I fired my marketer. Why he should have fired me first.
Don’t get fired by your clients
I knew the marketer I’d hired wasn’t a good fit pretty early on, but he seemed bound and determined to make it work. I gave him several opportunities to part ways with me and bow-out gracefully, but he didn’t want to take the bait. Eventually, I had to fire him.
Here’s why I fired him, why he should have fired me first, and how you can avoid getting fired by your clients.
I had a need, he wanted to be the solution
When I decided to launch my second business, I knew I’d need to build a team to support my first business. Specifically, I wanted help with marketing - someone with expertise that could also execute.
I met a guy who focused on getting small businesses online leads. I told him about my business and what my goals were and he made me believe that his company could make it happen, so I hired him.
Red flag #1
It quickly became apparent that he’d have to adjust his process and approach to work with me. I knew that wasn’t ideal and made me question if I should instead find someone else who has done it this way before.
I wanted to use Squarespace (more on why in another post). He only used Wordpress.
He only works with Facebook, Google+ (is that still a thing?!), and LinkedIn, but I also wanted to have a presence on Instagram and Pinterest.
I told him, Because of [wanting to use Squarespace, Instagram, Pinterest], I would completely understand if you'd rather not proceed to work with me.
I'm open to working with new tools.
And we continued on.
Red flag #2
I know enough about marketing to be dangerous, but I wanted to work with someone who was an expert and knew more than me.
However, I quickly started to question his expertise when he:
Was ready to dive right into the work without any information about my business, my ideal client, or my brand identity.
Was going to deliver SEO Optimized Blog Posts and an SEO Optimized Website without doing any keyword research.
Asked me to send him 12 months of themes he should use to write the blogs (which I thought was part of what I was paying him for).
I was no longer sure which one of us was going to be more of the expert in this partnership.
I sent him a note expressing my concerns and gave him another out:
I want to be transparent about why I have been hesitant to kick things off so that we can figure out the best way to work together, or if you decide that I'll just be too big of a pain in the ass client for what you charge and your process :) - I would totally understand.
Then I explained the things that were troubling me and ended by saying:
How would you like to proceed or would it be best to not move forward in partnership? Are my expectations just totally out of whack for what you do and how you like to partner and maybe I'm just not your ideal client?
What I really wanted at this point was for him to fire me as a client (and I thought he’d be relieved), but he didn’t take the bait. He found a way to address all my concerns (at the same price) and since I had already paid him to get started, I decided to give him a chance.
I was underwhelmed by the first blog post he wrote but brushed it off. I told myself that he’d learn my brand personality and more about my business over time. I edited the article and wrote detailed notes on why I changed what I did so he could take that into account for next time. I gave him the green light to publish and promote it while I was on vacation and start on the next one, along with the other setup he was planning to do.
I came back from vacation a few weeks later and realized that nothing had happened.
No blog post, no new article, no emails from him, nothing in the project management software, none of the additional setups he promised.
I decided it was time to end this.
In my email I told him:
I think this partnership just isn't optimal for either of us. Progress just seems to be stagnant no how many times we revisit getting started…Perhaps your ideal client is very different than me as well. I think at this point it's probably best if we settle-up and part ways.
Yep.. it's not a good match. I do specific things, in a specific way, using a specific process. You need something more custom.
That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!
Really?! Was he just now realizing this??
I had brought up multiple times how I was concerned that his process didn’t fit what I was looking for and how I didn’t think that I was his ideal client. Instead of agreeing and going our separate ways, he tried to bend his process to please me and then didn’t deliver.
I wasn’t pleased, and I will never refer anyone to work with him.
Maybe he’s a great marketer when he’s working with his ideal client using his tried and true process. But I can’t speak to that.
The work he did do most definitely took longer than what he priced it for. He probably also had to do things he didn’t want to do (and didn’t build his business around). Because of this he was likely resistant to the work I’d hired him for which was why we weren’t making any progress and things had stalled.
He should have fired me.
He likely knew that I wasn’t his ideal client from the moment I started asking questions. Yet, instead of accepting the fact that this would not be a good working relationship, he did what he could to convince me that he was the perfect marketer for me so that he could sign me as a client.
It didn’t take me long to realize it wasn’t a good fit, but every time I tried to convince him of that, he’d concede again.
I didn’t hire him to be a yes-man. I hired him to be an expert and tell me things I didn’t know and do things I didn’t have time to do. It ended up being more of a time and energy drain than either of us had anticipated. The work wasn’t profitable for him and it wasn’t working for me.
When you’re desperate for clients
When you’re working independently, it can be tempting to take on any work you can get, but if you pay attention, your gut it probably telling you which clients are bad news for you.
It doesn’t mean they’re bad people, it just means they’re not the right fit for you.
When you compromise this, you’re likely to experience more stress, work taking longer than expected, and being unable to deliver a great experience - which is not going to help you get more referral work, that’s for sure. You’ll also have less in the tank to do work with the clients who are a good fit.
If you think your client’s a pain-in-the-ass, they probably feel the same way about you and good things are likely not ahead for your partnership.
No one wants to provide a crappy client experience.
No one wants to get fired.
No one wants to ruin their reputation.
How can you avoid this?
Say no to work that isn’t with your ideal client.
Stay true to your expertise. If you believe your way is best for your client, don’t be a yes-(wo)man and give in just because they question you. If they have valid points, then by all means, you need to listen. But if they hired you to be an expert of something because they are not an expert, then it’s your job to convince them your way is best and then show them with your work.
Have an honest conversation with your client about parting ways and make it right. If your process still isn’t working for your client, it means (a) they aren’t your ideal client or (b) you need to work on your process (but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that it’s the former :)). Likely, they’ll be relieved to part ways as well. If you get to this point though, be sure to do what you can to make it right so they leave feeling good about you. This might mean refunding some or all of their money, referring them to someone else who is a better fit, or offering to help them in some other way to make up for it.
I was not my marketer’s ideal client and that quickly became apparent to me. He should never have tried to change his process just to get or keep me as a client. It made us both miserable.
Who knows, maybe he’s a great marketer from some businesses. But not mine.
Saying no to someone who isn’t your ideal client saves you BOTH heartache. So save your sanity and your reputation.
Don’t be the topic of someone’s lesson-learned future blog post like this. Instead, focus on getting clients who will rave about you because you were perfectly suited for each other.
Do you know who your ideal client is?
One of the key lessons of this story is to know who your ideal client is so you can avoid a bad working relationship with someone who isn’t your ideal client. If you aren’t super clear on who your ideal client is, read my article, How to Identify Your Ideal Client and download the corresponding free workbook to create your Ideal Client Profile below:
I’m Stacy, an entrepreneur, strategist, and adventurer dedicated to helping you build a kick-ass business out of your skills & passions. Why? Because I think you should love your life and that’s kind of hard to do if you don’t love your work.
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