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“There is no obligation for me to pay this bill.”

Quick story about your humble narrator dodging a bullet, full of frustration and headaches:

I’ve been in a painstakingly long back-and-forth with a potential client for the past couple of weeks. We’ve had several meetings, I audited her Klaviyo account, took her through my onboarding questionnaire, we’ve sent over 50 emails back-and-forth, chatted with Klaviyo’s support team, and despite some red flags (that I realize now in hindsight), I almost made a deadly error:

Y’see, this prospective client has perhaps more opportunity with her email list than any other brand I’ve ever talked to:

She has around 30,000 leads in her Klaviyo account. Despite that, in the last 30 days, she’s only sent an email to ~200 leads. That’s a 0.3% list utilization rate.


From my outsider’s perspective, she has a few winning products. She’s been in business for 26 years. And it looks like, in my slightly biased, but accurate opinion, that she just doesn’t know a lick about email marketing. Otherwise, she’d probably see an instant rise in her revenue. In fact, the only thing standing between her company from becoming a million dollar per year (revenue) company is the complete neglect of email, and well, her.

Here’s why:

She’s been a pain in the arse at every possible step. She almost got banned from Klaviyo once before (because, I think, she tried going from sending 200 emails per month to 20,000 in one send, which is a no-no for Klaviyo’s deliverability). So, I understand her worry. Despite me repeating to her ad nauseum that if we warm up the sending domain properly, she refused to understand.

Despite this, I trucked forward. There’s a ton of potential lurking inside her untapped Klaviyo portal after all.

Then, when it came to pricing, she refused to listen to my prescription I gave her after diagnosing her account and email marketing strategy. I settled to work on a test project, for an agreed upon sum of money far less than I’d typically charge. (She was to be getting a fraction of the work I typically do, so it still made sense for me, but this gave me my first hesitation.)

Fast forward a bunch of email back-and-forths and a couple canceled meetings, and she said she’d like to move forward with the test project we agreed on.

Okay, let’s get to work then.

I sent over the invoice and waited for her to pay it before I wrote a lick of copy, or made any changes in her Klaviyo account.

Instead of paying my invoice, she emailed me back with this:


Hi John,

If the test did not go well and we decide to stop. There is no obligation for me to pay this bill.

Let’s do the test first. If good, we will pay bill at the beginning of the next month. Thanks.


Ummmmm, that’s not how this works, miss.

I require, as a rule of business, an upfront payment before I get started. I’ve been burned before by shitty clients, and I’m not starving for clients to subject myself to that possibility as I would’ve been at an earlier point in my career.

I told her as such.

She responded back saying that she’s been in business for 26 years and treats her vendors well.

(Well, you’re not having a good start of treating me well, when you refuse to pay me for my services upfront, as we agreed on, and as I require.)

I told her, again, that I wouldn’t work for free.

She shot back saying how I wasn’t working for free, just that (and this is me paraphrasing what she said here) I’ll be working for free for a month, then she’ll pay me when she decides she should.

I told her, again, that this isn’t how this works.

She kept pleading for me to work for free, telling me that she’s worked with vendors for 15-20 years.

That’s all fine and dandy, but your refusal to pay me upfront for my services is a nonstarter.

At last, she hit me with “let me know if you want to pursue.”

Obviously, I do not want to pursue it without an upfront payment, as I’ve mentioned several times over.

Looking back on this in hindsight, I dodged a bullet. Even if she agreed to pay me upfront for my services, she would’ve continued to be an ice pick in my noggin.

Sometimes, the battles you lose are the ones most profitable.

How’s that for a counterintuitive insight?


If you have a business where you’re not generating at least 20% of your revenue from email, grab a time with me here, and let’s see how high we can make this number. (One of my clients sits at 56-ish% of his revenue from email alone.)

But… be prepared to pay me upfront for my services. Or else, I’ll tell you to hit the road.



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