BUSINESS BUILDING: The Strangest Requests Clients Have Ever Asked Me To Do
And debuting my first product!
It’s another day, another addition of the Frolics
I’m, as always, Ellen “Jelly” McRae, the writer/solopreneur/content creator/whatever you want to call me, with the goods.
By trade, I write ‘💜 1 Lovelock Drive 💜’ and romanceship articles using my experiences.
To my faithful, welcome back. I’ve missed you!
If you’re new to my blogletter, I’m pretty happy you’re here. Stay a while, get to know me, and come with me as I stuff up life, make amazing and dumb-ass career decisions, and share my *cough cough* wisdom.
Let’s Bring You Up To Speed
The last time we spoke, I talked to you about finding my path. And I want to thank everyone who contacted me to congratulate me. It means the world to me. The moment isn’t lost on me; figuring out the path you want to spend the rest of your life on is a big deal.
And yes, I may have had a glass of champagne or two to celebrate!
I wanted to share the first step of the plan. I’m launching my first book!
A long time ago, I vowed as a writer to follow the traditional method of being published. For all the non-writers out there, it goes something like this:
Write a draft
Re-write the draft a million times over
Submit the draft to as many publishers as possible
Cross every finger and toe in the hope someone will see some value in your draft and offer to publish it
There is a lot of time involved in that plan, and a lot of hope that things go your way. It’s 2022, and I’m not living off hope (or other people’s input in my success).
I was never into self-publishing. That’s the alternative to the traditional method I outlined. I’ve always harboured this feeling that self-publishing doesn’t mean you’re any good. You don’t have any validation from the publishing world, so how do you know if your writing is any good?
Fuck validation. That’s where I’m at now. Waiting for validation has been like waiting for perfect timing. It doesn’t exist, and you can wait your whole life for it.
I’m done waiting. I’m going self-publishing, but with a twist. More to come.
For all those who are new here, this is why I don’t rely on other people’s input for my success ⬇️
Am I ready to own a business?
I have been asked this question a lot lately. I think the post-pandemic world has forced many of my friends to re-evaluate their abhorrent working conditions. For the past three weeks, I’ve had at least two people come to me to pick my brain about getting started on their own.
I said the same thing to all of them, by the way.
I can’t tell you if you’re ready or not.
But what I can do is prepare you for the weird and wonderful customer requests that I experienced in my time as a customer-facing freelancer.
Though customers are only one facet of running and owning a business, they are part of my litmus test theory. Most people think the worst thing about running a business is the laborsome work you have to do. The grind. For me, it’s the customers.
I don’t mean having customers or helping them, because when I was freelancing, that was what I lived for. No. It’s how they test your patience, perseverance and confidence.
If you can survive:
What customers throw at you
What customers expect of you
How customers push your button
How they challenge you to be better at what you do
… then you’re in the right position to own a business. You might just have what it takes.
So when talking to these people in my life recently, I shared with them some of the weirdly wonderful customer stories from my freelancing days. Here’s what I told them:
I was once given a ten-page brief for a five-hundred-word article.
Though I don’t love the idea of being entirely responsible for content creation, I discovered micromanagement can be worse. Yet this wasn’t micromanagement; it was a weird perfectionism no writer could ever fulfil.
And no surprise, they didn’t like anything I wrote.
A client demanded a blog article, at a seven hundred word count, with the entire piece composed in Haiku.
I didn’t know what to say when the email landed in my inbox. I thought it was a joke, and responded with jesting and good humour.
The client didn’t take too kindly to me poking fun at their very serious demands. I probably shouldn’t have responded like this, but it was impossible to not laugh. It was that or pull my hair out in frustration.
One of my long-standing clients requested, with great kindness, that I reduce my writing fee.
As they were a business that funnelled work to me each week, I entertained the conversation. When asked to reduce my fee by 90%, I couldn’t contain my laughter.
Or how offended I felt. I had to remind myself this wasn’t personal and everyone has the right to ask. I don’t have to say yes, which I didn’t.
A client came to me with a full set of blog articles they wanted me to write, except the list wasn’t ideas.
They were articles of other contemporaries they wanted re-written. Copying, plagiarism, in the most unapologetic form. This wasn’t unusual; most clients have inspiration for their work. But their request was to tweak the stolen articles in such a minor amount, they would never pass a plagiarism checker.
I respectfully declined. That was the day I realised how steadfast I was in my standards.
My long-standing client said I could write on any topic I like for their fashion business, as long as it pertained to styling.
It was open enough but restrictive, in that I knew what they wanted. When I gave them ten completed drafts, they scolded me for writing “whatever I wanted”, despite each article being about fashion styling.
It was the most confusing and demoralising writing experience to date. But confusion is all part of the process. Nothing is straightforward as you think it should be.
My time frame for most of my freelancing content was two to three business days.
One customer asked me to write a 750-word article in ten minutes. It was less than a word per minute, with editing and research included in the ten minutes. This was the stuff of game shows; unreasonable tests of speed. But as the client said, “someone on Fiverr once did it for me this fast.”
Fiverr, the then bain of my existence. If people want it done cheap, they can pay for the cheap crap they will get in return.
And in the first place, holding the trophy for the weirdest, most bizarre request was for a set of articles about ‘house’.
I wasn’t provided with a website about the business, any keywords they needed featured, the needs for the article, or the vehicle. The client left me to guess their every intention. As it turns out, the client didn’t know what they really wanted. They had no marketing strategy for these blog articles, and I had zero ideas of how to proceed.
When I asked for clarity, they sacked me. You can’t be a mind reader, despite what customers expect of you.
Well, this sounds pretty crap?
I’m not going to lie when I say these experiences are the exception, not the rule.
But these are the experiences that I remember the most because they kept me up at night, forced me to question if I could actually survive running a business, and stopped me from continuing on that path.
It’s the reality of being a business owner. Parts of it are going to suck. That’s something we can guarantee.
If the idea of working with clients, customers, or fans scares you, here is what I know about pushing through the weird and wonderful that might happen:
What’s weird to you isn’t weird to them - Customers are people, and they are going to act like people who do unpredictable things. They aren’t aliens, so don’t think they’re going to act like them.
Some days will be better than others - Remember the exception and rule I spoke about before? You need to recite this every single day. When a rude, irate, ‘weird’ customer comes along, they aren’t like everyone else. If you assume everyone is like your worst customer, you kill your ability to keep going.
Customers pay your bills - Customers aren’t the enemy. They are your fuel. They are the reason you started the business, they are the ones who keep your business alive. Hating on the people who pay your bills is counterintuitive to the end game.
Find an endless supply of wine - You need a way of decompressing and relaxing post stressful and confusing customer experiences. And all business ownership experiences at that. However you do this, make sure it’s as important to your workday as everything else is.
Always Leave On A Song
I couldn’t stop playing this as I wrote this article. Not only is the beat seriously addictive, but it’s a humorous way to parody the idea of alien customers we have. Plus, it makes for a great drinking song, just saying.
You’ve freakin’ got this!
This journey isn’t the same without you. And I sure know you can’t find success without support, somewhere to vent, and people just like you. Join me here on The Frolics as we grow our careers together!
Ok, so this isn't enough for you?! Damn, I love your style! You can reach me and get more right here 👇