I have to fire this client. I have to fire this client. I have to fire this client!
This thought was playing on repeat in my head like a broken record, with the pounding of my heart providing the thumping bass line. I was sitting on the bare, cold floor of the beautiful apartment I had rented in Tours, France, tears stinging my eyes. It was May and I had not seen a check from this client since December. I was literally down to the bottom of my bank account—and only halfway through my trip. The client had told me they had processed the latest payment before I left and it would be in the bank in 48 hours…this was days before I left, after a solid month of calling and emailing almost every day. And now, still no check. Worse, this client was my last one! I had others on the horizon, but all my others had finished up their work with me—or I’d fired them, like I desperately wanted to fire this one.
Every time this client (or any others) dragged their feet on payment, I knew I had to have done something wrong. But what? I must not have delivered what they had asked or wanted. I searched my emails and work files frantically to find what I missed, but as far as I could find, I had done exactly what I’d been contracted to do. Okay, I must not have worked the right amount of hours…the research time I did and the event I attended for them, I knew I shouldn’t have billed them for those! But no, my contract said they hired me to do those things, so it couldn’t possibly be that.
Maybe I shouldn’t be trying to build a business. I didn’t finish college. My family doesn’t have a business background. I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe I just don’t deserve to succeed.
That was it. With that thought, my tears became uncontrollable sobs and I started feeling nauseous. The next few hours were a blur of crying, puking, and hating myself. How had I gotten to this point? Why couldn’t I just ask for what I want and need, and feel like I deserve it? Why couldn’t I find clients who valued me as much as I valued them?
As my crying eventually stopped, I knew I had to close this chapter somehow. Alright, Universe, I thought. I hear you, and I surrender. Show me what I need to see.
The words came to me: self-worth.
Self-worth, I realized, is the part of yourself you can’t hide from. You can fake self-confidence all day, but it’s not part of your core the way self-worth is. Self-worth is like a tattoo on your forehead that turns neon-bright at the moment you want to hide it (or hide from it) the most.
The real reason I couldn’t find the right clients, or collect payment from them when I had them, the reason I struggled to even sit down and do the invoicing at all, was that I didn’t feel like I was worthy to do those things.
But I was worthy. And I knew I was! I knew those thoughts about not deserving success were wrong, wrong, wrong! I had survived bigger, scarier, and more heart-wrenching things than starting a business. This morning in Tours would not be the first time I would be starting from nothing.
So if I was truly worthy of success, what did that mean? As I considered this through my fading tears, I found one step I could take (besides firing this client) to run my business from a standpoint of worth: I could stop sending invoices late. Then another: I could put a clause in my contracts about late payments, which I’d been holding off from doing for fear it would turn the clients off, not realizing that it would actually be a sign of mutual respect. Then other ideas came. In time, I was able to rebuild my self-worth and my business.
I love people, I love their stories. Understanding where someone has been and where they are going fascinates me and opens me to new things. I want to help them on their journey when possible—bring them closer to where they are going, or help heal a piece of where they have been that may be preventing them from moving forward.
My greatest lesson in doing those things has been understanding and building self-worth. It is the foundation of you, so by default it is also the foundation of your company, your journey, and your life.
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