My Multi-Year Mistake
I am absolutely kicking myself. I totally messed up and accidentally put myself in the middle of a poop sandwich that I’ll have to eat for years. Come ugh with me.
Rewind a couple years (yes please we were so innocent then). A long-time client I hadn’t heard from in a beat asked for a new contract. Cool, right?
They’re government, which means we cut down 10% of the Amazon rainforest to generate the paperwork necessary to get a contract in order. It takes months, notaries, and alllllll your patience.
So three months into working together, the contract person emails me like “Hey I think we have a beautiful future together. What’s say we extend that onerous contract by a five years? It’ll be an easy 1 page extension form and it’ll keep us from having to steal endangered macaw habitats next time around.”
Sounds like an easy yes to me! I signed away.
That was my mistake.
Because, my friend, the contract documented my rates.
And I had just committed to charging those rates for five years.
Had I known it would be a five year contract when I was originally negotiating, I would have stipulated a % increase each year. But because I was contracting for one short term project, annual increases weren’t even on my radar.
Matter of fact, I didn’t even catch my mistake when the extension was finalized. Nope.
It was only recently, years later, when someone at the company reached out with a request for work and referenced a price agreement that was from pre-COVID olden days, that I realized how much I screwed myself.
I shrieked. I shuddered. I wailed like a toddler.
My rates are far from where they were five years ago – and yours should be too.
Look, I’m not a gold digger. It isn’t all about the money.
The concern is really about the resentment I felt as a consequence of my mistake. It was my own damn fault. But it still put a chip on my shoulder that would inevitably impact the quality of the work. And that’s not how I want to be in the world.
I bet you’re wondering how I handled it.
Well, my saving grace was this: Their timeline was immediate and my plate was full of other work. I was able to decline on those grounds.
But that won’t be the case for every minute until the agreement expires.
In the meantime, my work is to (1) get right with the fact that I made this bed and I’m gonna have to lie in it. And (2) build a check into my systems to prevent me from signing extensions without amending the price structure.
Have you been here too? Where you got yourself stuck in a tough spot and you’ve gotta just deal with it? Help me feel less alone and tell me about it.