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What Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler Taught me About Time Suckers

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Clients come, and clients go. And some tax our patience, suck our time and fray our nerves. It’s at times like these that we have to be like Kenny Rogers’ song The Gambler and know when to hold on to them, and also when to let them go.

Not too long ago, I was enjoying an amazing power lunch/brainstorming session with a fellow solopreneur when our conversation turned to past clients. Specifically, those clients who suck us dry mentally and drain us of our precious time and energy. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had the client that we were excited to land in the beginning, but quickly realized once we were in the throes of work that they were probably going to tax our time, patience and resources to the max. Sometimes it’s a personality conflict, sometimes they are just over the top and demanding, but whatever the reason we secretly wish they would just go away. Now, don’t get me wrong; I am grateful for every client I have ever had and that includes The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Every client that has ever crossed my path or blessed me with work has also taught me something and those lessons are priceless.

What Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler Taught me About Time Suckers

Know when to fold em

Know when to hold ‘em

Know when to walk away

And know when to Run.

** Interesting Factoid: Kenny Rogers was the first live concert I ever went to. The next live concert I went to was Metallica and Ozzy Osborne. Let your imagination run wild with that juicy (and telling) little tidbit.

As corny as it is, the words are scary true when it comes to dealing with the time sucker and needy clients. As the months turn into years and the clients come and go, there are valuable lessons that are gleaned from those clients who can be tucked into the category of “time suckers.” Here are some Gambler-esque lessons:

Know when to fold em

With every client comes “teachable moment” and these lessons help us gain an eye (and a gut) for what client will be the best fit. When I say, “best fit,” I mean the best fit for both of us. To accept a client that you know darn well probably won’t be a good fit is simply being disrespectful of their time and yours. Honestly, for all the times I thought, “Well…maybe it will be OK…” it rarely ended up being OK. It’s a gamble I know better than to take these days. Needy and time-sucking clients do us a service by teaching us what we DON’T want from clients as well and there are times when we, as entrepreneurs and business owners, need to know when to “fold ‘em,” call it what it is and fire these clients as painful as it may be.

There are times when clients don’t want to hear the word “no.” There are times this client may be someone who feels right to work with, but they are asking you to reduce your rates to fit their budget. Weigh the pros and cons of reducing your wage before in the heat of the moment saying, “SURE!” Is the benefit of what you may learn and gain from this person worth the reduced pay? If not, don’t do it because I can promise you that, in the long run, you will end up resenting that client because you weren’t strong enough to stick to your guns.

Know when to hold ‘em

The needy or crappy clients also teach us to value the clients who aren’t that way. That alone should be solid cause to go above and beyond for your current “Ace” clients who are respectful of your time, easy to work with, inspire your creative juices and pay on time. These are the clients you want to hold on to. Have you told your Aces how much you appreciate them lately? Maybe today is the day to do just that.

Know when to walk away

I recently had a past client resurface and request my help. Mindful our past working experience, plus the fact he was using words like, “my budget is tight and I can’t afford much” was raising red flags for me right and left. This particular client wasn’t a bad person, I simply knew didn’t have the time and energy available to help. So, instead of giving a flat, “no” or “sorry,” I did the next best thing. I referred him. Knowing when to walk away teaches us the art of the referral. “Unfortunately, my schedule is so incredibility full right now that I just can’t help you, but I can refer you to XXX.” The client was thrilled, the virtual assistant I referred him to was also thrilled and everyone won. Offering your clients an alternative option shows you still have their best interest in mind and are willing to be a problem solver on their behalf.

And know when to Run.

If the customer is a straight-up nightmare, do your inner circle a favor and DON’T refer them. Just like you wouldn’t hook your BFF up with the local nutjob, you certainly don’t want to purposefully subject anyone within your referral circle to clients who are difficult, unreasonable, needy or demanding. Just politely decline their request for assistance and nip the conversation in the bud immediately.

Just know that time suckers are not limited to clients either. They can also take the form of family, peers and even well-meaning friends who need to, “pick your brain for a second.” Learn how to set boundaries and value your time. A great response for those who chronically need to, “pick your brain” via phone, lunch date or email, is something along the lines of, “Sure, but I only have a few minutes. If you need a deeper discussion, perhaps we can schedule at time to chat and my current rates are____.”

How do you handle time suckers?

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