A guide for freelancers – What kind of prospective clients to refuse

Sometimes the phone doesn’t ring for months. Then it rings, and you feel God has called you. This God is also known as a prospective client. You are almost in tears, someone out there has realised your worth and wants to pay you. Your existential crisis is disturbed by this human being. You want to keep his photo next to your Guru/God, but here are some words of caution on this God.

These potential clients can be tricky. I am below outlining my mind map for accepting/rejecting clients. I have categorised them in to four types.

1. Prospective Client wants to delegate tasks

He wants to delegate tasks which he doesn’t have time to do or he thinks it is not worth his time. This is the lowest kind of job. You are into a operations kind of scenario where you are paid for your time and you know time doesn’t scale up.

If you get such an offer, make sure you can do the dirty laundry or dirty dishes with a sense of gratitude, as this is a thank less job.

2. Prospective Client wants to hire you for your unique skill and talent

There are people who can spot something unique in you. You are not useless as you think you are. Maybe you have a technical skill, maybe you are just a honest person, or you are a people person. You are unique & there no one else who can do that particular work. You have a monopoly skill/business

This is ideal situation, where you are bringing more than your time to the table. But still you need to use your time and skill to complete the project.

3. Prospective clients wants you as an advisor

This is amazing, you have reached a level that your insights and experience is needed. Maybe your profile is so good, that having you on their team will add tons of credibility to their project. Here you need to be cautious that your personal brand name is not misused.

Now coming to some strategies clients use to check your Hunger

Hunger is your need to bend down to the lowest price for their project.

Meet me at my office

Many prospective clients will insist on you meeting them at their office. Their office is generally in some good damn part of the city. If the clients refuses to brief on the phone, I smell rat. This guy wants to meet you, put you under pressure and squeeze free ideas for his business. That’s the reason he wants to meet you unprepared. When you meet the prospect without a brief, he has an upper hand.

I avoid meeting people who cannot discuss the project at length on phone. If there is a tone of arrogance when they ask me to meet them, I am alarmed and deny such a request or ask for an advance payment as commitment.

This is super urgent!!!

Another way to test your hunger, is to give you an urgent project and pay you peanuts or not pay at all. If you complete the task in the deadline without asking for “urgency cost” than you are really hungry.

Most tech guys combat this very well. They build lot of delays in to the project, this is a reverse hack of the clients “urgent requirement”. I don’t recommend delaying projects to get a better bargain, but at the same time, one should be aware of the prospective client testing your hunger.

A Prospective Client talks down to you.

They are loaded. Their companies are many 100 crores of turnover. This gives them God Complex. Every other human being who is not in the 100 crore bracket is a beggar. They don’t feel any shame before they shout or talk down to you. I reject these kind of clients out right.

I have been fooled by this category, where they have sweet talked me when on-boarding and then tried to talk down. A talk down is a perfect way to make sure to break the employee morale so he is always in awe of the client.

I reject this kind of prospective client out-right. One needs to constantly be watching for signals for these kinds. Unfortunately they are far too many and one can get used to.

How can small businesses be a win-win situation for all stake holders

In my post yesterday, I said that small businesses become a zero sum game and if the owner wants to make a tidy profit he has to exploit and out smart his smartest employees. This is a cat and mouse game. The Cat (owner) may eat many mouses but eventually he will run out of steam i.e the younger employees will have a new skill-sets which the older owner is not able to keep up with.

So how do small businesses over come this structural issue

I think small business have this basic structural issue, where either the owner wins or the employer wins. If the owner wins, the business stays afloat for a longer time, but eventually this structural issue with eat up the small business like termites dig into walls.

Naval Ravikant I think says that in future, every person would be a one man business.

With the advent of AI, most of the corporation who can use this expensive tech, will start reducing their manpower. This means the current peak levels of employment will not be sustainable. Corporations are built to maximise profit, if a AI can do the job, corporation will cut the work force.

But governments are supposed to manage the people. If unemployment reaches beyond a certain point and if there is wide spread discontent, the stability of the country is at stake.

New phrases like “ Gig economy and Co-working space” are the already an industry on its own. This is an indicator that people will be doing a lot of stuff like a small business or perhaps a one man small business.

Small Business should turn all its employees into a one man small business to make it a win-win situation

People are driven by incentives. The more skin in the game one has the more he is in the game. In the traditional small business set up, the employee is treated like a disposable commodity. If he works his arse off, he is building the owner of the small business brands. So he doesn’t have any skin in the game.

Now, If a small business can subcontract all its operation/marketing/sales/service to other one man or smaller units of small business this could mean all stake holder have skin in the game. The subcontractors are owners of their businesses, and whatever they learn servicing their existing clientele can be transferred to a new client.


If you are small business and feel you have grown to a point where it is getting extremely tiring for you to carry on. Do try this system and let me know 🙂

Small Businesses are a zero sum game

I am a huge small business advocate, but lately I have been disillusioned with small businesses. The problem with small businesses is it is a zero sum game situation between the owner and the employees.

Either the owner makes money or the employees cheat the owner to bankruptcy. Let me explain. A small business is basically where the owner is the complete master of the trade. The owner should know his business in and out. He should know everything about the business. Thats an essential pre-requisite to being a small business owner. But small business owners in this rapid technological developments might see them becoming increasing dependent more and more on other specialised skills.

In a small business scenario, the owner is making enough money that he can live a rich persons life but this means he has to always keep on finding employees who he can exploit. The margins and the volumes of business is such that, there can be only one master. (The man)

Employees Cheat

Some employees, see this zero sum game situation. So they develop strategies to hack the game. They try to make sure, that the owner will lose and they will win. Here comes corruption and loss of integrity. The employee doesn’t wan to a the losing end of this game.

He starts finding ways to cheat, wherever there is cash sales, he might rob the owner. If the owner is not well or on vacation, the employee will steal stuff from the office or business. The employee will try to find likeminded people in the staff and make a Kabal and sustain this systematic looting of the small business owner.

You would say Big corporations employees are also corrupted.

Yes, but the leverage the big business owner has against corrupted employees is huge. A big business has something called HR. The big corporate CEO or management are ten of thousands of times powerful than some employees stealing.

But for small business owner it is a daily trauma and fear, if he is no longer handson he ceases to be the winning part of the zero sum game.

What is a zero sum game

In case you wondering what is zero sum game? It is where in a given transaction or trade or agreement there is one winner and the other person is loser as against a win-win game. A win-win game is where both parties benefit and there is no exploitation.

You can become a Chartered Accountant in only Rupees Ten Thousand only

I was under the impression that education has become extremely unaffordable in India. I have been hearing stories about astronomical fees for professional degrees. So I was in for surprise yesterday.

I was on a client visit and while returning the chartered account of the client also joined me. He hails from a small town near Hyderabad. It was a long journey back home and the CA got talking to me. He said his CA education cost him Rs Ten thousand only. He said there are 10 papers for CA and each cost about Rs 1000 to appear. Please note – In mumbai the price is Rs Ten thousand per paper, but to save money he appeared for his papers from small towns like Chennai and Hyderabad where the paper costs only Rupees One thousand.

He said his monthly pocket money was Rs 100 and he couldn’t afford to live and give exam in Mumbai city so he travelled to Chennai lived with his relatives and gave his paper. He is about 30/35 year old. So circumstances might be a bit different today. But again Education policies don’t change all of a sudden.

## His Education catapults him to the upward moving Salaried Class

He said, immediately after graduation he got a job in an investment banking firm where he has privileges like air travel, which was a dream come true. He was then at Infosys where the living arrangement was like a 5 star place. He then moved to Dubai for 6 years and even got a US degree in CFA while working.

This is a story of India from 2002 to 2018. His story is the story of India. I will be following his career story from 2019 onwards.

Beware of Fake It till you make it Influencers

Do you know that you can purchase thousands of followers on Instagram?

Do you know you can also purchase like and comments too?

Do you know of existence of Whatsapp groups, which encourages its members to like and comment or face expulsion from the group?

Yes, these are the facts of “Fake it, Till you make it” which basically means fool the client till the money is in the bank. Brands work on numbers, numbers look good on Graphs and charts. Also a marketing manager job is easy if he has corresponding data to show his VP to justify the campaign costs.

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The influencer eco-system is corrupted and in 2018/2019, all social media networks did a purge. But guess what, social media companies also need to show numbers to their stock holders.

Fake it you make it a universal law. But choose your influencer with caution. Do some background checks, for eg

1. Does the influencer you are hiring have real followers or are they all BOTS?
2. See the historical growth of the followers of the influencers you are trying to hire. Use tools like socialblade.com for the same. If you see sudden spike in the number of followers, it is a “fake it till you make it” account.
3. Reward genuine handwork. Many influencers like us are working hard to nurture our community. These fake influencers are jumping the Q. They have to fool the brand till the money is in the bank. They are what we call ‘Fly by night ” businesses.