Biggest fuck up?
I’m the kind of person who can’t get to sleep at night—or I wake up randomly in the darkest hours—because at some point in the past 100 years, some twatbag of a client took me for a ride, and I’ve never gotten over it.
There are several former clients who invade my sleep in this way, and I wish I could say they were all from the early days when I was young, naive, and almost desperate to please clients in the hope of being taken seriously in business (oh the irony of that one). But sadly, once I’d learned from all my own mistakes (and the shithousery of shithouses) and put in place brilliant boundaries to protect myself and build a better business because of it, I have somehow, in the later years, suffered from bouts of ‘going soft’. For reasons that I can only put down to some kind of midlife crisis since I turned 40 earlier this year, I’ve lifted so many barriers that I’m considering getting a job in a car park.
Getting ghosted, going unpaid, and generally being run ragged by clients who almost go out of their way to convince you they’re doing you a favour by giving you work… it’s part of business, and it’s almost a rite of passage as a freelancer, in particular. I always learn from these experiences (blaming myself when necessary), but there are a handful of cases where the anger and blame lie solely with the client. For example, the ‘seven-figure property investor’ who still owes me £6k for promotional materials I wrote for him, and who was the reason that I wasn’t at home to spend any of the waking day with my little girl after she’d taken her very first steps the night before. His matters were urgent, after all. As I write this, I don’t know who I resent more – him or myself.
The red flag that was hidden by my inexperience and lack of self-worth was that this guy consistently banged on about all the money he had and all the travels he was able to go on, yet was always finding some reason to make a shitty dig at me for how much of an expense I was. I should have done what my little girl had done. Walked.
I fantasised for so long that the reason he’d seemingly fallen off the face of the earth and stopped returning my calls was that he was dead. Sadly, he’s still alive. But if the Google results on him are anything to go by, he’s likely to end up in prison or on Netflix any day now. Maybe then I can sleep.
I know I’m known for saying what I think (and most likely what many other people think, too), but honestly, that assumption is not 100% true. I keep some stuff to myself that I know wouldn’t just start fires but would more than likely douse them with vats of petrol. That’s the thing, though – much as I’m no advocate for bottling up your thoughts, mincing your words, or just plain walking on by to avoid a tricky conversation (or an even tricker person), I do believe that we need to learn how to respond, rather than react to other people online.
I could easily scroll through LinkedIn upon waking and have mentally ripped at least eight people’s throats out before my child’s even finished decorating the walls with her Weetabix, but that wouldn’t do anything for my mental health or my reputation, now, would it? Sadly, it’s not a social skill set many people have developed.
Social media was designed to connect us, but instead, I think it’s pushed us further away from people than we ever could have imagined. LinkedIn is probably the worst platform these days, as the people on there are supposed to be ‘educated’ (however you want to take that word) and also most likely hold a frightening amount of power in some realm or another. It’s a cesspit, though, and if we ever want to crawl our way out un-stenched, then we need to take time to think things through before we say them.
Okay, so I rarely fucking DO think things through before I say them, but I’m aware of it, I’m trying, and I’m honestly getting a lot better because whilst we live in a world of ‘free speech’ (which I support), too many people confuse this with ‘freedom from consequence’.
Similarly, we all believe that we can only control our intent, and therefore what other people think, feel, or do in response is none of our concern, but it fucking well is! This is why I (hopefully rationally) challenge people, and I challenge the things that are said and done online when something’s not right.
I guess my rant is that I just hate who we have become in an online space.
Easy. Go search your internet machine for ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’ by Baz Luhrmann. Listen to it, think about it, and – if you’re as artistically inclined as I am – go get a large print made of the lyrics to hang on a wall you’re likely to walk past every day at home. I’m not particularly spiritual, but I do look at my framed and mounted copy of the lyrics most days.
In his narration, Baz tells us to trust him on the sunscreen, and I’m telling you to trust me that every single piece of advice you’ll ever need in life is right there in that fucking belter of a lyrical composition.
Every day of my life, something from that song either resonates or applies to my life or my business.
I’ve dug out the picture of me from my branding shoot (that phrase makes me sound like a twat) with the framed lyrics on the wall behind me as I sit on the chair that clients tell me looks like I’m either in the Big Brother Diary Room or about to be lifted and carried away by tribal worshippers.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, check out Sunscreen. That’s my advice.