I am amazed at how many times I’ve heard clients who have said “I have some work for you… it doesn’t pay well, but it will give you great exposure.” As though it’s an honor to be able to work for them, almost to the extent that we should pay them for the opportunity. Even more amazing is how many of those people actually believe that their exposure is so fantastic that consultants would be fools not to jump at the offer. It’s as though they think their affiliation is so valuable that doing business with them is like shaking hands in front of a crowd, and everyone will want to work with you because you work with them.
There was a time in my career where I was suckered into this lie. A time when I thought exposure was far better than great pay. But the truth is, clients with that mentality actually bring neither great pay, nor great exposure. What they bring is frustration and high demands. They want a Mercedes for the price of a Chevy. They want premium service to advance their business, not an opportunity to help you grow yours.
When they say, “it will give you great exposure,” what they’re really saying is, “I want this to give me great exposure.” And they come borderline close to adding, “I don’t really give a rip what you get out of it.”
If you’re a small business owner, particularly one who offers consulting-based services, recognize these problem clients right from the start. Watch out for phrases like, “we don’t have a lot of money,” “we think this could be a great opportunity for you,” “this will go like gangbusters,” or “we’ll be able to pay you once we get our seed capital, which is coming ______.”
Most of these people are perfectly well intentioned. Most of them actually believe what they’re saying. Most of them aren’t trying to defraud you. Most of them are wrong.