What’s Your Reputation Worth? Why It’s Okay To Say “I Can’t Do That”…

Know Your Limitations

When I started freelancing and consulting, back when I was young, good-looking, idealistic and proudly rode my Brontosaurus to work, I made the same mistakes as many budding freelancers and consultants –  I accepted work that I really shouldn’t have because I wanted to ensure that next paycheck. Hey, don’t judge me! Do you have any ideas how much it costs to feed a Brontosaurus?

While I certainly delivered on my end and my clients were always happy, it usually meant a steep learning curve for me as I tried to learn new technologies in order to be able to deliver on the promises I made – it also meant a lot of stress and working a lot more hours than needed – hours which came out of my my free time because you can’t charge the client for your lack of knowledge.

Looking back with more than a decades worth of hindsight I find myself wondering what damage would have been done to my reputation had I not been able to deliver, or if clients were unhappy with the finished project?

I find myself wishing that someone had told me (or that I was clever enough to figure out) that it was okay to turn down work that wasn’t within my area of expertise and to use the extra time to expand my skill set. A little extra hunting for contracts in my field, instead of taking every job that came for fear of not getting another one, would have led to a lot less sleepless nights.

Unfortunately for many freelancers and even firms, this habit stays with them long after they’ve graduated beyond Padawan Consultants. It’s a hard habit to break – that paycheck is very tempting when your health insurance is on the line.

We need to accept that doing what is best for the client is ultimately what is best for our business and our reputation. Reputation is all we have.

It’s okay for us to say that we can’t do a job. It’s okay for us admit to potential clients that we don’t know something (Pro-tip – it makes you look smart and confident to acknowledge your own short-comings), and if we refer clients to people who can deliver quality work, the client and those we referred them to are likely to send work our way in the future.

Yes, we’ll have to hustle a little harder to get that paycheck in the short-term, but long-term being honest with yourself and potential clients about our abilities is the best deal for everyone, and will do wonders for your reputation.

A World Of Change

The past four weeks have been an absolute whirlwind, and my feet have barely had time to touch the floor, let alone update my blog, but let me try to get you caught up on what’s been happening.

Most importantly my immigration stuff is complete. I no longer just have work authorization, instead I am now a full fledged permanent resident of the United States of America. That’s really cool and has me very excited and not just because it means I get to stay with Sara without any legal worries hanging in the background, but it also means that I get to take my business in new directions as new avenues are now open to me.

One of those avenues has already opened for me and I have taken on a long term contract as IT, marketing and web consultant for Pinnacle Brain & Spine Center which is proving to be a very fulfilling and challenging job. Consulting for medical practices is a different ball game than for other businesses.

We’re still continuing with our sites such as UrlyBits and Geek Is Awesome, we’re just rearranging our workflow to allow all aspects of what we do to coexist while still managing to have a personal life.

Speaking of personal lives…

We managed to make it up to Birmingham for BarCamp Bham and had a blast. Sara ran a gaming session on “Cards Against Humanity” and I got to present back to back with Evan Travers about responsive web design.

After BarCamp we got to hang out with the Birmingham posse again, and spend a great night with our friends, shooting the breeze and playing Cards Against Humanity. It’s fair to say that “Cards” has become a staple recently and we’ve been actively corrupting exposing our friends to it. Last weekend we had a 10 player game at our house and I must say that there’s nothing like that game to expose your friends’ true sense of humor.

Did I mention we got cats? No? Damn! Well, those of you who follow me on Facebook know that we adopted two adorable kittens who are now about 16 weeks old. They’re names are Cersei and Daenerys (yes, after the characters in Game of Thrones) and are the most affectionate cats I’ve ever encountered. They’re the best of friends and amazingly cute, except when they come to our bedroom door at 5:30 am and demand entry. I’m not sure they’re cute at 5:30 am. I’m not sure anything is cute when it wakes you up at 5:30 am.

Cersei and Daenerys
Cersei and Daenerys

So that’s what has been happening. I’m sure there’s more, but those are the highlights. Sara continues to amaze me and make me wonder how I got so lucky and life swirls around in a whirlwind with no sign of stopping.

Did you know my mom is coming over from Ireland for a visit at the end of September? Mobile, you have been warned!