ Because it’s got to be about the relationship, and there are some people that just don’t like other people. ‘Do we connect?’ Again, it’s about the relationship. ‘Can I see your purpose in life?’ And this is a bit of a weird one, but it’s like some people are driven by a higher calling of whatever it might be; they really, really want to make a difference in this aspect of their life. Some people are driven by money. I don’t mind what it is, as long as you’re quite clear about it. If you hide it away, then that’s a problem for me. But if you say to me, ‘I want to do this project because it’s going to make me a millionaire,’ then that’s fine. That’s good enough for me. At least you’re honest about it. And then, the other two are ‘Will I improve your life?’ and ‘Will you improve my life?’ because it has to work both ways when it’s a relationship.

And what I found was all the projects that I thought had gone well, they scored highly on those five questions, and all the projects that had gone badly – even if I’d made a massive profit on it – they scored low on those five questions. So, that’s kind of what I do now to evaluate any potential clients coming in. If they don’t get three out of five, then they’re an immediate ‘No’ because those red flags are too dangerous for me to get involved in.

Nathan Thomas:

Yeah. I think your middle point about, you know, can you sense a purpose from what it is they’re trying to do? That’s a really good one because it shows where their passion for the project is coming from. If they’re passionate about launching a project because it’s going to change lives, or it’s going to have such a big impact, or like you say, even if they are just so passionate about becoming a millionaire because of the success of a project, it does help you as a provider of the services help to get you passionate about that, as well.

Baz Baruah – host:

Absolutely, yeah, because it drags you along with it. You can see why they’re doing it, and you want to get involved in that. Absolutely.

So, when it comes down to it, then, the key thing is – I would say, and I don’t know if you agree with this – so, you need to know what your red flags are going to be; you need to have an idea of what to look for in a project before you start. Do you say no to people, then, if the red flags are flying?

Nathan Thomas:

Personally, I don’t ever say no to people because I think that can – it’s more from a what people might think if you say no point of view. If you’re saying no to projects, like I can understand the reasoning for saying no. Like you say, if they don’t meet any of that criteria, then you don’t particularly want to work with them.

But rather than just strictly saying no and sending them away, we generally use the red flags as ways to put the price up, and put it up to a comfortable level where if they still say ‘Yes’, at least you’ve got that little extra bit of collateral there, where you know it’s going to be a slightly more difficult project, but you’ve at least got something extra out of it. If they say ‘No’ because the price is now too high because you’ve bumped it, they’re the ones walking away, so they still feel good about their decisions rather than like you’ve turned them away.

Baz Baruah – host:

Right, okay. Yeah, yeah. So, again, that’s somewhere where I’m the opposite: I will happily say no, but I won’t just say, ‘That’s not for me’; what I will try and do is refer them onto someone else, and say, ‘That project’s not a good fit for me because of such and such a reason.’ Maybe it might be it’s not the right technology for me; maybe it’s not the right time for me, or whatever it might be. And it might be I have to bend the truth a little bit, say, ‘I’m a bit busy’ or whatever, but I would rather pass them onto someone else and say, ‘Actually, this person’s probably a better fit for it than you are.’

And again, it’s not necessarily a – because I’m saying no to you doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or anything like that; it’s just it’s not necessarily the right fit for this moment in time, if that makes sense, as well.

Nathan Thomas:

Yeah.

Baz Baruah – host:

Because I think that’s kind of – it’s not a forever decision. A lot of things – maybe that’s a question for another show, actually, is about making decisions. Because a lot of people worry about them because they think they’re irreversible, but if you think about it, how many decisions have you actually made where actually tomorrow you could do the opposite, and no one would care?

Nathan Thomas:

Yeah.

Baz Baruah – host:

So, yeah. So, that’s a bit of an exploration around the idea of red flags, and why you should have some sort of way of understanding what your red flags are and have a strategy for dealing with them. If those red flags are flying – whether it’s saying no to them and referring them to someone else, like I do, or putting your price up as a sort of barrier, like Nathan does – then having some sort of thing in place is a really good way of protecting yourself, and also, actually making sure that the work you really do do is worthwhile.

So, Nathan, if someone doesn’t fly your red flags, if they’re exactly your ideal kind of customer, where can they get in touch with you?

Nathan Thomas:

Yep. They can get in touch with me by emailing nathan@coded4.co.uk.

Baz Baruah – host:

Fantastic, and I’ll stick that in the show notes. So, if anyone needs any digital projects doing, get in touch with Nathan. I can vouch for him: he does a really, really good job.

So, that’s it for another episode of All Work, No Pay. We’ll be back next week with another real question from a consultant, freelancer, or business owner.

I’d be really grateful if you could leave us a review in your podcast app. And if you’d like a transcript of this episode, and to join on Fix-It Fridays, head over to clientrobot.com/allworknopay.

Nathan Thomas:

I think a lot of people recently have been very – there’s a lot of chancers is what I’m finding. There’s people that are thinking, ‘Oh yeah, I want this fantastic solution. It’d be really helpful. Because of Covid and because we’re now working this way, we need to change it all,’ but then, when they do see the price, they’re kind of like, ‘Oh, no. We wanted it for like £200,’ or something.


Struggling with your business?  Get profitable - free 15 minute consultation: https://calendly.com/clientrobot/15-minutes