A few days ago, I got fired.
I had been hired to mix a record for a new client. From the first conversation, it was clear that we had different visions. Our communication styles differed dramatically. She wasn’t unhappy with my first pass, but revision after revision went by as I tried to meet her expectations.
And then I got the call.
“Look Jason, you’re a really great mixer. But I don’t think this is working.”
I was afraid to write this article. Though my clients are rarely unhappy, it’s difficult to admit that some aren’t thrilled with my work. But this happens to everyone, and I think it’s important to talk about it.
Mixing is a service-based business. We all try our best to achieve a mix that satisfies our clients’ expectations (and hopefully our own as well). Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, we’re not able to make this happen.
When I’ve encountered these situations in the past, I’ve often jumped to defensiveness. My ego kicks in, and I start coming up with all sorts of reasons why my client is wrong, clueless, or stupid.
But this time was different. Because coincidentally, a few days earlier, I had stumbled upon Joe Gilder’s podcast on getting fired.
On the podcast, Joe describes how he handled a similar situation in detail. And on this call with my client, I suddenly found his words coming straight out of my mouth.
I told my client how much I appreciated her honesty. I apologized that I wasn’t able to meet her expectations. I told her that I could only imagine how hard it was to make this phone call.
Her response surprised me.
“Wow. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you saying that. I was so nervous to have this conversation!”
We can all relate to being the bearer of bad news. By validating my client’s experience with empathy, I diffused a potentially tense and difficult conversation.
When it was time to discuss what to do about my rate, she told me not to worry about it. She admitted that she could have communicated more effectively, and told me she’d eat the cost.
After the call, I reflected on how I could have navigated through this project more successfully. I realized that I didn’t feel right about the job from the beginning, yet I chose to take it anyways. Moving forward, I’d like to become more comfortable turning down work. I’m not right for everyone, and that’s okay.
It’s easy to sail through a mix when everything is going well. But when times get tough, we’re often presented with opportunities to make a lasting impression (good or bad). I’m still learning, but I’ve started to figure out how to navigate these situations more gracefully.
It’s made me a much better mixer.
Do you have any tips for navigating these types of interactions? If so, leave a comment below and let me know!