November 2011 - Digital Tool Factory blog November 2011 - Digital Tool Factory blog

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How bad clients drive out good clients – The Bad Client Series Part 1

Monster-men © by MShades

Have you ever said something similar to

  • “If only I had more time to work on that cool record store site before the deadline”.
  • “If only I had thought of that function before the client decided to buy that new software”.
  • “If only I hadn’t made all those stupid mistakes after working on that project for 20 consecutive hours”.

What causes all of these “If only” moments?  Bad clients.  How?  By taking up all of your energy so you can’t spend it on your good clients.

It’s a lack of energy, not time

You only have a limited amount of time per day –  24 hours worth per day.  You should be billing for your time, and you probably are.

You also only have a limited amount of energy per day – far less than 24 hours worth per day.   Probably far less than 8 hours worth per day (It is not easy to bill for your energy – if you have a good method, please leave it in the comments).

Happily no one needs to be “on” for eight or more hours a day.  All of us go through our working lives in  peaks and valley of mental exertion and that is the way it should be.  The real question is – how are you spending your peak energy?

Are you using that energy to produce something?  Or are you using it to stay awake while the client tells the story of his childhood trip to Michigan?  Or are you using your peak energy to create that new ticket ordering system or new logo?  Or are you using your energy to hold your tongue while the client goes on yet another political rant?

Here’s a hint – if you are expending energy for a client and you produce something, you have a good client.  If you expend energy for any other reason you have a bad client.

Warning signs of bad clients

You have a bad client if they

  • Yell, scream and throw things (No, this is not a myth, I’ve seen it)
  • Try to renegotiate the contract midway through project for no reason (it’s a unbillable use of energy to deal with)
  • Are eager to talk about religion or politics while at work
  • Answer every request for details by telling you how important the project is
  • Respond to every question over a period of weeks while not actually answering your question
  • Disparage and praise your predecessor in the same meeting.
  • Ignore the chain of command and lean on your subordinates directly
  • Have a methodology they created at their last job that they just assumed was an industry standard (and tell you about at the last minute)
  • And many others (please put them in the comments)

The above items are but a small sample, but even if (and you should be) getting paid for the experience of them, they still consume energy that you could spend making something wonderful.

An Example

My last real job had many talented designers.  The one who did the best work was not the most talented, but rather a designer who had a somewhat inflated but fanatically held belief in her creative prowess.  She carried herself as a breed apart, and above the corporate fray.

No one bothered her with excessive emails, distractions or temper tantrums because they knew they would not affect her, because she was so “creative”.  As a consequence, she could spend all of her energy doing great work, which she did.  The rest of them had to endure endless meetings, change orders and “branding discussions”.

I did not recognize the brilliance of this strategy at the time, but I do now.

How bad clients drive out the good clients

If you are spending all of your energy on unproductive work for your bad clients, what do you have left for your good clients?  Bupkus, that’s what.  It’s a horrifying investment of time.  Sadly they go away and find other vendors, leaving you stuck with the bad clients.

In economics, this is known as Gresham’s Law – where bad money drives out good money.  The same principles apply (broadly speaking).

This is part one of the series, the next will be on how to quantify bad clients.

PS – I love my existing clients,  I have had bad clients, and I have gotten rid of them over the years.  My current client base is small, but good.


Editor’s Note

This blog post originally appeared on the Profit Awareness Blog – as that app is up for sale, it has been consolidated into the main Digital Tool Factory blog.

Nov 11

Written By Steve French


Hiring a copywriter – A surprising insight from the CopyHackers book

Yesterday I wrote a quick review of the Copy Hacker’s books.  Today I found myself contemplating either writing the copy myself on the eventual main site for Profit Awareness, or hiring a copywriter.  I was surprised because the Copy Hacker’s books do a great job of telling you how to write copy – and I am a cheap do it yourself-er.

Another printing press at villa d

Showing the importance of copywriting

I thought a bit more about it, and I realized that (prior to reading the book) I had not even thought about the copywriting, and had assumed that the words would just appear on the page.  After all, a product page should describe the product, right?  The thought of hiring a copywriter was as foreign as hiring an alchemist.

I did not consider the copy a separate part of the process, and something to be crafted, but rather an offshoot of the site’s conceptual theme.

After reading the book(s) I now understand these important things:

  1. Your website needs a message
  2. Messages need to be crafted
  3. Copywriting is essential to crafting that message
  4. I can probably write adequate copy
  5. Copywriting can be a lot of work for me
  6. I can identify a good copywriter
  7. I can manage a good copywriter tolerably well.

Doing it myself or hiring a copywriter

My innate stinginess will probably win, and I will write the copy for myself, but at the moment I am split on hiring a copywriter or not.  I am now convinced of how important copywriting is.   In either case, there will be some copywriting going on.

Giving it away

The important thing I learned is that if you give away your methods, people will see the value of your craft, and they see how essential it is.

By convincing the potential buyer (in this case, me) of the value of the whatever it is you’re selling, your craft transforms from an unknown element to an essential element.  Giving away the secrets of your craft is the best way to show how essential your craft is, which creates demand.

Now I want to write my own book on the bundle of services I provide and it to potential clients.


Editor’s Note

This blog post originally appeared on the Profit Awareness Blog – as that app is up for sale, it has been consolidated into the main Digital Tool Factory blog.

Nov 11

Written By Steve French


Copy Hackers book review – go get it now

Short Version of the Copy Hackers Book Review

These books rock – go buy them now.  They will pay for themselves in an hour or so.  That is all you need to get from this copy hackers book review.

Long Version of the Copy Hackers Book Review

Copy Hackers at work

ep66mnl © by Ed Passi ©

I heard Joanna Wiebe’s interview on TechZing and I was intrigued.  A good friend recently suggested that I consult a branding expert to refine my offerings.   I liked that idea.

However I’ve never met a branding expert (and I’ve met many) who was anything other than a talented high end salesman.   Their “branding” efforts consist largely of repeating what you say back to you and ending it with an impassioned plea to “make the hard choices”, which only you can do.   The choices are just as hard as they were before you met the expert, but this way you’re out an hourly fee.

But I digress – a book on copy writing (which is not branding, I know, but something is better than nothing), seemed like an ideal middle ground between doing nothing and finding an expert.   And what a happy middle ground it is!

I bought the first book in the series “Where Stellar Messages Come From” and was thrilled to discover that it met the three golden criteria of work-related reading

  1. It was short
  2. It was well written, and on-topic
  3. It was actionable

The third point is the hardest to find.   I would put this book on par with the Start Small Stay Small by Rob Walling in terms of actionability.

In this book you will find both general strategy and specific worksheets for the specific things you will be doing while you read this book.  Did I mention you can do specific things after you read this book?  Things like determining which of your customers you are writing for, or splitting out benefits and features, or doing keyword research, or doing a content audit.  This book leaves you in a better spot than you were in before you read it, which is rare these days.

So anyway, this is the only Copy Hackers book review you need.  Go buy them now.


Editor’s Note

This blog post originally appeared on the Profit Awareness Blog – as that app is up for sale, it has been consolidated into the main Digital Tool Factory blog.

Nov 11

Written By Steve French


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