Wellbeing / Business values

When sweetness is a weakness

As a soloist, it’s not enough to be good at what you do, you also have to be a competent business person. But what if you have acres of talent but few business smarts?

16 May 2011 by

For a long time, this described me. Copywriting was a breeze, billing not so much. When I encountered late payers or discount pressure, my response was wishy washy. No prizes for guessing the end result – I got shafted.

I learnt to toughen up through necessity and with Robert’s help, developed processes to ensure it didn’t happen again. I’ve got a thicker skin these days but at first it didn’t feel great as I’m naturally a generous and, yes, slightly gullible soul.

Even now, I would make a hopeless parking attendant. I’d always be giving people an extra five minutes to get back to their cars and would let myself get sweet-talked out of writing tickets.

A brilliant learning that helped me a great deal was to prevent getting into sticky situations in the first place by choosing clients more wisely. It really worked. On the flip side, I’ve recently seen how unless you have a watertight briefing document, you’ll get stuff ups with suppliers. Time, energy and money leak all over the place and it gets rather messy.

Incidentally the topic of billing procedures and ideal clients are given a damn good airing in Robert, Peter and my new book, a rewrite of the original Flying Solo – how to go it alone in business. It’s at the printer now. We are beyond excited.

My transition from soft touch to tough nut made me think about the changes we make to play the soloist game. Long term readers will know by now how much store I put in authenticity (almost as much as I put in pop psychology) but there’s a point where you have to use the chameleon trick.

My question is, how do you know when to stay true to you and when to play the game? The IQ lowering effects of the movie Bride Wars were mitigated by this single line: “You don’t alter Vera to fit you; you alter yourself to fit Vera.”

So do you alter yourself or stay firm? Even if, as in my case, staying firm means being soft. Do you have business smarts? Tell all below.


Sam Leader

is a director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.


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