A client asked me to do something horrifying yesterday. She asked me to “meet her.”
I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it. I’d already told her I work from home. But as she barreled on about how much she was looking forward to SEEING me and handing me origami puppets and making flashcards and whatnot, it became apparent my client didn’t really register that I work from home.
REALLY embarrassing for her. My face gets hot just thinking about it.
Statistics suggest about 30 million people in the United States work from home, at least part time. That’s the entire population of Canada, give or take an Ax Man. Picture all of Canada sitting in front of desks they hacked out of pines themselves, swaddled in sweatpants and hockey sweatshirts. That’s what we have scattered about America: A Sweatpants Nation.
Just because I am charming at a cocktail party, it doesn’t mean I want to get all fancied-up to have a ten minute conversation. I’m not being rude or antisocial. I’m being practical. I want to save us both time. But much like an episode of Dateline, these phone conversations with clients start innocently enough, and then Keith Morrison’s leathery face lights up with amusement and you know things have gone horribly, horribly wrong.
“I’d like to get together with you…” says the client, usually for no other reason than they’ve been saying it for the last twenty years.
“Oh, I’m sure we can do this on the phone!” I say, so perkily my head nearly bounces off my shoulders. Maybe that is my problem. Maybe if I didn’t sound SO dang charming they wouldn’t feel compelled to meet me in person. I should work on that.
“Yeaaaaah, buuuuut…” says the client. “I think if I acted out what I want using hand puppets I made myself out of tube socks, a hot glue gun and plastic googily-eyes, you’d have a better feel for what I need…”
That is when I know I’m sunk. This is not a client who will take no for an answer. No matter how hard I try to trick him into telling me everything on the phone, he’s going to insist we meet in person. More than likely, he will tell me everything on the phone, and then just repeat it in person. That’s my favorite.
It’s hard to believe this sort of behavior still goes on in this day and age. What with phones, email, texting, faxes, online meeting sites, file upload sites, Twitter, Facebook, that thing Justin Timberlake is doing, the United States Postal Service; why would any human being EVER have to be in the same room with another without wine, vibrating spa chairs or super sales involved?
Now, I’m faced with three options.
Option one: the client meets me at my home, violating my sanctuary with unfamiliar perfumes and the echo of forced laughter. I’ll need to clean the house before she arrives; hide all the empty wine bottles, straighten my desk, find a landscaper to clear the rotting bodies of last spring’s annuals (so deceptively festive at the time), bathe the dog, groom the dog, teach the dog not to run full-speed through people’s legs ripping ACLs and MCLs like they’re over-boiled spaghetti, and get myself ready.
Preparation: 2-11 days. Meeting Time: 10 minutes.
Option two: I meet the client at their place of business or a coffee shop where I’ll spend half the meeting apologizing for how loud it is. This requires getting dressed and leaving the house. I’ll need to put on clothes other than sweatpants. I’ll spend the next hour staring forlornly at Real Pants, with their judgmental, inflexible waistbands. The client might as well have stopped by and roundhouse kicked me in the heart. It would be less painful, except that the visit would require me to clean house.
Sadly, I’ve found any form of sweatpants will turn off prospective clients. Even sweatpants with fun tush-messages like “Juicy,” though the one time I bought those I accidentally ended up with a pair written in a sarcastic font. People who work outside the home become insanely jealous when other people show up to a meeting in comfortable clothes. If you wear sweatpants to a meeting with someone who bought a suit at Men’s Warehouse on the ONE day a year they are not giving them away six for the price of one, forget it. Kiss that contract good-bye; he’s not “gunna like the way you look.”
Preparation: 5 hours. Meeting Time: 10 minutes.
Option three: I insist on doing everything remotely and lose the client to some go-getter who still gets dressed every day and probably belongs to a gym, too. Schmuck.
Preptime: 2 minutes. Meeting time: 0.
Option three could be the reason my business took a bit of a hit last year.
I’m sure it’s just the economy.
First printed in Underwire Magazine.