Lessons Learned at the Edge

3, 2, 1, Contract

Are you like Sue Dodge -- one of those IPs who hates to haggle with clients over billing issues? If so, you would do well to get your agreements down in writing. You don't have to put together a formal lawyer-approved contract, but if you wish to avoid unhappy squabbling it might be a good idea to get the terms on paper. Write up the exact nature of your tasks, their precise cost, and the delivery date. You might be surprised at how a little forethought and clarity can help you avoid unwanted client-relations problems.

Business is Business

Beware when doing business with friends. It's not impossible to have rewarding business relationships with pals, but it sure isn't easy. Why? The rules of friendship and the rules of business are not always compatible. For example, clients who are friends may expect you to do extra work on a project, free of charge, which is a Bad Thing. So be warned: if you take friends on as clients, you run the risk of mucking up both your friendships and your business.

Keep it to Yourself

Tom Russ' story reminds us just how much being an IP depends on your belief in yourself. You simply cannot let a bad business decision -- and sooner or later everyone makes one or two or ten of these -- rattle your self-confidence.

The lesson we can learn from Tom Russ is about managing his self-doubt. Although he really started to doubt himself, he let only those close to him hear about his frustration. Do likewise, if you're ever in the same situation. Above all, don't vent to other clients; it's unprofessional.

Don't Take it Personally

Being professional doesn't just mean doing incredible work and getting it in on time -- it also means maintaining a certain amount of detachment in your business affairs. Which is to say, don't get too emotionally attached to a particular project. The key here is to take responsibility only for your own work. It wasn't Dave Clem's fault that the wedding he photographed went sour, and so he really shouldn't have taken it to heart. Know what you can and cannot control in your work life and you won't find yourself with your toes on the edge of the cliff.