Repairing a Damaged Web Working Career


Like a corporate career, web work can also be prone to seemingly irreparable damages. Whether it’s personal problems that affect the quality of your work, difficult clients who give you bad publicity, or the lack of strong business sense, you might get hurled down from your planned career ladder.

From personal experience I know what it’s like to have your own teleworking practice come tumbling further and further down. (I even considered turning my back on my work and becoming a video store clerk, but I suspect I was just being a drama queen.) When you get this low, is there a way to go back up?

I believe there is, but it requires some serious introspection.

Know and accept your mistakes. Although there are some things outside your control, we often underestimate the amount of things we do have control over. Did your web working effort falter because you weren’t communicating well with clients? Were you cheated by contractors because you didn’t screen them too well?

Sometimes, you might even have more than one mistake. In my case, since I wasn’t that business-savvy, it was hard for me to separate my personal life from my work – something that many web workers fall into when they start. My other crucial mistake was attempting to handle everything myself, even if there were already some tasks I could afford to hire an outsider to do.

It also helps to get outside advice to get a more objective perspective. You can do this with a trusted friend or within the anonymity of an online community such as a business messageboard. Of course, you’ll need to be open to other people’s critique – or else you’ll never find those mistakes that you need to get over.

Find concrete ways to fix them. Now that you know your mistakes, ask yourself “What would prevent me from making these mistakes in the future?” You can you usually answer this by finding the main cause of your mistake. Is it lack of time, skill, money, or even lack of leisure? By determining the cause, you’d know which aspect of your life to work on.

If it’s lack of time, it usually helps to learn how to be more efficient and to farm out non-essential and repetitive tasks to others – with the former being your main priority. We’ve discussed both productivity and outsourcing at length over here at WWD, so going through the archives won’t hurt.

Since time is the most important and most abused resource, time management is often the first things you need to look at when changing your career for the better. Producing maximum output from minimum input often eases the problems of money, leisure, and will even give you more time to hone your skills.

As I mentioned earlier, my problem was that my personal life affected my work life so much. The first thing I did that made a major difference was to designate a specific area in my house that was for work only. Sometimes, changing your environment can trigger deeper changes within yourself as well.

Show others how you’ve changed. If you’ve already made initial amends with any clients you’ve disappointed, such as by offering a discount or sending an apologetic note, it’s time to win them back. Honesty and transparency goes a long way in this step. You’ll need to tell them the reasons why your work wasn’t up to the usual quality, and more importantly, how you’ve fixed it.

Be sure to let your clients know that you understand how your quality of work affects them and that you’ve taken steps to avoid repeating your mistakes.

When trying to win back lost clients, don’t expect all of them to come back. Some of them could’ve found a replacement while you were making changes.

Keep it running. Once you’ve changed and improved your web working business for the better, it’s important to avoid falling back on old negative habits. The best way to do this is to stick to a routine and to focus on the quality of your work. By continually putting yourself out there and by making an effort to be better, your work will speak for itself and past mistakes will soon be nothing but lessons learned.

Have you ever hit a low point in your web working career? What triggered it? What made you get back on track?



To put things in perspective, the Mayor of San Francisco got busted in a should have been career ending affair with his friend’s wife, in addition to a battle with the bottle, yet he seems to be back on track. The point is that few situations are truly so bad that they’ll damage you forever. People have amnesia about garden variety shortcomings and screwups.

What people do remember, forever, is truly malicious behavior. I’ll share a specific example. I worked for a manager who, in addition to cheating me out of a significant amount of money, decided it was ethically OK to break into my private email, read over 10,000 messages, and then brag about reading my mail to colleagues (with color commentary). I have since corroborated this with four independent sources, three of whom never worked for him.

I was willing to forgive getting screwed financially and move on, but the invasion of privacy was so over the line, that’s something I’ll never forgive or forget.

The point is that most people are forgiving if you make a mistake. Nobody’s perfect, and most of us work in offices where dysfunction and inefficiency is commonplace. However, if you willfully damage people, then you may well find yourself on someone’s black list, and that it’s very difficult to get off that list.

Fortunately, that’s a pretty rare situation.


Very inspirational story and great advice! Sorry I don’t really have any of my own stories to share.

– Segan

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