A brick wall painted in white

“I don’t want to get fined for GDPR but I still want to do whatever it takes to get people’s email to send them my offers”

“Well, honestly I don’t think they’ll be able to enforce GDPR or fine me for it since I’m not in Europe”

“How about we use the cookie anyway and if they don’t accept it, then we take it off? I just don’t want my GA numbers to drop”

“Can you make the unsubscribe link white? so it’s still there but they won’t see it? or maybe very light grey so they could see it but they have to look really hard?”

These are actual comments I have received from real people I’ve worked with in the past. And, I’m very sorry to say, I have at times in my career complied with their demands. I would try to explain best practices, I would try to make a case for doing the right thing or thinking of the end user but ultimately I would throw my hands up and say “You’re the client, it’s your site and your money, so your call”.

The Setup

Starting your own business is hard. Doing it while moving countries every couple of years and landing somewhere with little knowledge of the local language or the environment, and having no network or support system to speak of, is an extra level of difficult. Having to manage increased living expenses, unfavorable currency exchange rates and the anxiety of having no backup put me in the position where I felt I had to take any and every job that came my way regardless of the conditions or what the job entailed. I felt I had no choice.

Little by little, having to make those decisions started to eat away at me. Holding in my hands private sensitive data of people, unencrypted, not anonymized and secured by a basic password, and being expected to use that information to produce “significant engagement”. Being told to design with an emotional approach in mind to remind people of what they are missing out because of their health condition. Being told it doesn’t matter in the end, because the target audience is in a South American country and they are not protected by regulations as strict as those in Europe or parts of the United States.

And, as one would expect, people who hold these attitudes in one part of their lives do carry them across everything they do. These clients were always the nightmare clients, the ones unnecessarily calling my emergency line at 3am, the ones flexing the “I pay your bills” muscle, the ones threatening to ditch their contract and “Good luck taking me to court over it”, and the ones actually following through with it. The kind of people who feel that hiring someone to perform a service for them establishes some kind of hierarchy and entitles them to treat people poorly.

Having a prospective client make unwanted sexual remarks at me and then have to interview with him for a project in a different organization, while plastering a smile on my face and while pretending nothing was wrong. Being called hun, babe, and sweetie by the people I have worked with, and bitch when I made it clear that the former were NOT OK. Hearing comments about how “my people” do things, or thinking they were complimenting my speed and efficiency by saying from just seeing my work they would’ve never guessed I was latin, they would’ve sworn I was a true German, whatever the hell that even means.

Even outside of a corporate environment, working independently, working with non-profits, being the boss, I still kept finding myself surrounded by toxicity, discrimination, sexism, racism, homophobia, and these were the people I was choosing to work with.

I wish I had a better word for it, but all I can say about it is yuck!. The feeling of being grossed out and burned out by my job started taking over until I ended up hating getting to work in the morning. I hated the things I had to do, the people I had to work with, and being put in the position to put up with it all to make ends meet.

Hitting The wall

Hitting the wall is a phrase commonly used in sports. It’s the name runners give that point during a race when your body decides it has had enough and can’t go any further. When you feel you have nothing more left to give and you can’t take a single step forward.

Before anyone who hasn’t met me yet goes on to get the false impression that I’m a runner, let me clarify that I have not enjoyed a single moment of exercise in my entire life. I have however enjoyed Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and that’s gotta count for something right?

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.”

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

In any case, as many runners and even Murakami put it, the wall is very real in a physical sense, but there are ways to overcome it mentally. So I decided to pace myself and build myself up again to a place where I could perform at my best.

I put my business on slow mode: not taking on any new clients or projects, cutting down my client list significantly so I was only working with people I trusted, could see eye to eye with, share values and ideals and people I was sure I could provide value to. I’m not gonna lie, I also kept a few because I still need to pay the bills, but they were certainly not the very problematic ones.

This time in my life coincided with moving from Germany to Sweden and what better moment than a relocation to start anew and regroup. And what better place to fill myself with new ideas than school.

Addendum

This is the first in a series of posts exploring the changes in me, the way I do business, how I structure my services and where I draw my lines in the sand. This category in my blog is for me to share my learning experiences as I try to improve my business and align Doing Well & Going Good. If you’re worked with me or have met me before, you’re about to learn a whole lot more about me than you ever did (or wanted to?). If this is the first you’ve heard of me, be prepared for wonky metaphors about running, house building and baking, self deprecating humor and a whole lot of oversharing. If you’re not here for my introspective ramblings, feel free to skip this category altogether and catch my practical and useful posts in the other blog categories, no hard feelings.

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