There was a time I really sucked at business. It was the time when I spent money on suits, a fancy package of business cards, and definitely at pleasing all my clients.
I was freelance for the significant part of my career, and I started young. I was just 21 when I dropped off university and started my own business. At that time I thought that the duty of a professional was to get as many clients as possible and make them happy.
It was nearly impossible because most of my clients were not just hard to please, but most of the times they didn’t even know what they wanted. They were merely asking for unreasonable results, with unrealistic deadlines, at unsustainable prices. I was young, inexperienced, and I used to accept whatever was coming in.
I remember getting really upset every time I was sending out an offer, and I was not getting a timely reply, or I was turned down.
Later in life, I learned that client work is more like a love relationship: both parts need to respect each other, be attracted, and feel right about it. When it’s just a mono directional thing, it creates frustration, it makes people unhappy, and it generally doesn’t last long.
At some point, I accepted the idea that a professional is not defined by the clients they have, but by the clients, they decide not to have. As much as the culture of a workplace is not determined by what people say about it, but by what people tolerate to happen around them, a professional is defined by the type of clients they don’t seek, they don’t want, and they don’t have.
That’s why I like to say that the best clients I’ve ever had were the ones I never had.