So, I just made a couple of big mistakes that I often warn others against doing. The silly thing was, that I KNEW what I was doing and thought – in my typically positive and trusting fashion – “It’ll be okay”. Guess what? It wasn’t okay, and it came right back and bit me on the hind quarters – and it STUNG LIKE CRAZY!
Here’s the low down… I had a phone call out of the blue from a past client. We had kept in touch over the period of time, so it wasn’t entirely a surprise that I heard from him. The replacement he had arranged after I had finished with him had become extremely ill, and he had a conference for about 40 people that he was running in a matter of days that he needed support with.
Mistake # 1: Despite the fact that I had “sacked” him as a client long ago for good reason, I threw caution to the wind, ignored my gut instincts, took pity on him and his plight, and agreed to assist him.
Now, this wasn’t just for a one-day event. No, no, no! This was for a week-long event which was in another city, and it included a visit to a hospital to get a brief and handover of conference coordination status with the ill assistant, a full day workshop at a conference venue, then stepping on a cruise ship for 5 days and assisting with running some other sessions on the ship.
Mistake #2: I put my reliable and lovely regular client base on the backburner to assist on this mercy mission.
Being on a cruise ship meant no guarantee of internet, so I let my regular guys know that potentially I would be off the radar for a whole week.
Mistake #3: I didn’t put a fresh Client Agreement in place, but instead relied on the proverbial “nod and a handshake”.
Before I agreed to the gig, this past client and I had a chat over the phone, and I said, “Look, that’s fine, but you’ll have to pay me for my hours worked” to which he said, ‘Yes, of course, that’s fine. Just send me the invoice and I’ll pay you.”
It was at this point that I SHOULD have sent through a fresh agreement to this past client. In the rush and excitement of it all, I let it slide. I thought, “Hey, we’ve worked together before. It’ll be right. He’s always paid me.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong…. So, wrong in fact that I am still kicking myself.
I booked and paid for flights, accommodation and meals in order just to get there, and once the gig started, I was basically at this guy’s beck and call during the next week, during which time I remembered with quite a deal of clarity why I had chosen to cease providing my services for him (but that’s a story for another time).
I sent through my invoice the day I got back, which included the direct costs I had incurred, plus the time I had worked exclusively on this job (remember, I couldn’t invoice my regular clients because I wasn’t able to provide them with any services during the time I was on the job with this one-off gig), and I waited…
To cut a long story short, I DID eventually get paid, BUT because I didn’t have an agreement in place and basically had no leg to stand on, I had to cut my invoice back considerably in order to recoup my costs. It turned out that there was a disagreement about the time I had invoiced – believe me, it was accurate and I would NEVER invoice falsely for time worked – and I ultimately had to wear it.
It goes without saying that I will never work for this guy again, however, the anxiety, stress and upset caused during the whole process was totally avoidable had I followed MY OWN RULES in the first place.
Moral of this story: Always, always, ALWAYS have agreements in place. No ifs, no buts.