Tip #29: Don’t Confuse Caring For Your Clients With Carrying Them

When I re-branded RKA ink, I wanted to showcase what I do best, not just my menu web services but the quality of care I provide each and every client, hence web design with heart.

We love our clients! Out of this world personal attention at RKA ink

The type of online marketing services I offer my clients–website development, eBooks and product design, content writing, social media strategy–all revolve around relationship building. When putting up an eStorefront, it’s not enough anymore to simply house your information, you must display your products, services, and content in a way that makes your visitor feel something. That’s what I do best: I tap into each client’s message, personality, and talent to create online marketing tools that speak to visitors from the heart and to the heart. The more I invest in getting to know my clients, learning about their businesses and projects and sampling the special awesome sauce they add to the mix, the better I can help them tell their stories online.

But there’s another reason why I built RKA ink with plenty of extra heart–my business is the financial fuel behind my pro bono work as an artist + activist + awesomepreneur in southern Mexico (and hopefully Kenya–read my Awesomepreneurs We Love interview with Faith Odhiambo for more on Africa 2013). I wanted to weave love into every part of my life: from my acts of service to the services I provide.

Yet somewhere on my journey to live and work with heart, I began to blur the line between caring and carrying. Working as a self-funded activist in the poorest state in southern Mexico, I grew accustomed to busting out projects with no promise of a paycheck–so accustomed, in fact, that I avoided charging anyone for anything, even my clients.

Sure, I can add A, tweak B, and finish C at no extra charge! I’m the web designer that cares!

I “cared” so much and so often that I didn’t have time to care for myself or the community projects I had built my business to support. I “cared” my way to an empty bank account and stress-induced insomnia. I “cared” until I didn’t care. About anyone. Or anything. At all. I “cared” myself dry.

Or did I?

Last I checked, caring and martyrdom  are nowhere near each other in the dictionary. But carrying comes close and it might explain why I got so confused there for a while. When I feared charging my clients a fair price or saying “No” to free add-ons and extras, I wasn’t caring for my clients, I was carrying them–and crushing myself in the process. Though I had convinced myself I was serving my clients’ needs, I was actually doing them a disservice: all those unpaid bonus hours translated to blown deadlines and sloppy end products. The more I felt like I debtor, the less I billed, and we went ’round and ’round and ’round in that Circle Game until I was so dizzy, the best I could to do care for my clients was to avoid puking on them.

Step away from the Carry-go-Round.

In a month, I’ll be back in the mountains of Mexico, ready to dive heart first into my community work with the youth of Chalchihuitán. Just enough time to restore my depleted love tank so it is whole enough for my (he)artwork. In the meantime, I resolve to walk side-by-side with my clients, instead of voluntarily hoisting them all on my shoulders, praying I don’t collapse. Caring for someone, I’ve learned, doesn’t mean a lifetime of free piggyback rides.

Awesomepreneur Tip #29: Don't confuse caring with carrying

dude, it’s heartwork, not heart attack.

Tip #29 for working with heart – don’t confuse caring for your clients with carrying them.

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2 Responses to “Tip #29: Don’t Confuse Caring For Your Clients With Carrying Them”

  1. bridget
    November 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    YUP! Took me a while to learn that it’s OKAY TO SAY NO if a project is not worth your while. It’s also okay to expect to be paid for your hard work. When you devalue your product/skills by underpricing or going beyond scope without complaint or fee, your client’s opinion of you is not improving… rather, they’re realizing they can get something for nothing from you and will run you ragged until you’re spent. I’ve realized that, now I just have to practice implementing it! All the best to you and your projects, Rachael. :)

    • Rachael Kay Albers
      November 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

      Thanks, Bridget! :-) I’m working on the JUST SAY NO message. One day at a time!

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