I fired a bully a few days ago.
Gig-wise, the summer was a huge bust. Two major projects that I was hoping to win fell through due to budgetary constraints and nothing was happening on the job-hunt front. I was frustrated. So it was a very pleasant and welcome surprise when one evening I got an email from my site enquiring about my services and when we could chat. I googled the individual to make sure she was legit. She was. I emailed her back to indicate when I would be available to speak to her by phone the next day.
When we spoke on the phone, we had great rapport. I was able to answer all her questions and give recommendations. I was confident that I had made a good impression and I genuinely liked her. She was ready to give me all her usernames and passwords for her site. I remember saying something along the lines of waiting to meet in person to talk further and to decide if we wanted to work together. She asked me my hourly rate and I told her… she thought it was very reasonable. We made plans to meet in person the following week.
Let the bullying begin!
At the meeting the following week was when the bullying started. After almost 2 hours of going through her site and her telling me all the things she wanted changed or updated she asked how long it would take for me to make the modifications. The work wouldn’t be difficult but it would be time consuming. I said about 20 to 30 hours. Her eyes went wide and she said, “How much would 20 hours cost?” I replied “$ABC” while she calculated a different rate. I said, “My rate is $X per hour”. She looked up at me and said, “No. You told me $Y per hour.” I said no, that my rate was indeed $X per hour. Again she said no and how she remembers these things and that I said $Y. I think I know my rate per hour. I really wanted the job but I knew what I had told her. Instead I said, “Ok… we’ll go with $Y per hour for 20 hours” thinking I was being flexible and client-focused. That was my first mistake and the first inkling that this process was going to be difficult. As we left the meeting, I told her that I would draw up a contract for $ABC detailing the work we had agreed upon. She agreed. Later that evening, I sent out the proposal/contract that we had discussed earlier that day.
By Sunday I had still not received a response so I sent a short email to confirm that she had received it. She got back to me on Monday saying she doesn’t understand how what we talked about would take 20 hours. I was a bit taken aback considering that up until this point she had taken up almost 4 hours of my time. She went on to say that her budget was only half of what the contract was. Why didn’t she tell me that on Friday when she hacked $5/hour off my rate and balked at the time estimate? Now I was feeling intimidated and put upon. I thought about what I could do with her new, much lower budget. Not a whole lot, but at this point I still wanted to work with her. To my own shame and horror, I said that I would do the work at the new budget amount. I thought that I was building relationships and working with my client to meet her needs. I didn’t clue in that I was being manipulated until she told me that she would only pay me when I finished the work. I pushed back saying that I would not start any work until a deposit and the signed contract were received. She said ok. I felt like a schmuck.
Things get nasty
I couldn’t bring myself to amend and re-send the contract. I felt used. I felt intimidated. I felt angry at myself!! It was bad enough that she didn’t value my expertise or the service but it was even worse when I did it to myself for a job I was pretty sure I didn’t want anymore. Instead, I decided to walk away from the project. The amount of work for so little money, the irritation that I already felt, plus the aggravation that would come with working with a bully was so not worth it. I sent a polite, professional “I’m not a good fit for this project” email and immediately felt relief. That, however, was short lived. She called me about 10 minutes after I sent the email. I didn’t answer because I didn’t want to talk to her. Then she sent me an email saying that she has a counter offer that would meet both our needs. As I had gotten my spine back, I thought to myself that the only counter offer I would even consider was my ACTUAL rate for 20-30 hours which was not going to happen. A few hours later I sent another polite, professional reply declining the not-yet-offered counter offer again citing that I was not a good fit. She replied with 2 consecutive nasty, condescending, passive-aggressive emails.
At the first red flag, RUN! It will only get worse! Although I should have tapped out when she argued with me about my rate, I still dodged a massive pain-in-the-butt bullet!
I will never let a client pressure, intimidate or bully me again! No job is worth my self-respect.