To be upfront, this will be one of the most difficult writeup I will put up because its an account I had with a client who happens to be one who “might” sue me. But then again, I’m not mentioning anyone’s names and there shouldn’t be any cause for a lawsuit….just that he might not hire me again. Either way, I strongly believe there’s a lesson or two to be learnt herein. Anyways, here goes nothing.
A few years ago, I was privileged to have worked with a client that would eventually go down in my books as one of the “most interesting clients ever”. I met him during an exhibition I had in Transcorp Hilton Hotel (Abuja) in 2008. He would eventually hire me to cover a ceremony in his hometown during which he’ll be given a chieftancy title by the king of the town.
It was supposed to be a 4-6 hour event in which he was to pay N200k for a standard album. I drafted an agreement that required him to make a deposit of 50% of the total fee before I flew to his hometown for the coverage. The main day finally arrived and after a bunch of seemingly legitimate reasons why he had not made the deposit, I decided to take a risk and pay for the flight from my own pocket.
Upon arriving at my airport destination, I headed straight to my clients’ house and met him in full preparation for the event. I stylishly asked for the deposit and was abruptly reprimanded for coming across as someone who liked money too much. “Can’t you see that I’m busy….I’ll get you the deposit once I’m free”. Being the optimistic person that I am, I chose to take him by his word.
10 hours later after the event was over, I was faced with the challenge of making the same presentation. This time around the reason that was given was that he was too tired after a tedious chieftancy ceremony to address mundane financial matters like mine. I would eventually withdraw back to the room he had lodged me in the “boys quarters” behind his mansion.
That night, I would eventually make friends with the man’s cook & driver because they lived in the room adjacent mine. Listening in on the discussions the cook & driver were having, I discovered that my rich client was not the type that treated his subordinates with dignity. Many atimes he would shout at them and call them names in the presence of visitors and dignitaries. I eventually found myself giving thanks to God that I wasn’t a staff of this client. I eventually spent 3 days at the client house and could almost write a book based on the experiences the cook, driver and gateman have had with the man over the years.
On my second night in the clients villa, I remember the cook storming into the room and shouting at the top of his voice (ofcourse he knew that oga could not hear him).
“This oga no get sense o, abi no be me wey be him cook he suppose dey treat very nice….me wey fit poison am if I want…but my mama no raise me up like that if not I for show am pepper”.
He murmured and complained for over 30 minutes about how his “master” had just cursed him out in front of guest for forgetting to bring a tray of glasses for drinking water. Little did I know I was about to have my own memorable experience.
After getting another excuse on the second day, I would eventually have my way on the 3rd day. By the 3rd day of being in my clients mansion, I was already getting scared of him as if he was my boss. I gathered all the courage within and asked for an audience with him. By now he knew what I wanted to see him for: a deposit of N100k for the photography job he had hired me for.
As I approached his room, his PA walked out of the room and almost collided with me. I was surprised to discover that this thirty-something year old beautiful daughter of Eve was in tears. Apparently she had just been dealt with verbally by the same “master” that I was about to meet. I swallowed my saliva as if in a plane that was about to take off. I was more nervous now. I hope this man’s words won’t leave me in tears by the time I was done. I shrugged off the feeling knowing that he wasn’t my boss and that he was just a man. Except he had 7 heads like a beast in the bible, I shouldn’t be afraid of him. Or should I? I was about to find out.
He was laying down on his bed when I walked in. 2 of his best friends were in the room. After a few seconds of repeating the same requisition I had been making for the past 2 days, I handed out to him a printed A4 paper that documented the agreement we had regarding the job at hand and asked him to sign. It was then he flared up and threw the paper back at me.
“How dare you give an agreement to a Harvard Law Graduate. Don’t you know that its improper to issue a contract to a lawyer? Rather it’s a lawyer that should issue out a contract that will require your signature”.
Up until then, I did not know that my world-renowned client was a graduate of Harvard Law School. Up until then, I didnt know that it was “illegal” to present contracts that required a signature to a “law” graduate. I took in a deep breath and for 2.5 seconds thought of what to say in response to the declarations of my lawyer client.
I found myself apologizing to him for not knowing that I was disrespecting him without my knowledge. I explained to him that I was only protecting his interest by putting on paper everything that I promised him I would deliver. Ofcourse I knew that I was protecting my interest against lawyers like that. While expressing my heartfelt apologies to the man through my then-nervous mouth, I was uttering desperate prayers to God in my heart. My singular prayer was for God not to make me treat people the way this rich Harvard client treated people.
He eventually signed the document grudgingly and reached into his bag for a bundle of N1000 notes. What he did thereafter touched my heart and made me feel more sorry for him. He hurled the bundle of N1000 notes at me and asked me to leave his room. The bundle fell right in front of me without hitting me. It was then I knew that God had indeed blessed me with a patient spirit. Had I possessed half of the nature of one of my mentors, I would have walked up to him, return the money, given him a dirty slap (which might have landed me in jail ofcourse), and walked out of the house that night only to later remember that my belongings were still in his mansion. But a patient man I was (and hopefully still am).
I picked up the pack of N1000 notes, counted it twice to be sure it was not short a Naira less than N100k. Realizing that my deposit was complete, I thanked him very much and walked out of the room. I would later thank God for not walking out in tears as the PA had done a few minutes earlier.
Over the years, I’ve dealt with some clients that seemed to have graduated from the same class as my Harvard client. Over the years, I’ve realized that patience is a virtue that will help a photographer like me not to kill some people before their time. Over the years, I’ve realized that my propensity to take rubbish from someone is directly proportional to the money they’re paying me. Yes, I know that can be vain but God has used many Harvard clients to put food on my family’s table over the years. Although I usually don’t do jobs again for clients like that, I’ve found out that they’ve been examples of people that I pray to God that “when I grow up in riches, do not make me like this person”.
Or if it was you that a client threw N100k at, what will you do? Be honest now.
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