Friday, November 11, 2005


So I have this client who gives me extremely intellectually challenging work, but is quite chaotic. But I can live with that - that's kinda why people use consultants sometimes: to get some clarity through all their internal guff.

And there's a certain satisfaction derived from see through the trees to the wood.

There's quite a lot of making meetings, and cancelling them, and remaking them, and then some key people not coming, and them changing their minds about what they want. And I'm training them (managing upwards or whatever you call it) to do this stuff better.

So they insisted on having a (three hour) meeting on erev Rosh Hashanah (which is kinda like Christmas Eve, to me). It was for twenty people, and my contact was very insistent that that was the only day everyone could make, and as I was the person leading the meeting, I needed to be there.

Client's mostly/always right, so I said yes. Get there at 11am, my client and her sidekick are there. Fine. Wait a little, no-one else shows. She gets on her mobile and makes some calls. Turns out no-one's coming. Because they hadn't actually built internal relationships with the people they were bringing to the meeting, they'd just sent them an Outlook diary request which they'd collectively ignored.

Given that they'd just cancelled a whopper of a contract (which was going to buy me all manner of new geekery) the previous week, which is the way the game goes sometimes, I wasn't happy. My client was embarrassed: "you must bill us for your time, obviously".

I left, and thought about it, and decided to bill them for half a day: there was two hours travelling, and half an hour hanging around, and the mental preparation, and she'd asked me to bill her anyway. Also, I thought that maybe in a slightly Pavlovian way, if she had to run around looking for a code to bill it to, she might learn to change her behaviour. Not that I'm her CBT therapist. I checked it out with a couple of other freelancer friends. Seemed fair.

A couple of weeks later, I send an email with the invoice attached. I get an immediate, irate email back from her, saying who do I think I am, and this is outrageous. In conflict-avoidance mode (and it's not really worth it for this, anyway), I pick up the phone, and she's quite ranty and says she expected me to bill her for like £30. I resisted the tempation to say I don't get out of bed for less than £30, and we sort of agreed on half, and I said I was interested in the long term blah blah blah.

Then, other stuff happened, and I didn't send a credit note (because being self-employed means I'm my own accounts department, and it's frankly not worth raising/chasing an invoice for less than a certain amount of money). Her sidekick gets on the phone and says it's outrageous, and she'll sort it. She comes back to me a week later, and tells me a slightly higher figure (like, 60%).

I kinda don't really care, but it's all too far gone, and sending them a credit note for 40% has sat on my list, and I got distracted and shit happened.

Today, I get a statement from them saying they paid my last invoice for a big piece of work - AND THIS ENTIRE INVOICE.

Sometimes, you don't know what to think. So you just think nothing.

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