Have you ever wanted to be extra specially generous to a client?

Have you ever had a client you wanted to be extra specially generous to? Maybe it’s someone on a fixed income, someone who’s struggling financially, or someone who really needs help. So you cut your rates, or do a lot of work you don’t normally do, or spend extra time with the client.

Don’t do it, and here’s why

My advice for you: don’t do it. Don’t be extra specially generous to clients.

Here’s why I give this advice. As a mediator, I’ve worked with people who’ve been extra specially generous to a client. Then something goes wrong, one of them sues the other, and they end up in court.

The generous person has often lost money on the project, been taken for granted by the client, or not received the generosity that they wanted to return – and now they have the extra annoyance, frustration, and energy drain of being in court. Bad feelings and resentment abound.

When I ask the generous person (in private) whether they’d do the same thing again, the answer is always a heartfelt “No!”

Six signs that you’re misplacing your generosity with clients

Here are six signs that tell you you’re misplacing your generosity with clients. Three of them are behavioral, and three of them are emotional.

Three behavioral signs

  1. You lower your rates significantly.
  2. You do work for free that you normally charge for.
  3. You provide extra services that you don’t normally provide.

Or, you offer to do any of these.

Three emotional signs

  1. You feel sorry for the person.
  2. You want to give the person a break.
  3. You know the person really needs your services.

When you might notice these signs

You might find yourself exhibiting these signs when you’re negotiating a contract (either with an existing client or new client), or while you’re in the middle of working on a contract. And the more of these six signs you see in yourself, the greater the chance the contract will end badly.

Of course, things can go wrong anyway

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “But there are always contracts that go bad and clients that are hard to work with. Generosity isn’t the problem.”

Or maybe, “What’s wrong with generosity? Being generous is good and honorable.”

Or, “You only see the people for whom generosity is turned out badly, so you just think it always turns out badly.”

Of course contracts go bad, and generosity has nothing to do with it. Yes, being generous is good. And sometimes being extra specially generous to a client does work out.

But people who are extra specially generous to a particular client are often doing it for the wrong reasons. They do it because, consciously or unconsciously, they feel they need to “take care of” the client. They want to fix some problem with the client, but the services they offer aren’t designed to help people who have that problem.

Here’s how to be generous wisely

If you want to be generous with clients, make an explicit policy. Decide who you’ll be generous with, to what extent, and for how long.

For example, decide that you’ll give specific extra products or services for free to seniors who depend on Social Security income. Or, you’ll provide a particular service for free to people who are looking for work. As another example, My own small-business coach, who is also an actor and director, gives a 15% discount on her monthly rate to people in the theater.

What makes this wise generosity is that you’re not being extra specially generous to just one person. Instead, you’re choosing a certain kind of person that you’ll be generous to, and specific ways you’ll be generous. This keeps you from trying to fix a problem with one particular person.

Remember to be generous wisely

So, take some time to decide who you want to be generous to. It might be some group of people you particularly want to help. Then create a specific policy as a guideline for your generosity.

And the next time you find yourself wanting to be extra specially generous to a client, take a moment to see whether you’re exhibiting any of these six signs of misplacing your generosity. If you are, stop yourself. Remind yourself of who you decided to serve. Avoid being losing money, being taken for granted, and having to go to court. Be generous wisely.

Have you ever avoided being taken for granted by a client? 

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