"Grinders" are getting me down
i've been assaulted all day long by the bottom 15%, or "GRINDERS"!!!!! Three separate clients have walked in (unscheduled), made ridiculous demands on my time, and not one of them has done a lick of preparation for these projects (which they need TOMORROW).
Where do these people come from? How do you get rid of them? I'm on the bottom of the ladder at the production firm/electronics store I work for, so all the Grinders get delegated to me. How should I broach the subject of sending them packing to my higher ups?
But how bad is it, you ask? Ok, here's a sample. Client X comes in with a VHS tape he needs dubbed to Beta. The guys in front direct him to the duplication department. X then tells them that he needs the commercials on his tape replaced with the ones he has on 2 Hi8 tapes. So they send him back to me in Editing. I look at the source tape, find out which commercials X wants to get rid of. Then we look at the Hi8's and find that there are not edited commercials on them, but in fact HOURS of unedited footage from which we need to MAKE commercials. Oh and we need to record some voice-overs for them too. But we don't have a script, of course.
Without having even made an appointment with us, X expects me to edit 4:30 worth of commercials for him without a script, place them into two of his 30 minute programs, dub them to Beta for broadcast (yeah, this yahoo is actually on the air), and have it all done by tomorrow afternoon. And he expects not to pay more than $150 all said and done.
It's days like this that I REALLY wish i could tell the client that a lack of perparation on their part does not equal an emergency on mine.
Calgon, take me away.....
I am sorry that you had a frustrating day. I have some rather strong feelings about work and clients that may help. Relax and try to open your mind to these ideas:
The client has the right to be wrong. The client has the right to be wrong-headed, unprepared, and just plain silly. Our job is to overcome any shortcomings the client may have and send them home at the end of the day with work that will make them heros. When is it an emergency? Anytime the client thinks it's one. We are in a SERVICE industry. I think we also have an obligation to share what we know with our clients to help them achieve better results in a more efficient manner, but in the final analysis, our job is to serve. If we do this, if we provide outstanding service, everything else will work out.
Does this mean that every client is worth having? Perhaps not, but any client who pays his/her bills, doesn't steal the furniture, and does not physically harm me is most welcome at my shop. OK, so maybe I won't work for the American Nazi Party, but you've got to go pretty far to get thrown out of one of my suites.
Who sets your rates? On what planet is the price for all that editing $150.00??? My guess is the guy who sets the rates is also responsible for scheduling at your place. I don't see how anyone can stay in business with that kind of deal, but please let me know if you've made such a discovery.
I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but if you want to be an Editor, wouldn't you rather edit spots from scratch than assemble something someone else had done? Now, if you are being slammed with a lot of overtime, you should expected to be well paid for it. Still, Editors edit; that's what they love to do.
This probably is not what you expected or wanted to hear, but I've been learning this business for a long time and hope you will at least consider my thoughts. If you can turn just one of your "bad" clients into a great client, think how wonderful you'll feel; furthermore, that client will very likely never forget your help.
I promise you that an unbridled spirit of customer service will take you further than you can imagine.
I have to give Kristen a little support here. I work for a company that is always getting milked (a.k.a. Dairy Graphics) on projects that were presented as "I just need this one little thing done".
$5000 full blown 2x :30 video bid projects with multiple outside vendors creep up to projects the should have been $15,000 to $20,000. I can make video projects look like film, so when there is no budget we are ask to bid. But, low and behold there is a $25,000 to $50,000 16mm or 35mm project we aren't even ask to the table. Shame, shame since we are pro's all the way from print to multimedia to video to film.
As long as the client uses us extensively, I can see the previous post because the low-ball will be made up in other projects. It did sound, however, more like a MacDonald's drive-thru or was that 'MacDonald's drive-by' rather than a 'Let's all get together at Ruth Chris's Steak House to discuss the project, because I like to keep the major players in-the-loop'.
Ron Lindeboom's (SP?) grinders term is perfect, because when I was in the Navy riding Nuclear Submarines homebased in Groton Conn., the pizza boys would come through the barracks yelling "Grinders from Great Oaks!" to sell us unsold pizzas and grinders (submarine sandwiches-go figure) that couldn't be delivered or sold because of bogus orders or bad addresses.
And for this I and my fellow shipmates kept the Soviet horde at bay.
My 2 cents
There are some wonderful comments in this thread being made by all the participants but some things said only allude to the brighter side of the service provider/client equation.
To paraphrase the Bard: "Oh that it wert so easy to educate all thatst climbest through me windows."
I have used many a technique over the years to salvage and reposition a client to take them from being a basement dweller into one whose expectations are more in line with reality and whose wallet is inevitably lighter for the experience. But for fear of leaving the impression in this thread that seems to make it appear that everything is up to us ... oh that it wert such. (It's that Bard thingie again.)
When I wrote "Clients and Grinders" it was not intended to serve as anything more than just a look at the preliminary stages of the negotiation process. It was not intended to be the only or last word on the process -- it was just meant as a technique that allows pros to quickly get a mental cue of the type of person you are dealing with. How you take it from there was and is a matter of training, experience and expertise in your business and in your ability to work with people.
I have "repositioned" quite a few Grinders in my time -- but not all of them. Kathlyn would tell you that she sometimes laughs at some of the techniques I use to move people from one strata of the overview contained in the "Clients or Grinders" article, to another. But sometimes, the level of resistance is just so great that I have to make the call and answer the question...
"Is every client worth having?"
For me, the answer is no. No matter the degree of my ability to remain fluid, agile in the process of business, etc., etc., -- there will always be some whose personality traits are far more entrenched than your ability to move them. If that were not the case, I fear that every successful businessman or woman would have a successful marriage and healthy well-balanced children. It isn't the case.
I have had clients whose sense of business was so egregious that no rate card level could redeem them. (Not many but there's been a few in my 51 years of sucking oxygen from the sky.)
"Clients or Grinders" was never meant to be the end of the story or the last, definitive word on dealing with clients. It was simply a means to quickly discerning the basic fundamental principle of many people's personality make-up -- and then, from there, allow a much more fluid strategy to be developed quickly.
Just to clear up some seemingly impugned trait in the article that I never implied nor intended.
The best always,
Grinders can be educated. At least all of the Grinders I’ve ever worked with can be. Here’s how I would have put together this guys commercial for about $150, and make money doing it.
The client comes in with a ton of footage, no logs, no script, no graphics and says I need to make this commercial. I say to him “Ok, tell me what you want the commercial to say in 25 words or less.” He fumbles around for about 5 minutes trying to explain his idea. I patiently listen. I say, “Ok, how much time do you want to dedicate to this project?” He says “I don’t know.” Now, here comes the educate part, I say “What’s your budget?” and he says “One hundred and fifty dollars.” Without cracking a smile, or a grimace, or a ‘gee what an idiot’ look I say to him, “You know that our rates for editing are $150 dollars per hour. Do you have your own tape stock?” He says “Wow, that much,” or “you’ve got to be kidding,” or “Ok.” Step one of his education has just been completed. At this point, he either goes away or says, “When can we start?” or “Good bye.”
It’s time for step two. You say “Ok, let’s start a work order.” Here’s the most important part. Say, “If we’re going to be able to hold to your budget you’re going to have to help me. There’s a lot of footage to go through. It’s obvious that we won’t have time to look carefully at all of your footage. Do you have a budget for a voice over talent? Do you have a place where you can preview the footage and write up a shot sheet? Can you write up a script? What about dub stock?”
He answers no to every question. Your reply: “Ok, we’re going to make you a special deal here.” With pencil in hand you say and write down the following:
Dub stock $35.00
We’ve got a room you can use to look at the tape and write down a shot list. It usually
goes for $25 / hour, but because you’re a new client, this time, I’ll give it to you for $15 (write it on the work order) if you can use it right now because the room isn’t booked and I’d like to help you out. We can also record your voice over. After you’ve written down your basic script I’ll record the VO for you, but you’ll need a VO talent. The going rate for professional talent in our area is $150 per spot. That will push us over budget, but you can arrange your own talent, or do the voice over yourself. Our audio recording booth is $50/hour. The other thing you need to think about is background music. We have a music stock music library with clips that are $30 per drop. (write it down on the work order) You can pick a tune while you are reviewing your tape.” You look the client squarely in the eye. There is a long pregnant pause.
At this point he either gives up on the idea because he can’t afford it, decides he has to throw more money at the project, or he will do the VO himself. Step two complete. Make sure he signs the work order. You point him to the viewing room and wish him good luck.
It should be easy to see where this is going. After he spends the first hour in the viewing room making notes and trying to come up with a script, you poke your head in and ask how it is going. About a half hour later, you poke your head in and offer a cup of coffee. If he is making progress, all is well. You take a quick look at the script and tell him that he is going to have to pick no more than 3 or 4 shots for his commercial because that’s all the time he is going to have to complete his spot and keep it on budget. He quickly finishes the writing and decides on the music. You take a look at what he’s got and, even though it’s terrible, you say “Ok, let’s go record your VO.”
After recording the VO, you take pull out the work order and pencil in the charges so far.
Dub Stock: $35
Music Drop: $30
Preview room rental: 3 hours @ 15 = $45
VO recording: ½ hour @ $50 = $25
On the way to the edit booth you run a quick sub total. $135. You show this to the client. He gives up on the idea, you have him on the hook for $135 and you’ve spent no more than 45 minutes with him, and all of the charges are entirely his fault. (I don’t know, is fault the right word? Maybe it should be responsibility.) If he decides to keep going you have to get a commitment right there and a signature on the work order that authorizes you to exceed the budget because there’s only $15 dollars left in the budget and that works out to 6 minutes of editing time.
You go into the edit suite and quickly digitize the 6 shots he wants in the commercial, create a closing title slide. You put a dissolve between each shot because the client doesn’t know how to pick shots that will cleanly cut together. You work very quickly and after a half hour the spot’s in the can. Checking the time you pencil in the final charges. $75. The spot’s complete for $210. The client looks at the spot and decides one of two things.
1. There’s really a lot more to this than I thought. It’s going to take a lot more money to make this commercial look good and be effective.
2. This guy (you) is horrible and I’ll never come here again.
Either way you win. You’ve been fairly compensated for your time and the client either leaves forever or commissions you to do a better job for him that he is willing to pay for. This has worked for me every time. Sure, cranky clients are still cranky, and demanding clients are still demanding, but they’ll either pay you for your time or go away. The only thing you have to do is decide how much it is going to cost the client to be cranky. The most important part of this scenario is that you’ve never rude, unkind, dishonest, or unprofessional. If the client decides that you’re an idiot and refuses to pay, you’re only out an hour and fifteen minutes, he’s wasted the better part of his day, he has no TV commercial in his hand, and he’s gone forever. You’ll never have to deal with him again. That’s worth an hour of my time any day. If he has learned that these things take time you’ll be on your way to a relationship with a client that can be profitable for both of you. If he thinks you’re an idiot and pays for the job, you’ve made almost $200 for your hour and a half, he’ll tell everybody he meets that you’re an idiot but that won’t matter because everybody he deals with all ready knows that he is the idiot and you’ve got thousands of other opportunities to do good work.
Thank you, Rick,
You not only got it exactly right, you spelled it out step by step. Taking an unsophisticated client through the process makes them better clients and everybody wins.
The only thing I can think of to add is an offer to help the client properly prepare for the next project so he doesn't wander in so totally unprepared. This is also a way to tell him you appreciate his business and perhaps schedule regular work.
Now if I can just get you to raise a few of your rates... :-)
Love to raise the rate to raise the rates... but I think in a small studio with and a basic editing setup for basic stuff that $150/hour is about right. I charge from $25/hour for clerical to $250 for full service with equipment. Wish I had a piadfor HD system so I could get the big bucks and keep most of it...
The most important thing that I've found in dealing with my clients is to keep them informed in writing about the progress of their projects. It's impossible to keep quiet about the number of hours, or the problems, or the change orders and then just tack extra charges on the bill when the jobs complete.
Your posts illustrate a point that we sometimes forget. Most clients really are hiring a person (or specific people) to work on their project, instead of just hiring the equipment.
You pointed out that you charge for clerical tasks. Even though it's not a substantial amount of money, it demonstrates to your client that your company's time is what is being purchased.
In the past, I've fallen into the trap of charging X amount for post production, then getting stuck with less of a profit margin (or no margin at all) because I forgot to allow for things like the time that I spend after the session dealing with paperwork for that project.
Every minute of our day is imporatant. If you weren't working on their project, you could be working on another. (Or working on getting another.)
Sure, we can charge more for the time that we are actually sitting behind the editing equipment, because we are specifically trying to cover the costs of that equipment, but let's not neglect the rest of the time that we are trying to help the client get what they desire.
I used to joke that when I played drums, I played the shows for free. I charged all the money for setting up and tearing down the equipment. (When I finally had someone else setting up the equipment, I said that I charged for the practice sessions that I had to attend before the show.)
Rick, you made a good point (as you have in the past) that we shouldn't neglect the rest of the time (outside of actually pushing buttons) that we spend working with the client to help them get their best product.
Those interested in keeping accurate track of billing for time and materials will love a new program called "be-Creative" by be-Accountable in Reno. The reasonably priced program is aimed more at designers and agencies but is very adaptable to production companies, large and small. I've been using it for a couple of weeks now and it is FANTASTIC! You can keep up-to-the-minute track of time and materials involved in over a hundred current projects as well as all contact information on all of your clients. It does not invoice but will let you print out a detailed report of each project and all costs involved. Contact Jeremiah J. Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website (be-accountable .com)
I was mostly kidding; our base edit rate (Avid Media Composer or FCP less Combustion) is $150.00 as well, and I think that's fairly standard. Really, I was thinking of the audio rates... with today's far less expensive NLE's an audio suite is roughly comparable in cost to the facility, the audio engineer (why do we still call them that?) is certainly as skilled as an Editor, yet we all charge substantially less for the audio suite.
We finally raised the audio rate to $100.00, but that's still not fair in my opinion. On the other hand, at my place an audio suite is an enhancement rather than an operation that must stand on it's own, so we enjoy the synergy it brings to us and we do make a modest profit there. We do have an incredibly talented Composer in the room... perhaps I should rethink the rate in that room...
Rick that was a Brilliant Bloody Brilliant post
I had never realized until reading ypur post that I already do some of the steps you mention.
My line is " Well video starts at about a $1000.00 a minute and up from there. You know that ( fill in blank) spot well that cost 16 gizzllion dollars but I'm sure we can work something out"
I'm with you grinders are not always bad news aand can be trained . Plus the added advantage is that they will remain loyal once educated as they fear going anywhere else and looking really stupid,
Andy - In awe of Rick's cunning - Stinton
Blush . . .
I’m glad to be here. I hope that I occasionally can help out.
The point of my post (which I did get a little carried away with) was to get “Grinders” to leave on their own. I’ve found that if I tell them to go away they keep coming back. Only a few of mine have been educated and turned into regular clients. Most have taker personalities and are a pain to deal with on every level. I’d just as soon not ever see one come through the door. The ones that you really have to watch out for are those that ware sheep’s clothing. They are happy, up-beat, enthusiastic and have great skill at diverting any discussion of money and time. They’ll give you a hot towel, lather up your face, and then, just before the last stroke from your Adams Apple to your chin, they’ll dull the razor, roll up their sleeve, flex a couple of times, and rip your whole face off. You’ll never see it coming and you walk out of their shop bleeding money all over the place. Sometimes, after a month or two, you’ll even go crawling back for another shave because the hot towel felt so great.
Nick, Tim, Andy, and Leo probably never fall into this trap… I can tell, by the way they protect their chins.
Rick actually I have fallen into that trap, but don’t anymore being of a wary and cynical nature.
Here is where I perhaps differ, as quite often I’m the one doing the face ripping……Razors in clients and ex wives hands are dangerous.
Should these lowlife pond scum even intimate that they want an unreasonable deal. I point out to them ( with great feigned arrogance ) that price seems to be their key word not quality . I am a quality shop and should their project be totally ruled by unrealistic prices. I will give them the names of some cheap wedding videographers, who have a 15 year old linear suite in the basement of their homes and can meet their ridiculous prices.
By now I’m in full flight and my razor like tongue continues.
I also point out that while I will give them a break on price I will not give them my PROFIT … Yes there it is, out on the table that terrible word that all business men respect and worship. It’s usually at this point that the grinder looks a little sheepish and in some cases starts becoming really interested in his footwear.
Unmercifully I continue with my factual but viperous barbs ……
I will also not injure my reputation for quality by putting out substandard work. However if the grinder wants to represent his business in that fashion that’s fine with me but I will not be a part of the project.
Sounds tough? It is but it works. I never hear the word price anymore, they get a good video which reflects their product well and they come back again and again. The reason that they come back again is simple. When they show the video to their friends associates and clients ( three different groups if they are true grinders) they receive a positive reaction which boosts their insecure egos.
You see it’s all about ego. Had I given in on price they would be running around telling their friend ( singular) about how they got their video made for $1.25 and a cup of coffee. They must have something to boast about or they are not happy campers.
True, not many want me around to their house for dinner but their cheque cashs just fine.
You guys are all professionals who treat people with respect. The real low life grinder does not work within that paradigm and the mistake that many of you are making is by expecting professional behavior from the guy. Wrong, by nature he is a disrespectful bully that has no real sensitivity, however he will respect someone fighting back, most bullies do.
Terms are simple 50% down 25% on first draft and 25% plus expenses on delivery of final project. The 50% down guarantees that I cannot lose money.
This course of action is not for the fainthearted, but will insure you of a source of income when those big jobs are not around…Think of it as guerilla warfare or as Bush would put it “War On Grinders”
Jeez, try to get some real work done for a few days and a great thread pops up. Teach me to get my priorities straight.
If I am understanding Rick's posts correctly he has seperated the un-educated client from the true grinder. His approach to steping them through a process of seeing beyond their unreasonable expectations is suberb.
All of us in sales (which, like it or not, tends to be an important part of most of us do) has to remember that it is not our job to solve EVERY problem. We solve problems with video, graphics, audio, scripts, concepts, etc. It is NOT our job to solve the client's budget problems. We can certainly talk them through it, as Rick has done. We can offer suggestions and insights, as Rick has done. But the client must be the one who comes up with the budget solution. (Didn't Andy in an earlier post say something about the client made the choice between hot hors d'ouvres and a better video?)
It's also good to see the recognition that there are some people who simply can't or won't change.
In my experience they haven't been so much bullies as "guilters" and "pressurers". Maybe you know the type, "Just help us out on this one and..."; "You know we do one of these every year and if you can just work with us this year..."; and the ever popular, "Take care of me this time and I'll make sure that you get a shot at...
The pattern is almost always the same. Some ill-defined promise of future benefit for a present day concession. I've been self-employed for nearly three decades and I think I can count on one hand the numbers of times that a client has delivered on these kind of promises.
"Just help us out on this one and..." And what? You'll let me loose money on a few more?
This whole thread makes me truly appreciate the good, non-problem clients I've had over the years. It also reminds me how important it is to keep them happy and coming back.
Alright. Back to work for me for a few more days. Congrats to everyone who is helping to make this such a helpful and robust discussion!
Kathlyn and I laughed reading your strategy, Rick, because we've used the same strategy over the years except that we tend to use what we call "change order slips" to add even more drama to the method.
We also use the "put the pencil to paper" trick because it QUICKLY establishes the rules of the game and makes it clear as to how the process works and who is in control. We pencil out some basic charges and the services included at these price points and quickly lay out an estimated rate based on these estimated servces, along with the times involved in each, etc.
But whenever *anything* exceeds the limits established in the base rate forecast, then the magic "Change Order Slips" come into play and each slip is signed by the client to authorize the additional service level and cost.
As I have noted here on this forum in the past, another variation on this theme is the use of the "trade you this for that" strategy...
Using it, whenever a client starts pushing for something that you know isn't in the forecast and yet they still want to hold you to the original estimate, then it's time to play the ole TV gameshow ... "I'll Trade You This, for That!"
We'll key in on the estimate and tell them that if we are going to stay within the estimate, we'll have to drop this and this to make it work using this new thing that you want added. (The pencil and paper used with drama and flair here, is key. Also, knowing when you shove the paper over to them and then wait silently for their answer -- and remember the First Law of the Close: He who speaks first loses. If you jump in to break the intensity of the silence, you will be the one making the compromises. Wait them out.)
Great post, Rick. Have we told you lately how much respect we have for you??? ;)
The best always,
Ron & Kathlyn Lindeboom
I've used the be quiet and wait them out strategy without even realizing that that is what I've been doing. I just learned years ago that if I asked for the order and then jumped in before they answered because things got uncomfortable, I almost never got the deal. If I just let things sit, they'd either commit or they'd not. Game over, either way.
Remember when "The Art of War" was required reading for businessmen?
I know the current "business self-help fad" has drifted away from that "paradigm", but it doesn't hurt to go back sometimes & do some reading.
Staying silent and waiting for the opponent to make his/her move is still sometimes the best advice. Even though I usually think of clients as "partners" during the actual edit sessions and shoots, sometimes I still need to remind myself that, when negotiating, their number one priority is usually themselves.
There have been times that I've been way too guilty of letting people get away with things that I shouldn't because I don't want to seem like an ____(insert word of choice here).
Over time, I've realized that while being friendly is generally an asset, having enough confidence in your abilities to be able to say no is equally important.
Like some of you, if I don't have enough time to make something look good, I have a tendency to want to work throught the night, on that last 10% that makes the difference between an o.k. product and one that I can be proud of.
These days, the one of the last things I want to be doing at 3:30 in the morning is working for a client who won't appreciate my lost sleep.
There are times (after all these years) that I still think that it's worth it to go the extra miles uncompensated, but I'll have to admit that they are few and far in between compared to the old days.
Have I lost my hunger? Maybe. Do I feed my family? Better than I used to. And now, I actually get home in time to sit down with them most days.
If you are going to give things away in your negotiations, make sure that it really is your choice to do so, then if what you have negotiated becomes a headache, you can only blame yourself.
Rick: Well spoken. I have dreamed of holding a client's feet to the fire, as it were.
But, you forgot one thing: "...they’ll either pay you for your time or go away." There is a third option they have. To not pay you.
Granted, you have their signature authorizing the charges *maybe,* and they could deny any explanation you gave them verbally. But, if you're a small business, now you have to go thru the time & effort to extract the money.
Good thread, gang!
My simple solution for not paying - they don't walk out with the tape. We will never hand over any materials to a new client that hasn’t proven to be reliable. No member of my crew ever walks off the set on the last day of shooting without a check and I expect to be treated the same way by my clients.
Not too long ago we were working on the second project for a new client. The first one went ok, but a few “grinder” traits had started to surface. This second project revealed more "grinder" tendencies. At the end of the shoot, as we were wrapping up, he asked for the tapes. We asked for the check. He said, “You can come by tomorrow, after I've had a chance to check the tapes, and pick up the check, but we need then tonight so we can start editing.” We said we would bring the tapes by at 8 AM and he should have a check ready. The disgruntled client stormed off the set. The next morning he wanted the tapes so he could check them. If they were OK then he would write us a check that afternoon. We said no check, no tapes. He said, "If I have to write you a check before I see the tapes we're all through." We said "Fine, that’s your choice." He wrote the check, we handed over the tapes, and then about an hour later he called to complain about the quality. The levels were off and the audio was bad. He was on set during the entire shoot, he directed every take, he had a broadcast monitor in front of him and headphones available to check audio so any problems were there for him to see at the time of the shoot. He approved the lighting, the camera setup and we never moved on to another setup until he was satisfied with what we had in the can. His editor, by the way, told me later, when I ran into him at Home Depot, that the client was thrilled and that he thought the spots looked better than any they had produced so far. We are not working for this guy any more, but we got paid. I wouldn’t work for him again if he offered.
Incidentally, his editor is sending out résumé’s because he can’t stand working for this grinder any more.
Great story. I had a similar experience with a movie producer who hired us to shoot some 2nd Unit footage at a Football game. Two 35 MM Arri's shooting for hours and some aerial stuff over the stadium.
All went well until the time came to receive the check and the client gave me a story like the one you got... "we'll have to check the film before we pay you." Our other shooter, a very decisive guy, said, "no check, no film." The client then offered to pay us half on the spot and the rest later, and my guy said, "which half of the film would you like?"
That did the trick and we got the money, but I never heard from them again. And, to the best of my knowledge, no feature was ever produced with our footage. By the way, they had their investors with them at the shoot, and I began to suspect that we were somehow an unwitting part of an elaborate confidence scam. Anyway, we got paid, and I had a good time shooting, however my team, which had been winning for the whole game lost it while I was de-rigging the camera from the helicopter mount.
What a business!
thank you for the fantastic "tutorial!" I'm actually going to print that out and show it to some of my co-workers and attempt to follow it next time I get ridiculous requests from a client.... This is why i love this board so much! Thanks again,
After about 15 years at this (I'm a pup next to most of the leaders in this particular hallowed cyberspace), I've come to the conclusion that this just isn't that complicated.
...it's complicated if you want everyone to like you all the time and work for every customer buying your type of service.
I used to do the exact same kind of thing that most of us do when we start and that's bend to get the work, bend to keep the client, show the client we're up to their "challenges" (businessmilleniumspeak for "Borderline Impossible Demands"), etc, etc.
I think that most of us assume that we need to do this to get over the "new guy" barrier to the marketplace, and it can help get some work. The trick to the whole thing is that many of those first clients are going to be clients that changed vendors for a (sometimes not substantially...) lower price. Yes, other than a few of those real gems of a client that do come along through beginner's luck or whatever, the startup company in this and many other service businesses typically starts with a client base full of "grinders". And usually we did it to ourselves.
I have a friend who is the same age as I am. We both own businesses. We've both owned them for around the same period of time.
It's interesting that while he just built a home that cost something just under a half million dollars (BIG bucks for an abode around these parts...) and he is now forced into looking for some peripheral market niches to expand his business into because he's dealing with the sheer trauma of being "out of debt"...I have my comfortable little house in my comfortable little neighborhood where I park my used cars and I have a long way to go before I will feel the emotional void left by no debt...
The difference? He's an MBA and his business is a business that he sees as a mechanism for making money. He does not do the "work" of the business, he runs it. I, on the other hand have built myself a job around what I like to do. This does not make for incredibly sober decision-making some days. When I go to NAB and see a cool toy, the problem is I can buy it. I have to justify it to myself of course, but that's it. If a client wants a discount, I have the power to give it (and in the past have given in on that one far to often...). My business is as much who and what I AM as it is where I work...and that can be a difficult thing to deal with objectively.
I've made more than my share of mistakes over the years with this type of no-win clientele. Even after all this time, I'm still really just getting the simple fact that time I waste on a "grinder's" project can be invested in a client's project who really IS a partner instead of just talking about it. Life's easier, business is easier, and it's such a simple idea...