I got a call from someone who has been working with me on developing their business. For a few years, she’d been working as a freelance contractor. We’ll call her clients N&D, Inc., because those clients were perpetually “nickel-and-diming” her on projects, asking her to create great work while doing it for less than her usual rate. My client had come to dread the perpetual back and forth of negotiating proposals.
What’s worse is that N&D had a history of not being so very in integrity with money, themselves–for instance, they would tell my client that they were so strapped for cash that they couldn’t even pay her for small jobs, but then she’d see them buying new office equipment, or she’d find out from her friend who did some accounting work for N&D that other contractors who hadn’t been with N&D as long, and who hadn’t turned in work on time, were being paid before my client was.
Over the years, my client had had multiple conversations with N&D about money–she’d courageously walked into her fear around telling N&D, for instance, that she needed to paid her usual rate and that she wasn’t open to constantly negotiating.
N&D was staffed by good people, people who were not evil and selfish, but–people who had some massive issues with money and integrity. Each time, they had to be “negotiated into” doing the right thing–paying for work, and paying on time.
“Let me get a perspective check on this,” my client said, and then she described to me another, most recent example of N&D’s lack of integrity.
I’d heard many stories about N&D, over the years. The pattern was not changing, no matter how much my client was trying to work things through with them.
“Sounds like they need to be put on your business’s Stop Doing list,” I said.
The Stop Doing List
Every business needs one. You, a life coach–you need one. What are they?
Quite simply, a Stop Doing list is the list of things that are not working. You’ve tried having the conversation, you’ve worked on having some compassion–and the truth is, it’s still just not working.
Here are a few things that commonly need to be put on a coach’s Stop Doing list:
- Stop having sessions with clients who haven’t paid you.
- Stop invoicing clients late or reviewing last session’s notes at the last minute, and then feeling unprepared.
- Stop telling clients that it’s okay to reschedule at the last minute, if it’s really not.
- Stop spending all day on social media, comparing your stats to someone else’s.
- Stop booking sessions back to back, rushing from one session to the next with hardly room to breathe, because a client says that none of your other times work for them.
- Stop putting off things like blog posts and newsletter updates until the last minute, and then rushing through them or skipping them, entirely.
- Stop undercharging for what you offer. (**Note: Brand-new coaches do well for themselves to strategically charge less, so that money isn’t a barrier for your first clients to start with you, and then move into charging more. But I remember the days when I had been coaching for several years, and still only charged $50 for an hour-long session. Yikes! To learn more about ways to strategically raise your rates, check out The Coaching Blueprint).
Transparency: All of these have ended up on my own Stop Doing List.
Your Integrity Cannot Be Currency
Your personal integrity cannot be currency, exchanged for your silence or for less confrontation.
If you play your personal integrity this way in your business, you’re going to hate working for yourself just as much as you might have disliked working for someone else.
And if you think about it, isn’t that why anyone ever dislikes working for someone else?
We dislike subverting our integrity and trading it as currency, and when we’re working jobs that don’t fulfill us, and telling ourselves that we have no other options, we’re out of integrity. The second we make pro-active choices to view the situation differently or take action, we feel powerful–because we’ve taken back our integrity.
Who’s Going to Pay
A Stop Doing list might sound like a luxury to the new or emerging coach who is still just getting grounded with her clients. Tell that client who always pays late that you won’t hold a session that isn’t paid for? If I do that–she’ll leave!
The question is really: Who’s going to pay?
I had one of those clients* at the beginning of my coaching career. This was back in the days when I offered a sliding scale fee. He paid on the lowest end of the sliding scale…and discussed spending money on vacations (a sliding scale is meant to help those who truly do live paycheck-to-paycheck, not to help people afford vacations). His checks were frequently late. He would insist on parsing out a sticky scenario or question just as we were ending our session, making our sessions run over time.
As time went on, I was the one paying–I was paying with the currency of my integrity. I knew that I was the one responsible, and so I took responsibility.
I finally summoned the courage to let him know that I needed to raise my rates, and to say that I must be paid on time and couldn’t hold sessions without payment.
When he launched into “But what do I do about…?” with only five minutes of session time left, I would take a deep breath and say, with love, “That sounds like a wonderful question for you to consider between now and our next session.”
He decided to discontinue coaching. It was a complete relief.
It’s always a complete relief when we are not “paying” with the currency of our integrity.
*details have been shifted to ensure anonymity
What does your list look like?
Everything that needs to go on a Stop Doing list is something that you trade for your integrity.
My client who works with N&D? She decided that she’s going to cut ties with N&D.
She’s decided that it need not be anything dramatic; she’s going to finish out her contracts with them and even take on work with them through the end of the year, while she builds her business in other directions.
She already feels better, even though in this moment, nothing has changed. Whey does she feel better? Because she’s acting with integrity. N&D is on the Stop Doing List, and there’s a plan of action in place.
This week’s exercise to benefit you and your business:
- Treat yourself as you would invite your clients to treat themselves–and don’t just tell yourself that you’re going to do that. Actually whip out your calendar right now, and start doing what Marie Forleo calls “Getting on the NO train!” Start saying “no” to the things that don’t light you up, even if you feel like you “shouldn’t” say no to that particular thing. If it isn’t lighting you up, it’s dead weight.
- Take time to answer the questions in this week’s e-letter, as if you’re the client who has just been assigned a practice.
Take time to create action steps so that you can implement new practices to replace what hasn’t been working–again, treating yourself the way you would hope your clients would treat themselves when they work with you.
Kate Swoboda (aka Kate Courageous) is a life coach who teaches people how to work with fear and practice courage. She’s the founder of www.CoachingBlueprint.com and creator of the Coaching Blueprint digital program.