Why I turned down over $100k of retainership revenue

Client relationships are a two way street. In fact, all relationships are. You give, and you take. Both sides expect and deserve mutual respect. If the contractor supplicates to the needs of the client’s needs, it creates a negative relationship, one where one serves the other. The contractor’s time is valuable too, and if it begins dipping into their time too much, it actually dips into billable rate, meaning, every time a bad clients becomes overly needy, s/he is stealing time away.

Take for example a client where you’re being paid $18k over one year to do work. Monthly, this is $1.5k pre-tax. If your billable rate as a freelancer or entrepreneur is $100, and the client demands 80 hours of work monthly, this consulting relationship should have ended sooner. At this rate, you would be doing $18.75/hour work.

The road goes both ways, and for this reason I’ve turned down over $100k of retainerships over the past year. The road to being accepted as my client is a long one - and it boils down to many facets other than merely deal size. You want a client that lifts you up mutually. Paradoxically, you shouldn’t be calculative, persay, in the way that I just wrote above. For example, I like to throw in a 2-hour photoshoot on me once in a while. I’d like to find a way to give back. Giving back is important, because all of these small actions create positive energy. This is what it means to play long game.

A lot of work has turned down, mostly because I thought that the client relationship wasn’t a good fit. There’s no set formula to what you should do, or what you shouldn’t do, but saying no, is more important than saying yes to everything. A lot of it is a cultural misfit, where a client doesn’t understand technology. Sometimes it a lapse of trust - trust being the most important component of any relationship. Sometimes it’s a retainership that is too low. For me, anything below $1.5k monthly is too low to work together; however, you must decide what works for yourself.

I challenge you to consider what your why is, and think about whether or not an organization’s goals and values align with yours and your business goals. From there, you should be able to decide whether it is right to follow through.

Stay hungry,
Jer