I live by two simple rules:
Rule #1: Never sit in the front row of a comedy or dolphin show. In both cases, you’re liable to be more involved than you’d like.
Rule #2: Never shop for food when you’re hungry. Here, you’re apt to buy things that you neither want nor need.
And yet there I was, just this past Sunday, strolling into the Hannaford Supermarket around 2pm.
I’d been running around all morning.
I hadn’t eaten lunch.
We were going out to dinner that night and this was my only window of opportunity to pick some things up.
It started out just fine.
Eggs? Check. Milk? No problem. Bread? Right there on the shelf.
But then I turned the corner and saw the Shrimp Tortellini in Alfredo Sauce. “Hmm… that seems right,” I said to nobody in particular. Into the cart it went.
A package of Swiss cheese and a pound of sliced turkey at the deli counter? Totally reasonable; I was back on track.
That is, until somebody (I’m pretty sure it was me) said:
“Oh, and can I get a medium container of General Gau’s Chicken and a quart of Seafood Chowder?”
It only got worse from there (I hadn’t even visited the chip aisle yet).
In the end, I left with about twice as much “food” as usual (General Gau was an unfortunate casualty of the drive home), much of which consisted of things I didn’t really want.
Indeed, Rule #2, when you follow it, is a good rule.
Which is why I hesitated – and ultimately turned down – a request to “jump on a content project superfast” for a company that called on Monday.
The problem is that they were too hungry. And hungry people, as my trip to the supermarket reminded me, make bad decisions (and lousy clients).
“Now hold on there just a minute, Mr. Clever-Food-Analogy-Guy,” you’re probably saying, in-between bites of chowder.
“Aren’t desperate, time-constrained clients good? They don’t have time to shop around and they’re generally willing to pay a premium.”
My answer? No. And here’s why:
- Hungry people don’t consider other options.
So sure, they’ll hire you. But without giving any real thought into whether or not who you are and what you do is what they really need.
As a result, you’re very likely to butt heads throughout the entire project.
- Hungry people don’t care how things taste.
During the early stages of a project with a hungry client, they’ll happily eat anything you give them (because they’re hungry).
But as time goes on and the urgency dissipates – as it nearly always does – they’ll start thinking more clearly.
They’ll forget about how you saved the day and begin wondering about things like your higher than normal fee and the specifics of the arrangement they agreed to in the heat of the moment.
- Hungry people regret what they’ve eaten.
The guy in the store eyeing the chicken is not the same guy sitting at home a couple of hours later. At that point, his motivation and priorities have changed.
Similarly, the desperate soul who calls you Monday morning begging for help will soon be replaced by an entirely different person. A person who, chances are, would not have bought what he bought, in the same way, had he not been under the gun.
- Hungry people are already in trouble.
I wasn’t hungry at 2pm on a Sunday for no reason. It’s because I did (or didn’t do) a number of things prior which led me to shop at the wrong time.
The desperate prospect has also been travelling down a path long before getting in touch. Did somebody quit? Did he overpromise on the timing? Is there a crazy boss or client of his own on the other end of the transaction that you can’t even see?
Whatever the reason, the minute you say yes to the project, you inherit all the insanity that led up to today’s fire alarm. (Hint: There’s more coming.)
Here’s the bottom line. Urgency on the part of a prospective client is a big (HUGE) red flag. Rather than being an opportunity for you, more often than not, it’s a sign that things are already off track and about to get much worse.
The only question is whether or not you choose to climb aboard.
- You’re still thinking about the shrimp tortellini, aren’t you?
- What’s the worst, hunger-based food choice you’ve ever made?
- What other red flags help warn you away from problem projects/clients?
Share your comments below!