I wrote in Start and Run a Real Home Based Business that almost all business relationships will end sooner or later. That client you have that gives you solid work month after month… guess what? That relationship will eventually end.
Be it change in management, new ownership, fires, floods, locusts eating your client’s crops, recession, falling sales, change of direction, or even “just because we want to look at someone new”, the business relationship will eventually end. And you need to be ready for it (it’s one reason I don’t take on any job that blocks all of my time – I will never give any one client my full attention for more than a few days. Even 300+ page jobs, of which I had 2 last year, were done over a period of time, with outside help.)
I was reminded of “all business relationships will end” today. When I got fired from my last job (2001), I started freelancing the e-commerce programming I did at that job. This eventually turned into copywriting (which I knew had to happen, as the software I specialized in was being phased out), but even to this day, I still had 2 old e-commerce clients who kept the old software and needed me from time to time. I kept these clients because I enjoy the “logic buzz” that programming gives me – kind of keeps that left brain occupied.
Anyway, one of the “remaining two” was my very first, meaning we had been doing business together since 2001. Well, two years ago, they had major shakeups, new management, etc etc… I sensed the relationship changing. Where it used to be “just call Dan, tell him what we want, Dan does the work and sends a bill”, it became “send us a complete itemized estimate for this project and we’ll think about it”. Basically, it became very formal and corporate. Which bugged me a little because that’s not me. It also bugged me because I really did exceptional work for them – always on time, always right, I made little modifications for free, etc. But the new people didn’t “know” me. I could just hear them saying “who’s this shorts-clad Night Owl schmuck sitting in some NY basement that we send a grand to every now and then??”
Then, last year, they got to a point where they didn’t pay me for work I did. I had to chase them for payment (and I *detest* that. I hate being bullied by corporate idiots.) I finally got paid when they decided I was too valuable to let get away (I am literally one of a scant handful that works with this particular software). But you know, I can be a formal, unfeeling corporate prick too – after that, I started insisting on prepayment for any job. They whined, but I held firm, and for the past year, they paid prior to me tapping a single key.
Well, today we spoke, and I sensed it was the end. There’s a problem that their software can’t handle, why can’t I make it work without more hours, why should they pay for further development (errr, because that’s how it works?) Then I found out they were talking to another company, and would upgrade to newer software, etc etc. Which doesn’t bother me – I kind of expected this two years ago. And I’m pretty busy writing anyway – the EDI (which is the e-commerce stuff I did) is extra lunch and DVD money, really.
But this did make me think a bit – here I’ve been working for them for 8 years. For six of those eight, the relationship was perfect. And for eight of those eight, I did *stellar* work. And it didn’t matter.
Almost all business relationships end, folks. Don’t ever forget that.