A Client’s Greatest Fear – Why Some Clients Make the Leap, and Others Don’t

Recently I’ve had a client who stopped midway through when a website was 90% complete and started being totally impossible.

Basically he wouldn’t reply to my emails for 2 weeks, then come out of nowhere and complain that the website was running late.

He’d try to cause arguments and threaten me with mediation (even though I did nothing wrong).

At first, I was like, ok this client is insane, but now that I think about it – I have another theory, something a bit more “deep”.

I think secretly the client is afraid, and what he’s afraid of is not that this website that I’ll make for him will be a failure, it’s that the website will be a success.

Why would someone be afraid of that?

Well here’s my theory. I remember when my business started doing really well, and I was increasing my income and one week I made a lot of money – now granted this amount was from a bunch of jobs some of which had taken a month to do, but still it was cool to receive all that money in one week.

But instead of saying “Ok, cool, I made some good money this week, I’m going to go buy myself a nice chocolate bar and continue on” or something along those lines, I started sabotaging myself. The next week I hardly got any work done, I missed deadlines on purpose, and the reason – which I now understand from talking to my psychiatrist (which I see every week) – is that I had an idea in my head about how much money/success I could have, and if that number increased I felt that I was either:

a) Being a fraud/ripping off my clients

or

b) I was unworthy of the income and should do whatever necessary to put things back to the way things should be (the proper order order of the universe)

This type of mentality is really bad when it comes to being self employed – because some weeks you make good money and some weeks you may crap money, you can’t sit on your thumb when you have a good week because the next couple of weeks could be dry.

Anyway.

The point that I’m trying to make is – and this is going to sound a bit conceited, but I think when the clients went with me they didn’t expect to get the quality of work that they did, the website looked good, it functioned good, everything was setup. And suddenly they had to confront their fear that if this website were to go up, and they were to do the marketing they planned their income could increase quite a bit. And so this fired off their schemas (which is a psychological term for emotional critters that live in your brain and lie to you about reality – it’s a long story). So what does the client do? He needs to do something to stay at the level at which he’s all ready at – so one of the best ways to do that is to get on bad terms with your developer.

The one trait I see, the difference between the clients that I have that become successful (and long term clients that keep coming back for more stuff/upgrades for their site) vs. the ones that fall off is that the ones that get to the level where they should be are the ones that get over this initial fear.

It’s that fear when you’ve composed your message to say your new site is launched and you’re hovering your mouse over the ‘Send’ button in your email campaign manager, knowing it’s going to go to 5,000 people in your industry. Knowing that everything you worked for hinges on this moment, that you could have f$#@ed up and written a typo, and so you check your email 50 times before you send it (yet for me, for some reason there’s always a mistake I find right after the email is sent and it’s too late – which by the way is that schema playing up).

Anyway the point I’m trying to make is that some clients make that leap and get over their fear, and others get consumed by it. I think that’s the one biggest difference I can find. It’s not that some clients are incredibly intelligent, most businesses I work with don’t require a lot of brain power to operate – or at least not Einsteinein levels – but they do require you to use initiative and do what you’re not told to do.

And unfortunately for some, they’ll never get over their small fears, and will continue to play small, arguing with me over a $30 invoice to the point where I just chuck them – and they move on the next web developer and start the process all over again. I can relate because I’ve been there with the contractors I work with.

Playing small, thinking you’re not worth it are feelings that are so deeply embedded that most people would rather admit they don’t exist – and those people are the ones most susceptible to it. Those are the ones that never confront their fears – kind of like an alcaholic not admitting he has a drinking problem – and so they self sabotage the moment they get close to their goals, and that’s how they stay small.

This is just a phenomenon I noticed as I worked, and it’s something I’ve noticed in myself and this is my theory behind it ^^. Maybe you can look at your life and see how this relates to you, because it is definately something that I’ve had to (and still continue) to struggle with.