How To Sell Yourself As A Client

Here’s a bit of advice for those of you looking for someone to help you out with your online marketing:

Don’t be such a complete asshat. For some of you, this is easier said than done (at least judging by some of my recent encounters) but try, please.

Here’s Bill O’Reilly in case you aren’t sure exactly what an asshat is.


Over the past few years I’ve learned that there are quite a few warning signs that tell me that no matter how much money this guy is waving around, I don’t want him as my client. As I co-run the business with my husband, we try our best to agree on which clients to take, but occasionally one of us has accepted a client that the other person didn’t warm to immediately. Due to one of these issues, we’ve lost a lot of money on a client who refused to pay us. As a small business, this kind of thing can be detrimental, as you can imagine. I have 21 employees to protect and after a few bad experiences, I’m simply not going to let my gut instincts be secondary any longer. I disliked this guy immediately as he spoke over me and did lots of name-dropping about all the famous SEOs he knew. He was, and still is, what I like to refer to as a complete douchebag and if I’d only been stronger is voicing my misgivings and standing firm, things might be different right now. Live and learn though right?

So I’m not going to just keep quiet about all the bad signals. I’m not going to risk my business to take on anyone willing to pay my rates. Therefore, here are some things I’d really, really rather you not do if you want to earn my business, and that of any other professional in this industry.

Don’t insult my accent on a professional business call, first of all. Yes, I am Southern and when I hear a recording of myself I do gasp and immediately think of banjos and fried chicken but some of you don’t really sound much better. If you’re also Southern but you live in a “big city” then, um, still don’t freaking insult my accent. You’re sometimes even more Southern than I am. Don’t call me a hick on a business call, and don’t assume that just because I don’t sound like I could cough up a hairball of disgust and indignation like some posh Brit, I’m stupid. I’m just not insecure enough to hide my accent. I also really can’t hide it due to it being pretty damned thick.

wheeee doggy

Don’t ask to speak to my husband if I’m the one you contacted initially after reading MY articles. Yes, he’s the CEO but when you ask if he’s around because you’re prefer to speak to him and not me, all that says is that you have issues with women. Or Southern women. He’ll just tell you whatever I tell him to say ANYWAY.

Don’t ask me to sell my services to you. First of all, right now (thank God) I don’t need to, Secondly, what that says to me is that you’re going to make my life a living hell if I take you on. I want to spend my time working, not checking in with you and kissing your arse. I don’t feel like being asked to sell my services mainly because if you need what we’re offering, I will sell it, maybe even indirectly. If you start out being cocky and condescending and ask me to tell you why you should hire me, you’ve already pissed me off enough that I wouldn’t work with you anyway. I totally understand that potential clients want to make sure they are making the right decision in hiring an SEO of course, but any SEO worth his or her reputation is going to sell services in various ways when you first make contact. We’ll sell by reputation, or word of mouth, or references. We don’t need you to immediately start trying to totally call the shots and tell us what to do. In this same line of thought, don’t obnoxiously say you’ve never heard of me when you did, in fact, send ME a damned email. Please realize that I haven’t heard of you either, most likely, especially if you’re a schmuck running a network of sites trying to promote overpriced gated real estate in Texas.

So basically what I’m saying is that if you are a jerk, I’m not going to work with you, ever. I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way. However, let’s look at what types of things make me say “wow, I’d love to work with these people!” because there are a LOT of signals for that as well, and I am happy to say that my gut instincts on loving someone upfront have never led me astray. If I like you immediately, I’m going to keep liking you.

I like nice people. Being nice doesn’t mean you are dull, or unintelligent. It means you have a basic sense of politeness and some good social skills. By and large, most of the contacts I receive really are from nice people, and I’m very, very thankful because I do not at all mind taking the time to respond to these queries, and always I am happy to help these people out in any way that I can, regardless of whether they have money, or fit into my schedule, or just need some questions answered and I know I’ll gain something concrete out of the exchange. Our oldest client (well, oldest to us…) is our nicest. No matter what he needs, he respects what we do and it shows. He was immediately nice and he’s never failed to be nice. Did I mention that I like nice people?

Here’s Judi Dench. I think she’s a nice person. Yes, I’ve been thinking for years about how to work her into a post…

Somewhat similar to this is a sense of gratitude. I like to deal with people who actually do seem appreciative of my time and what our business can do, again, regardless of whether we form a client relationship with them. I have never been as busy as I am right now, and most people I know are the same way. I don’t have much time to spare some days but if someone recognizes that, I’ll make time.

Lastly, I like dealing with people who challenge me in some way, whether it’s to answer questions that stump me or to somehow bring about a new way for me to think about something. My link builders are geniuses at this (especially cute little Rachel Alton), and some of my clients are. Many of the people who contact us ask truly fantastic questions that make me think about something besides spreadsheets, management, keeping timesheets updated, and HR issues. They make me remember the days when I was first getting into all this and couldn’t get enough. I’ve never known a single SEO who didn’t drool at the thought of figuring out an SEO problem.

I remember seeing Steve Carrell on some talk show ages ago when the US version of The Office first came out, and he was talking about what an asshole his character is…he said something like (and I’m paraphrasing) “if you don’t think you know this guy it’s because you ARE this guy.” I think the same holds true here. If you read this and think, god she’s a princess, well…you may be an asshat.

So if you do need help, now or later, respect the experience, knowledge, capabilities, and time of the person you contact. SEOs are fantastic about giving out loads of information as we write, participate in and run forums, function as industry journalists, and just respond to emails and IMs. Go on Twitter and ask a question and see everyone rush to help you out. Why would you ever want to insult these people?? Ah…it’s because you may be an asshat. Right.

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18 Responses to “How To Sell Yourself As A Client”

  1. Nikki Rae says:

    This is hilarious and so often so true. Thanks for the honesty.

    Nikki Rae

  2. Superb, very funny *coughs up a hairball of disgust and indignation, in sympathy*

  3. D Sealey says:

    Great post! It must be lovely to be able to say adios to a prospect who winds you up. And yes you can always tell a bad client from a good client from the first phone call.


  4. Julie Joyce says:

    It is nice…I laugh like Judi Dench when I do it, too.

  5. Claire says:

    Damn, you’re scarey. Will you be wearing an ‘asshat’ when we meet?

  6. Julie Joyce says:

    Hi Claire!! I doubt it. It flattens my curls but I might make one if any bartender there laughs when I ask for a cosmo.

  7. Annette Fowler says:

    I’ve just had the fortune of returning from a perfectly WONDERFUL client kick-off meeting… They were prepared, they were engaged, they had the stakeholders in the room to make final decisions and they had great cookies (ok, maybe the last part is optional). I’m going to write a blog entry about how to be a great client and plan to link to your post here, cause you’ve hit the nail on the head for the other end of the spectrum (which I’ve seen way too many times!)… Well done!

  8. Way to make a girl blush, Julie!

  9. Melissa Fach says:

    This is great! Thank you for writing it and helping my know I am not alone, LOL.

    Twice I have had people with “women” issues…one was shocking – A woman with a website where she was a coach for women to learn to “empower themselves” called and didn’t want to speak to me – the owner and writer of the blog – she wanted to talk to a man. So I told her we couldn’t work with her.

    I also don’t work with people that use a contact form at 4:58PM and then call at 8:02AM complaining they didn’t get a call back. We need a private forum for venting…

  10. Julie Joyce says:

    Haha Rachel it’s true! Thanks for all the comments everyone. Annette, I’m so glad to see you on here!!

    Melissa I TOTALLY agree with your fussing about not getting a response immediately…and to add to that, I don’t like when people don’t schedule a time to call then call, don’t reach me, and send a nasty email about it.

    We do need a forum to vent…

  11. Great article, and so true! Sometimes I wonder if clients even realize that they are a pain. SEO is a long, continual process and it’s so much better working with nice people that are appreciative of your hard work.

  12. Kezia Bibby says:

    I’ve not laughed at an SEO related post as much as I have this morning. Thanks for sharing your torment.

    It is one thing to have knowledge and experience about your industry but quite another skill to deal with the day to day client handling!

    Thumbs up all round.

    *fellow Judi fan.

  13. I loved your article, you made me laugh pretty good in the beginning with a picture of Bill O’Reilly. It seems like you are venting quite a bit but definitely some truth behind it all!

    Some clients of mine do not completely understand how SEO works, the time involved, or how much of an ongoing process it is. It’s just something that has to be communicated because regular business owners will not get it.

  14. Phill Turner says:

    Hey just found you very cool stuff happening here

    I will be back!

    I think Bill made me weird all over!

    You girls rock!


  15. Greg Uhrlen says:

    My wife and I laughed very loud reading this blog. Never expected to see two such endearing terms utilized in the same article :)

    But seriously, firing or not accepting certain clients is a great position for a business to achieve. I have read several articles strongly recommending businesses “fire” their bottom 10% of clients on a yearly basis as these clients utilize far more resources than the other 90% of clients. (General Electric took a similar approach when Jack Welch was CEO, firing the bottom 10% of employees every year).

    In the words of the late Sy Syms, “an educated consumer is our best customer”.

  16. Julie Joyce says:

    Funny how using Bill or Sarah Palin gets everyone’s attention…funny and SAD.

    I like the “fire the bottom 10%” bit a lot too!

  17. I think y’all are nice, and I’d really like all ya’ll if we met.
    (If you’re not from the South, “all y’all” is the plural form of “y’all”)

  18. Jus Bordeaux says:

    Simply Priceless. You have nothing but my respect. :) keep kicking arse!

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