Don’t work with people who don’t respect you.
That’s it. That’s the trick. By not giving your time to people who don’t respect you, you have more time to do the things that will make you successful, like making art and learning how to manage your career.
Sounds easy, right? Just don’t work with jerks.
But what about that client you like and is really nice, and is consistently late paying invoices?
Or the owner of a prestigious gallery who’s extremely difficult to work with, but incredibly influential?
Or the friend you’ve known and loved for years who turns out to be a greedy collaborator?
People are complex, and that means that tricks, no matter how neat they are, aren’t always easy to apply.
There are ways of making it easier to protect yourself from bad apples though, and one of the things you can do is have clear expectations for the people you work with.
Every time you work with someone, you are giving them a finite resource: your time and attention. By deciding what you expect of others in exchange for that finite resource, you make it easier to encourage good relationships and avoid bad ones.
For instance, let’s say you have a rule that if someone pays an invoice late more than twice, you won’t take new work from them for at least six months. If that “really nice” client really wants to work with you, they’ll change their behavior to meet your expectation. You won’t have to nag or screw up the courage to confront them about another unpaid invoice. Their desire to work with you will encourage them to pay your bill on time. Instead of fulfilling your interest in getting paid on time, they’ll be fulfilling their interest in being able to work with you.
And if they don’t change their behavior, well – absence makes the heart grow fonder. Maybe not being able to work with you for a while will make them appreciate you more. Even if it doesn’t, it will definitely mean that you’ll have more time for clients who do pay on time.
Having expectations of the people you work with, and making those expectations clear, means the decisions you make about working with others aren’t personal. Your decisions are about the relationship others are willing to have with you.
Katie Lane is an attorney and negotiation coach in Portland, Oregon, helping artists and freelancers protect their rights and get paid fairly for the work they do. You can read her blog at WorkMadeForHire.net and follow her on Twitter: @_katie_lane.