Racism and discrimination don’t stop once you become an entrepreneur. Self-employed Black folks still face microaggressions.
In times like this, it’s important to openly communicate with clients about what we expect from them.
It’s also a good time to, as a good friend of mine once said, ALT + F4 some people out of your life.
How can entrepreneurship teach Black entrepreneurs to draw the line between their needs and their business needs?
3. Business Relationships Teach Us How To Set Standards for Our Minority-Owned Business
Back in April, I fired one of my first clients. Tension had been building between us for several weeks because of creative differences, but one night was the last straw.
My client had called me up at 9 PM on a Friday night to yell at me about not posting on their social media at the right time.
This was not OK—I made the decision to value my sanity over my income when I called the following Monday and let them go. I definitely didn’t foresee this when I onboarded them. And that was the issue: I realized that there hadn’t been a proper onboarding process.
We didn’t even sign a contract. I just accepted everything they sent my way because I was eager to work.
I talk about ways that clients can take advantage of BIPOC entrepreneurs: offering to pay much lower than what your services are worth, giving you impossible deadlines to meet, or flat out ignoring your ideas.
I learned that it’s important to turn down clients who do not understand the value of what you do. Also, everything that happens up until you begin work for a client is very important. The discovery calls, contract reviews, everything.
I was shocked when my ex-client posted a black square on their social media after the murder of George Floyd. This isn’t uncommon. Many people will say they support Black lives but refuse to work with them in a professional capacity.
We have to do our due diligence as entrepreneurs and take our time before jumping into relationships with clients. Going with your gut is one thing but knowing what it is you’re getting into is also crucial.
Create a mission statement for your business. Make sure you update it often.
This is how you set standards for your business so you’re not jumping at every prospective client that comes across your profile on LinkedIn or your site’s portfolio.
2. Know When to Engage and When to Disengage on Social Media
Social media can be a great tool for finding clients and helping clients find us. Be unapologetic about who you are as a business owner. You never know who’s going to resonate with your story.
But the honey can attract hater bees too. I can’t tell you how many precious minutes I’ve wasted reading comments that are essentially the equivalent of writing on a bathroom wall.
Spending time away from toxic platforms doesn’t mean our businesses will suffer. We can still directly email prospective clients or schedule networking calls with other entrepreneurs in our network. Remember that social media isn’t your reality.
“By spending too much time on social media and chained to the news cycle, you are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other people’s reality: for others, not for yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice, whether it’s yourself you’re thinking about or anything else.”
1. Become Comfortable with Pushing Back and Pushing Forward
Some of the clients you have might be just a one-off project that’s not going anywhere. The feast and famine cycle is no joke, but the aim of being an entrepreneur is to develop meaningful relationships.
Sometimes a client will want too much out of you during moments when you don’t feel like your best. In some situations, it may not feel appropriate to say, “I don’t feel safe as a Black person in this country. I need to take some time off. I won’t be able to meet the deadline for some of our projects…”
But if we’re not able to say this to our clients or at least share some of this reality, how well have we worked to build a rapport with those businesses?
It’s worth reassessing the kind of clientele you want because believe me, your wants are just as valid as they are important. You determine your own branding, your own values, etc.
How you conduct business should reflect that. No matter what the future has in store for us, we have to look ahead and stay focused. It’s not easy—if it was, everyone would be an entrepreneur!
But let me emphasize the need to practice self-care on and off the clock. As freelance editor and copywriter Anitra Budd says, if you have a rule of no work on the weekends then you need to stick to it.
If you know that you need to ALT + F4 some people out of your life, then incorporate these self-care techniques from fellow Black women entrepreneurs.