Shiela Pialago - July 17, 2021

The Unedited Truth About Why I Ended a Potentially Great Client Relationship

As a Freelance Digital Marketing VA, I get to meet and talk with different kinds of business owners and entrepreneurs. Some instantly click and stick well with me and my personality, some just feel bland and downright “uh-oh” kind of vibe. More recently, I had a very humbling experience with a potentially great client but here’s why I had to end it.

The Exciting yet Blinding Start

With every discovery call with a new client, I always check in with my client’s personality through the first few sentences that he/she engages with me– does she/he have a bubbly and upbeat personality? Or is he/she the calm and collected type? 

In my experience, clients are not always exactly those two types of people but they often play around those areas in front of their VAs at least. And in my current roster of clients, I work well with both.

Not that I forcibly adjust my personality to theirs, but first impressions always work both ways. I have first impressions towards my clients and my clients instantly create impressions about me… It’s a human thing.

And even if no matter how bad or rough my day was, I always put that smile on my face just to welcome them as much as I would welcome my first-time visitors to my house. I think that’s fair enough, right?

And so, I got to speak with this new client and we talked for about an hour about the tasks, the expectations, the deliverables, the communication, the PRICE and what-not, the usual stuff. 

Everything was all so blinding, especially that the price was right, oh yes! Clearly, I am still a victim of the money mindset. So, I was so eager to start with it.

The primary tasks were really something I could do well enough too but I also knew and told the client upfront that I could not do it alone due to time constraints. 

So, I suggested having another VA to assist me with the tasks, right. Honestly, I was already expecting that person to disagree to that offer but surprisingly, it was not an issue to the client as they only care for the end result, the deliverables, the content that I will put on.

Well, I thought, that’s GREAT! That’s settled! 

So I prepped up a VA Contract and started on the tasks right away.

Skipping an Important Step

This potentially great Client was content-focused. They are famous for the valuable content they bring; so, ideally, the content had to be crafted and almost perfectly-synced up to their brand’s voices.

Truth be told, it already takes a lot of skill and time commitment to create quality content, how much more syncing the content to someone else’s tone and diction.

But since I’m stubborn, I convinced myself that I have the time to make this work. In my head, I was like “Hey, you have a VA to help you out. This should be a cake walk!”

Also, I started out as a Content Writer for about 2 years before I explored other aspects of Digital Marketing. I was rocking the pricing tiers of my previous Content Marketing agency because I was able to produce 5-6 articles PER DAY! So what could go wrong, right?

But at the same time, there was also the voice in my head that also said, “Hey, hold up, you have 5 other clients to manage, would you have the TIME? Would you be able to clear your mind and be in the disposition of actually writing something meaningful and not just for marketing’s sake?”

Heck, I thought it was just the imposter syndrome talking. I did not realise then that it was already my ego talking some sense into me. But what did I do?

When my VA submitted his work to me for review, there were so many tasks from other clients that week that I did not have the time to even go through the written work. I took a leap of faith hoping the client would like it, I winged it as they say, but of course, was shot down.

I had to rework on it and was able to save it. The client was hopeful for improvements in the next weeks to come.

I started out as a Content Writer before I expanded out to the other Digital Marketing areas. I knew I was going to do well on this quickly once I gave myself enough time to work on the tasks.

But when the second round of tasks came in, something felt super off about it.

I felt so anxious about opening my inbox or my Slack.

I was putting off the work for later and did all the other tasks from the other clients that “gave me joy”.

I also felt striking pain on my upper back as I was deliberately avoiding the tasks itself.

So I asked myself, “What the heck is going on?”

Because you see, this Client was nice, patient, and kind as well as very soft-spoken when delivering the critique and the necessary revisions. So the Client was great. And the pay was awesome. But why was my mind and body telling me otherwise? 

I asked myself, “Am I being lazy now? Being too picky? Am I quitting for invalid reasons?”

I was so torn and half-hearted about it all that I was forcibly squeezing the words out of my brain to make them feel organic. I knew I had to deliver as fast as I can because the deadline was also on that day or the next and I have other tasks from other clients as well!

Of course, it did not go out well. The client saw several grammatical errors and had to do a lot of revisions before pushing it out on social media.

Damn, that was my stop light.

I skipped the step of reevaluating myself, my availability, and my current situation. I only savoure in my greatness and felt that I could do anything, if not, everything.

So I reached out to a dear friend, Kimberly Brown, and have shared to her this scenario of what was actually going on. She is a VA Agency Business Owner that I also work part-time for, but more importantly, she is a dear friend and a mentor.

For the first time in my VA career, I asked for help. I rarely tend to do so because firstly, I self-search for solutions online (i.e. Google, YouTube, etc) and secondly, I just do not want to be inconvenient to someone else’s time when I think I can do it on my own. 

But this time, it was something different and new altogether. I asked for advice because when I started out as a VA, we never had those VA consultants and certifications on handling clients when I started about 6 years ago too!

So, I thought, apart from my mom and my life partner, I knew that Kim was the next best person who can relate to my experiences and possibly, to this odd event that’s happening to me.

We had about an hour of conversation and as she guided me through my way of thinking, I cannot forget our conversation about how I have actually shifted my focus and passion over the years.

Yes, I started out as a Content Writer but eventually, I realised that I am at my best when I am creating teams for business owners, connecting businesses to the “right” VAs from the Philippines as well as managing teams while creating and implementing marketing strategies for the business.

I have swayed so far away from Ghost Writing that I could not enjoy it as much as I did about 6-7 years ago. 

Now, I am at a stage in my career where I want to actually write for my own podcast, my own blog, my own digital garden so to speak.

Initially, I blamed myself for being a “quitter”, a “loser” and/or “not being proactive enough to foresee the inconvenience” right after I terminated my contract with that client. 

Honestly, I cried it out a bit which was silly but it was cut short to literally 2 minutes because I had to attend another client meeting right after the exit call.

Overall, I just thought I had to end a potentially great client relationship because I knew that it would not be practical and sustainable for me and for the client’s business to continue if I will not be at my best, optimal state of mind and time. I actually wanted to save the client’s time and money from further damages.

A Process in Progress

Fortunately, in the same week where I experienced a bit of a drawback, I had the chance to participate in the Energy Leadership™ Index (ELI) assessment led by Charlotte Smith.

She coaches executive lawyers and lawyer leaders in the U.S. but this week, she gave me the opportunity to take the assessment and even have one-on-one coaching with her! I know! LUCKY DUCK!

Yes, everything did fall into place last week too amidst the hurdle. In that assessment, I learned so many things about myself especially all about the energy that I have towards myself, my clients, and everyone/ everything else around me.

I am now much aware of how much energy I give to stressful situations and how far down low I get when things do not go my way or when problems arise. Right now, I want to give myself a chance to be more conscious of not hitting rock bottom right away and give myself some room and space for mistakes and improvement. Moving forward, I really do want to respond better to stress by consciously bringing myself to a more positive if not constructive level of energy. 

Speaking of level, I also realised that I have the helping and collaborative energy levels in me, which feels amazing knowing that the nature of my work as a Digital Marketing Manager / Freelance Virtual Assistant needs that kind of energy. I do find comfort and relief when I’m helping others whether it be the significant people in life or the business owners I work with. 

At the same time, I realised that I find helping others as well as an escape to heal given that it is my happy place. But this assessment and Charlotte’s coaching also made me realize that I miss that part where I actually deserve to help myself, to heal for the next day and for the next battles to come. It makes a lot of sense because I often bottle things up inside of me and escape all the time which in the end, leads me to burnout and eventually end things impulsively.

The overall experience felt like that of a Hero’s journey in literature – “a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed”. 

I hope this unique experience gives you insights on how to best deal with new clients and to situations when you are in the process of progress to your next potentially great client!  Have you experienced a similar experience? I’d love to hear them!

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