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Client Horror Stories

Transcription of Ameet Khabra’s episode (That time when you thought you landed your miracle client and ended up in the depths of court’s hell…)

Transcription of Ameet Khabra’s episode (That time when you thought you landed your miracle client and ended up in the depths of court’s hell…)

This transcription belongs to Episode #43: Ameet’s Freelance Journey into the Great Unknown, revisited here for us with the help of Our Beloved Host, the one & only, Morgan Friedman. Please watch the complete episode here!


Morgan Friedman (Host): Hello, hello. Welcome back to another episode of Client Horror Stories. I am honored and excited to have with me today the one and only Ameet Khabra. Did I pronounce your name correctly, Ameet?

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Yes, you did. You did.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Last episode I did, I mispronounced the person’s name in the first line.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): I know!

Morgan Friedman (Host): Oh well.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): It happens, you know. It’s not… it wasn’t out of malice, so it’s okay.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Not at all. So, Ameet, I’m very excited to hear your story today, and I love jumping right into the action. So, I have my hot tea in hand and let’s go. Tell us about your client horror story.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): My client horror story is from seven years ago. I’m going to say 2015? Yeah, that would have been seven years ago in technicality. So, I was working for an agency in Edmonton. Loved it for the most part, but eventually at one point, you know, the politics kind of get in and then you start realizing that agencies aren’t necessarily the best places to work sometimes.

And I would always be constantly telling everybody in the office during our daily meetings about like how much I was billable the day before. And I remember always thinking that that made no logical sense. So I was like, this is kind of silly. Like, I’m supposed to make massive changes in accounts for clients because I have to build time, like it just never made sense to me and I’m like, “Oh, I can just punch the numbers and sit there and be like, I was staring at Google analytics for four hours. Let me bill you for that time.” It was just a ridiculous billing system on my… From what I thought cause I do understand that hourly does have its place, but in this case, it just wasn’t it or at least I don’t believe it was.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Okay.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): So eventually at one point or another, it just became the same though. It’s just eating away at me, and I couldn’t do it anymore, so…

I just want to pause for a second and discuss that because the question of hourly billing is very interesting philosophically because it kind of puts any professional at odds with their client because the clients fundamentally want good work for the lowest price, but any professional wants to wants to bill the most hours.

Morgan Friedman (Host): So what’s… there’s an interesting tension that that’s set up is before you even do any work, it’s a little like a time bomb.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): It is. And especially if you’re selling a certain amount of hours, I think that’s where I have the issue. Like hourly has its place for sure. And I know there’s some people in the PPC community that do hourly work, and it works really well for them, but they do billing after the fact, right?

So, they’ll do the work in January, figure out how many hours were put in, and then they’ll bill the client for that. In this case, the agency was selling five hours upfront, billing them for that, and then I had to be the person to use those five hours. Otherwise, we look like we were scamming them, but really in reality, we kind of were anyways by making work up to fill those five hours.

And that’s why I don’t really like the idea of hourly work if we’re talking about it and pre-selling them afterwards. By all means, go ahead, knock yourself out, make your hourly rate super duper high, you know, that way you’re actually getting compensated for your experience at the same time and not necessarily like giving away great work for free-ish, right?

Morgan Friedman (Host): Right.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): But in this case, it just did not work for me. I just hated the idea of it. So I prefer retainer when I’m doing billing for our agency just because it’s easy. I hate invoicing so I can set up a reoccurring thing. If we go over the hours, then that’s my problem. If we go under the hours, great, I made a little bit of extra cash.

But eventually at one point or another, you actually really look at the time logs and at the end of the year, it all equals to the same thing. So, it really makes no difference on my end, and then at least the client knows exactly how much they’re spending every single month. It’s a bit more predictable on our end as well. It allows me to make decisions for the business that I can’t otherwise if we’re working on an hourly basis.

But yeah, not to shit on hourly. It definitely hasn’t played since it doesn’t work for me. All right, so, going through that with that agency, I really just hated the idea. So then I eventually decided to go freelance and actually just become a contractor for that agency, and that lasted maybe two weeks. And then we were like, does it work? Because I’m a horrible employee and I know that about myself. Like I’m that person who will sit around and do my job and put my head down and just completely annihilate any benchmark that might be out there.

And then afterwards, I’ll get to a point where I know that I can’t be replaced and then my ego gets a little too big, and admittedly I was in my 20s when this was happening. So maybe it’d be a little bit different to my 30s. I don’t know. I can’t really say. But in my 20s, I had like a really massive ego because in my city, I was one of the very few people who did pay per click and really at that one point, PPC became a meat cabaret. That was it. Nobody knew anything outside of that.

So naturally, if you’re in your mid-20s, your head’s gonna get pretty large, really, at one point or another, and that’s exactly what had happened to me. So I got to a position where I was able to tell my bosses to go fuck themselves, and like, really directly to their faces, exactly like this, and then come back to work the next day. Like even at one point I got up, I got annoyed by the construction. I got up, packed my bag, and went home and emailed them. And I’m like, I’m not coming back to the office. I’ll be working from home until further notice.

And they like literally the day before told everybody that no one was allowed to do that. So I really exercised my power in all of these situations, and I very quickly realized that I was just a horrible employee. I’m just not meant to work under somebody. I like the autonomy of being able to leave halfway through my day and go for a walk or go see my niece and my nephew for a couple hours and then make up that time later, where other employers are just like, “no, you work from nine and you end at five.”

That kind of routine doesn’t work for me. I like living freely, if that makes any sense, just like fluttering around and doing whatever I want, whenever I want. So this works a lot better for me, but like, I didn’t know that at that time. So I was a problem. I’m willing to admit that I was a little bit of a problem. So eventually, we decided to do that contract that didn’t work because they were expecting me to stay within the hours and I was not doing that. I was a little bit of a night owl back in the day, so I’d stay up until 2, 3 o’clock in the morning, finish my work. But obviously, when they need answers in the middle of the day and I’m sleeping, that doesn’t work for them. And I totally understood that.

So I quickly decided, obviously, I can’t freelance for these guys, have to start finding my own clients, and then a friend of mine called me one day and she’s like, “yeah, I was just at my accountant’s office right now and he was talking about how he needs ads and stuff like that,” cause she was going over what she did for a living. So she was a writer. So she was telling him this is what I do. And then he started talking about how he needed digital marketing help, so she calls me and puts me on the phone with him right that second. And he is like, “yeah, come by tomorrow, tonight, whenever the heck you want. Let’s talk about what you have to offer.”

Obviously I’m super stoked, like, oh my God. I I didn’t even have to try. I got a lead. I told one friend that I was freelancing and that was the end of it. And so I walk into this tax office and sit down with him, and he’s super nice and very polite for the most part, and he starts going over what he’s looking for in terms of help, and at this point, I’m the PPC girl but I somehow morphed into a full-service agency.

Like literally sitting right in front of him, I’m like, “yes, we do it all. Yeah, we can totally do everything.” So he’s like, “I need a new website. I want new content. I need social media, PPC, SEO.” And I’m like, “yep. We’ve got it. It’s all good.” You know, I can do it. It’s fine. It’s totally fine. And then whenever I quoted him prices, he never pushed back. He just said okay. That was the end of it.

And I was like, oh, this is freaking amazing. Like, how did I get so lucky? How did I get so lucky? An interesting statement afterwards.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Luck works in mysterious ways.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): It’s kind of funny thinking about it. Yeah, so then we signed the agreements, we did all that stuff, and it was great. And in between all of it, he would start talking and telling me about experiences that he had with other agencies. And at one point, he had very distinctly told me about how he wasn’t happy with the work that the last agency had done. So he had complained so much and had basically threatened a bad review that they gave him like 3 months for free of services or something like that.

You could tell that he was just so proud of himself for doing that. And for whatever reason that did not register in my head, I just kind of took it as a funny story, kept on going, signing the documents, locked out. Yeah, I saw the red flags. I just ignored them basically, which was a great time.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Just to call it out, this is one of the most common red flags that has come up in many episodes before where when clients complain about the previous professional they hired before you. It’s a massive red flag, and it’s especially strong when it’s more than one that they’ve complained about.

One, whatever, you might hire back professional. But if there’s a whole string of that professionals, the problem might not be the professionals, but you.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Yeah, and that was the thing that I ended up learning from that experience was pay attention to what people are saying because I think people who get things from other people by complaining and doing those empty threats type of side of things, they’re very proud of themselves. They basically show you that.

And I think it’s even just part of, like kind of human psychology in the sense that they’re like, can I get caught? You know how there’s all those documentaries on serial killers where like, this mother… This might be going too far, but this mother basically drowned her children, and it was sometime in the 80s. And she was on TV and she sat there and she was obviously looking like she was distraught, who did this to my children, all of this stuff. But then when you watched her, you saw the corner of her mouth go up as if she was smiling, thinking that she got away with it.

And that’s when I started realizing, I think it’s in our nature to want to be caught, but we get the thrill of not. I love it. Like it’s almost… I can’t quite explain it. And it’s almost like that every time I’ve ever encountered a red flag client, they’re pretty open about it, but they believe that they’re not going to get caught in the sense that somebody’s not going to catch on. So then they just keep on doing it. And then they’re very boastful about it. So that’s how I’ve been able to pick it up where I’m like, let’s talk about that last agency and what those emotions are. And that’s how I’m able to gauge whether or not that client is actually going to make a good client for us or not.

Cause even if it was a bad match, most of… like, we had a call with one of our clients yesterday and he’s gone through two or three agencies, and they’ve all been a bad match, but not a single bad word came out of it. It was just like, “they just didn’t work for me. We tried, we failed. We’re trying again. We tried, we failed. We’re trying again.” And I remember sitting there and I was like, okay, like it was. neutral in emotion, it was straight to the fact, and there was literally no emotion involved. There was nothing there where you could sit there and be like, he’s going to turn into a nightmare. He understands that the tactics that they use did not work for him. And that was it. So then he just moved off to another agency versus all these other people who will sit there and give you more detail. Oh, they didn’t do this. They didn’t do this. They didn’t do that.

And suddenly you can kind of see them kind of getting amped up a little bit and that’s when you figure it out. You’re like, okay, you might be the problem because we’re talking about these people as if they harmed you or hurt you in a way. Why do you feel that way? It must have been a really horrible relationship, and then you kind of have to unpack that because sometimes it could be the agency, right?

I’ve heard of fly by nighters all the time that have completely screwed people over and put them into 10-year-long contracts that they can barely get out of, ridiculous stuff that I can understand that emotion towards it, but if it’s In regards to the work that was completed, that’s usually kind of my little sign of, okay.

Morgan Friedman (Host): This is interesting. I have a couple thoughts on this before we move on with the story. First, in every episode, I try to get at least one new point that’s never come up before. And while it’s common, like people complaining about the previous agencies is a common reference, you added a new nuance to it that I hadn’t heard before that I really like, which is this type of person that not just had a bunch of bad experiences, but is like proud of it and purposely tries to squeeze people to the max and identifying that.

That actually hasn’t come out before. And I really like it because there’s like someone that’s kind of just micromanages, bad client, but there’s another level of it. I like your mom that murders the children with a secret smile. You can like see that smile in the corner where you can see coming out. And that is the worst kind of crime and it’s harder to look for it, and it’s actually more subtle, like you have to be able to notice that smile in the corner in order to do that.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): And after I saw that video, I got really obsessed into human behavior and body language and stuff like that. So now it’s gotten to the point where you’ll twitch, and I’m like, why exactly did you do that? And during that mid-sentence, like random stuff like that.

And now it’s easier for me to pick up when people are lying because of the way their eyes are shifting or something. It’s interesting, but also kind of a nightmare all at the same time.

Morgan Friedman (Host): By the way, I’ve never heard of this video, but now I want to watch it. If you send me a link to it, I can add it to the notes for this podcast episode.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): I’ll try to find it. yeah, I’ll try to find it. it’s kind of creepy. It’s kind of creepy.

Morgan Friedman (Host): I like it. But one other comment I want to make and then we’ll get back to this story, which is this. This type of person that prides themselves on ripping people off and so on, the way I describe that type of person, because I don’t know an English word to describe this characteristic, but I’ll just share with you and everyone watching us how I describe it, which is I’m Jewish and there are two different groups of Jews historically.

The Jews that lived in Europe, and then who are called the Ashkenazim, and the Jews that lived in the Arabic world, who are called the Sephardim. And it’s like the same religion, it’s the same customs, but they have very different cultures. And basically, when you think of the stereotypical Jewish academic intellectual philosopher buried in books, winning a Nobel Prize, those are the European Jews.

But when you think of the Jews, that’s like selling the used car, the businessman that’s trying to squeeze everyone for a dollar, figuring out how to rip people up to make millions of dollars, those are the Sephardim Jews, the Jews from the Arabic world. And in Jewish culture, this exact type of person is like the canonical or stereotypical Sephardim or Jew from the Arabic world.

I know so many Sephardim Jews who, for example, insist that the correct price for anything they ever buy a product or service is 50% of the quoted price. So anything that will be put at a price, no matter what it is, and they’ll just fight tooth and nail to the death, like they’re being ripped off until they get near the halfway point.

It just makes no sense to me. And knowing a lot of people like that, the interesting thing is trying to muddle their mind and often they see it as a game. They don’t need those 10 cents. It’s just like part of the challenge of squeezing everyone to the max.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Yeah, it basically is. I mean, it’s like those couponers or the couponing women or men that literally can get it. They can get the store to pay them. Like that’s a game. That’s not out of love. That’s like you’re literally studying these things and going “how do I rig the system” and you’re doing an amazing… if you can convince, not even convince, you can actually get a grocery store to remit money to you while you’re walking out with hundreds of dollars of product. Props to you. I don’t know how to do it. I wish I did

Morgan Friedman (Host): I’m like you. I’m the bookish intellectual one, not the one squeezing everyone.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Yeah, I’m not that. I wish I was that kind of smart sometimes. I’m like, damn, I’d have so much more money. I’d also have a full garage of just toilet paper too, but like, you know.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Totally.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): It would be amazing. I think it would be amazing. But it’s just really funny just to come across these people who actually really believe that they can get away with it. And this was the same case with him. So basically, what ended up happening is we sign the contract in December. I took over PPC right away.

December is a slow month. Who in the world is thinking about taxes during Christmas? Literally nobody. And that was my fault for not recognizing that and being like, maybe we should start January 1st instead of December 15th or whatever the date was. And then quickly I got, phone calls or emails going, “Oh, my calls are down.” and I was like, I haven’t even made changes in your account yet. How are your calls down? And he’s like, “no, they’re always like this. It’s always, we always get this many every single day. Where are they?” And I’m like, I have no idea. And then eventually I’m like, well, it’s Christmas too. So like, relax a little bit.

And then eventually, at one point, he had just complained so much for so many days that within 18 days, I actually ended up going, you know what? I’m just going to stop doing your PPC. We’ll finish the rest of the project. I won’t bill you for the PPC work that I did. It is what it is and called it a day.

So then we went into doing the website, content, social media, and all that stuff, and he had paid all the deposits that I had asked for immediately. And that’s the other part of it is when they are willing to pay right away. It’s kind of interesting. Like we’ll sit there and say, Oh my God, these clients are the most amazing, but it’s the ones that are moving a little too quick sometimes are a little bit of a sign cause they’re just kind of almost like you get wrapped up in… or at least this is what it came off to me with this person is if I can kind of distract you enough by paying you these deposits and get you working on everything right away, maybe you’ll ignore the red flags. 

And that’s exactly kind of what had happened in mine because he went, ” sign the agreement. Here’s your check.” And I just went, “Oh, excellent.” And I walked out and I was like, “this was fantastic” without actually realizing that he had told me all of these things that I should have been aware of.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Ameet, Ameet, I’ve just had a moment of life realization that you led me to. I’m like entering a state of nirvana over here. So here, I have to share this. So you know I was just thinking about these Sephardim Jews that they’re being ripped off unless they pay half of the quoted price no matter what the quoted price is. I’m related to one particular person like this, whose name shall or my relationship shall not be used.

And what’s interesting is while he’s like the cheapest person, fights with tooth and nail, rips everyone off in these worst sort of ways like this, I never understood how every single time he pays any service or pays one of those or anything, he insists on paying people immediately, like that millisecond. Like this pattern that you notice on him being paying too quickly is exactly the pattern in this one person.

And to me, it was just this weird habit that I didn’t wire it into. So I think your sketchiness radar is now become so developed and awesome. I think it’s very insightful to be like… it’s because to connect and I think psychologically, to put to push your point, what I think is happening with these people is it’s basically like a confidence trick or confidence game that they pay you so fast exactly so you would trust them. You would trust them disproportionately fast as well, so they can get on with the con very quickly.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Yeah. On reflection, that’s what really it felt like where I was like, oh, he basically found a way to distract me and it was money because I wasn’t making any at that time.

So I was super stoked to be able to walk out of an office with like, $1,500 or whatever the heck that the deposit was. So we went on and did all of this work, finished the website. There was a couple of pieces that were still missing, but we were waiting on him to provide assets. And I remember the night. We’re clear as day. It was dark outside, must’ve been about 7 PM in winter time, so January. And I remember I’m sending him an email and he’s going, “there’s an issue on the website.” And I just go, “okay, well, what is it?” And literally, his response was, if you can’t figure out what the issue is, maybe you’re not that good at your job or something like that.

And I was like, okay, I’ve been staring at this thing for days, if not weeks, all day, every day. Eventually at one point or another, you’re going to create a blindness to what the issue might be, and that’s why we use clients for feedback. You’re supposed to tell me where the issue is, and he just literally refused.

And I remember going, “Okay, well, then you can settle up the invoice, I guess, like what are we supposed to do here?” And his response was kind of somewhat similar to what he had actually said to those other agencies. And he went “see you in court.” And I think for him, he was dealing with people who weren’t the owner of that company every single time.

So obviously, a negative review, or the threat of a lawsuit or something that’s massive enough that they were like, “forget it, we’ll just give you free work, let’s just wash this under the rug. We’re… oh, sorry.

Morgan Friedman (Host): It’s incredible that he’s ready for court, but before we hear what happens, I want to dissect for two minutes together this phrase to use, where it’s like, if you can’t figure it out, then you’re not that good. What’s interesting to me in a few ways, one of which is this, he’s an accountant. And if I hire an accountant and he does my taxes and I just tell my accountant, “hey, there’s a problem with my taxes” and the accountant says, “Oh, what is it?” And you say, “if you can figure it out, you’re not a good accountant.”

Clearly, in his own line of work, in a millisecond, he’ll self-evidently realize that you’re just being an asshole to say that and not point him in. And which is why he would clearly expect his client to tell him, “well, because a problem in your taxes could be a million different things,” like your problem on a website could be a million different things.

Therefore, knowing that, it had to be ingenuous when he said it, where the only thing he could have meant is in this way to purposely provoke you and hurt you. In other words, I like giving even biggest assholes the benefit of the doubt, but that’s the sort of phrase where there’s just no possible positive interpretation of it.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Yeah, it was one of those moments that I unfortunately, in later ones, I ended up internalizing that, and I think I still have to a certain degree, because I feel like I hear him in the back of my head sometimes, just ever so, you know, and like, I’m just having a really bad day. And it’s unfortunate, but it is what it is, really, at this point.

I’ve moved on as much as I possibly could. Obviously, some things are going to stick around a little bit longer, but he came back and said see you in court. And I think when he saw me walk through the door, I think he saw this little innocent-looking South Asian woman and he was a South Asian man. So he understood the dynamics between females and males.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Wait, wait, wait. But no, I’m just really naive. What is a South Asian girl and what is a South Asian man?

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): So Indian. So I’m Punjabi. So he was also Punjabi.

Morgan Friedman (Host): So just because… I’m sorry for being naive on these things. South Asian means Punjabi?

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): South Asian means like Indian basic.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Oh, South Asian.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): South Asian, yes.

Morgan Friedman (Host): I think that salvation, it’s like a Christian sect. And I’m like, Seventh Day Christ Adventist redirection. It’s like the salvation group. No, no . Of course I know the word South Asian. It’s just your Canadian accent is getting to me. Got it, got it, got it. So sorry.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Oh man. Totally fair. Yeah, so he was South Asian.

Morgan Friedman (Host): So not salvation.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): So am I.

Morgan Friedman (Host): He’s not salvation. South Asian.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): South Asian, yes. I’ll try to annunciate a little bit more, but…

Morgan Friedman (Host): I need to learn this Vancouver accent or Edmonton.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Edmonton. It’s a hybrid of many different cities. At least two or three. Two or three. Edmonton, Vancouver, I did some time in Kelowna. So, you know.

Morgan Friedman (Host): I think people tend to have their accent for where they lived when they were 13. Where did you live when you were 13?

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Oh, I was in Surrey when I was 13.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Surrey!

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Yes. Good old Surrey.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Right outside of Vancouver.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Yes. And then I literally just jumped over to this other side that I’m like, I’m never coming back. And then eventually, everybody decided to have kids and get married. And then I was like, I guess I have no choice now. I want to be around for all of that. So I was like, thanks guys. You guys went and moved on with your lives and now you’re making me come home.

But the dynamics are usually like the men are, you know, the men of the house and they’re the ones who control everything, and all of that stuff. The women are supposed to be submissive. They don’t say anything. They don’t argue. Kind of very typical with a lot of other cultures really at this point.

And I think he was banking on that. I really feel like he was banking on that, that I would just whimper and just walk away and be like, forget it. Like this is not worth it. Like there’s nothing for me to do. And what he didn’t realize that I was in BNI at that point. So there was a civil claims agent that actually was in BNI with and I literally…

Morgan Friedman (Host): Wait, wait, wait. You’re in BNI? Is this another South Asian thing or am I misunderstanding?

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): No, so BNI is a business, oh what is it, business networking…

Morgan Friedman (Host): So I see you’re in a networking organization.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Yeah, it was a business networking thing. I think it’s all across North America, but I’m not… I’m pretty sure it’s North America. Somebody had suggested that I try it out and I was like, hey, cool, whatever. For me, it didn’t really work out, but, I at least met Wayne, who was the Civil Claims Agent. So while he’s having…

Morgan Friedman (Host): Before you tell us about the Civil Claims Court, another comment I think, separate from both of you being South Asian, it could also be you’re a young girl. How old were you at this time?

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): I would have been probably about 25.

Morgan Friedman (Host): 20s. Right. So, I think just by being a mid-20s girl, just like everyone, the stereotype is those are the easiest people to push over. And so as a result, when you think about the 50-year-old war vet who beats people up and has seen everything dirty under the sun, you don’t want to rip off that guy. But on the other hand, like the cute young girl, that also like heightens the risk factor for people trying to take advantage of your professional services.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Yeah, and I think that was exactly. I think when he saw me, he realized that I was an easy target. So I kind of went off and tried my best to do what I could, and obviously it didn’t work out. So, I’m thinking about 7, 8 p. m. at night, I’m texting Wayne telling him this is what’s happening, and he literally leaves his family dinner. And he hangs with his family once a week, and calls me, and he’s just like, what happened?

And I was like, here are all the details. I have all the contracts. Here’s the email communication. What am I supposed to do here? And he literally goes, don’t worry, I’ve got it handled. And I was like, okay. The next morning, literally the next morning, there was a lawsuit waiting for that client for the amount that he owed me, which was probably, I think about maybe $4,000, I want to say, 5, somewhere around there?

And it was probably my shining moment where I was like, yeah, I’m like, you said, see you in court. 12 hours later, here’s your lawsuit. See you in court! What am I supposed to do here, right? So the way that works is in Alberta, maybe in Canada, but I know it works in Alberta this way where if you are filed a Civil Claims lawsuit, you have 21 days to answer basically. You can either counter sue or decide to go to mediation.

He decided to countersue because the class act, you know. And he decided to come for me for the maximum amount for Civil Claims, which was $50,000 in lost revenue. And I was like, as an accountant, I’m pretty sure you know that it’s incredibly legal to cook your books. So how exactly are you planning to prove that there was $50,000 lost in the span of 45 days?

Like, I highly doubt you’re making $50,000 every single month. I couldn’t get my head around it. Close to it maybe, but you can’t sit there and be like, I was the reason why your entire business tanked over a month, like that made no sense to me. And I remember sitting there and I mean, I laugh about it now.

It’s just like, you idiot. But like when you’re 25 and this is like your first venture into freelancing and like your entire confidence hinges on your career at this point, it’s soul-crushing. It’s incredibly soul-crushing. I was just sitting there, not all of these deals, but like I started doing cold emailing to try to get more clients and stuff, and I was actually getting through the door with a couple of people and all of them had requested proposals that looked like it was going to go through. And then all of a sudden when the counter lawsuit came in, my entire confidence had shattered so far that I couldn’t figure out how to close them.

So I ended up losing all of these deals, which would have been a slam dunk otherwise because I just couldn’t get to a place where I was confident in my skill set because I was this man just literally said I’m not good at my job and now he’s countersued me for $50,000. I don’t know how else I was supposed to feel in that moment.

Morgan Friedman (Host): I also think what happens is for people who are not lawyers, getting a lawsuit freaks you out. Oh my god, the government can come and take away my bank accounts and put me in jail and I have to pay lawyers millions of dollars an hour. So, it’s fundamentally just a really scary moment.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): It is. And it was just like kind of funny because when I read through the countersuit, it was just him pulling random stuff from my website, like helping small businesses grow. And he’s like, this is a claim. And I’m like, how? Don’t we all say that? Not guaranteed. And there’s also a no guarantee in the agreement that you signed.

It was just one of those really ridiculous moments where you think about it now you’re like, “Yeah, he really was like kind of not fully there” and was really just trying to pick a fight and then figure it out who he was battling with because thankfully my dad loves to argue. And I was very much like my dad and my mother is a bit of a firecracker.

Admittedly, most days than not, I think these are the worst qualities that I could have gotten from them, but at the same time, they’re kind of the best qualities that I got from them as well, because nobody pushes me around. I could just use my family as the example. None of the older generation or the parents or the uncles or the aunts ever say anything to me because they know that I will say something back where they’ll go up to everybody else and be like, “Oh, you look fat today. Oh, you should get married. You should do this. You should do that.” And I’m like, what are you going to come for me for? Let’s talk about that today. They know that I’ll literally just air out every piece of dirty laundry that I have on them because I, I don’t know how I get this information.

I really don’t, but I do. I have a lot of information on everybody. I don’t understand. It just comes. I don’t even go looking for it. It just comes to me. It’s like, it’s meant to be here. So I’m like, okay, well, I’ll take it. I will try to forget it. But they know that there’s random little things that I could say, so then they just don’t bother saying anything.

And I love the fact, and it’s really funny now because I was talking to my sister a lot about it because I’m like, having people fearful of you is probably better. And she literally sat there and was like, “no, I’d rather have everybody like me.” And I’m like, “okay, well then everyone’s going to keep on fucking with you. I’ll see you on the other side.” And I remember one night, and I said that, and then two nights later, she was like, “it’d be really nice if people were scared.” And I was like, “huh, interesting how your tune has changed two days later.” And then she just sat there and looked at me. She’s like, damn it. Like I was right.

I’m like, it’s much better. I’m still likable. People still like me, but they know that there’s a certain boundary that they can’t cross. And they know that they’re going to get pitfall that’s going to come right at them if they cross it. So I’m like, where’s the harm in that? It’s like a little bit of a balancing act. And he didn’t know that at that time.

Morgan Friedman (Host): This argument, what you’re doing is you’re reframing the classic Machiavellian insight of would you rather be feared or loved and my take is it comes to the same conclusion as you at Machiavelli. And I’d say Machiavelli is very underrated.

He’s getting a bad rap these days, but you’re making the core Machiavellian argument, which I definitely agree with. My framing would be that people will be scared of you as a matter of survival, while people liking you is a matter of quality of life. I’d rather have everyone like me. It’s a nicer life.

But you have to put survival first because if they’re not scared, you’ll be too easy to be taken advantage of.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Exactly. And I can’t even tell you how many rooms I’ve been laughed out of, especially when I was starting my career where people would be like, “Oh, you’re trying to start an agency. Like, Oh, that’s so cute.” And I was like, okay, one day hearing my name is going to make you tremble in your boots. And now I feel like it has to a certain degree admittedly, yes, we’re not a huge agency, but are we taking all of the clients from other agencies that sat around saying that they were so much better than me? Yep. 100%. Yep.

And one by one, I will destroy you. It’s not going to be a thing that’s going to happen in like a month or two, but over the years, trust me, I’m going to be part of the reason for your downfall. It’s just really funny to me cause I have to have thicker skin cause one, there weren’t a lot of females, especially when I was starting in the industry and that we’re minorities. 

So I was already kind of at a disadvantage to a certain degree because a lot of people were just like, “Oh, you know what? There’s that, that Caucasian man right there. He’ll do the job.” And I’m like, but I’m going to end up white labeling. So that account is going to come to me anyway, like just give it to me and like directly do it they would find out afterwards and they would be like, “Oh, you’re in the account.” And I’m like, yeah, what tipped you off? My name? Under their email address?

I don’t know how else to tell you these things. It was always, I was always the one who was white labeled underneath these agencies that were competing against me, and they would win every single time. And I do understand that they had bigger names. They were in business a lot longer. But at the same time, I feel like my gender and my race kind of played a little bit of a factor. Not entirely, but I think it did. 

And I think knowing that made me have to walk in to a room with much more confidence and a bit more aggressive. So I do understand that sometimes I can be a lot for people when I walk into a place and go, “okay, well let’s get ready for…” because I’m always ready for a fight basically, right? I had to be.

My 20s was basically all survival at that point. I was constantly getting called names by random people or people saying that I couldn’t do it or, you know, like just kind of laughing at me when I’d walk into like industry events and I’m like, okay, I ate my shit. Like I had to, but now you’re going to have to. I’ll be the one serving it to you. And it’s really a satisfying feeling now to be able to do that. But this lawsuit was part of it. It was kind of like that starting point for me where I’m like, “Oh, okay, you can’t actually be this innocent person,” as much as I wanted to be because it just doesn’t work that way. The world unfortunately is wonderful but also kind of shitty all at the same time, and you have to play both sides of it. So with that fear and love side of things, it’s the same thing. The world is great and the world is shitty so you kind of need both for that balance.

So yeah, I don’t know what tangent I was going off on on that one, but…

Morgan Friedman (Host): No, it’s insightful. I love it. So you served him back the next day and then he counter sued within 21 days for $50,000 and then?

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): And then it kind of caused this whole ripple effect in my life, unfortunately. And it was frankly the worst. I still believe it was the worst year of my life. I learned part of it, but it was still the worst year of my life. So I ended up starting to get sharp pains in my chest and all of these random things. Some mornings I wouldn’t even be able to get up cause my shoulders would be in so much pain. I physically couldn’t push myself up. I would end up having to stay in bed. And I had my dogs at that time and I hate that I have to like… no, I don’t have to admit it, but I hate that I admit it, that I don’t genuinely know what happened to them during three months. There’s a whole period where I’ve basically blacked out.

They’re fine now. They’re healthy. They’re sitting right in front of me and totally happy and stuff. But I could not tell you. If you were to ask me, like, were you feeding them on time? Taking them out on regular walks? I couldn’t answer that question at all because I genuinely have literally no idea.

So eventually at one point, obviously, I went to my doctor and I was like, I’m having these sharp pains, like literally all up my upper body. Sometimes I can’t get out of bed, like what the heck is going on? And she took me to a lot of tests. She was like looking at my heart a lot and she was like, is there something wrong? And I was like, you’re the one who’s supposed to be telling me, I don’t know. And then eventually she sent me to blood work and they realized that I was actually diabetic pretty severely. Like borderline probably could have died if I kept on going that way. 

And she calls me seven times one morning and then left a voicemail. She’s like, I really need you to come in. Like this has to happen right now. You’re not well. And I was like, Oh, that’s great. Exactly what I want to hear first thing in the morning. And then she tells me that I’m diabetic. So obviously we go into the course of a medication and stuff like that.

And then eventually after a certain point, the pain still is there. And I was like, I don’t understand what’s happening. Why can’t I get out of bed some mornings? So then eventually she kind of sat there and I had said something. I can’t quite remember what it was. And it made her raise her eyebrow. And then she went, have you spoken to a psychologist before? And I was like, no. And she was like, maybe we should do that. 

So then they had a psychologist in house. So I made an appointment with her, told her what was going on in my body, and literally two minutes in, she was like, you’re having a pretty severe panic attack, actually. She was like, it’s continuous. She’s like, you’ve been literally dealing with it for three months. And I kind of sat there and I was like, great, wonderful. What else could you give me? What the hell? First I’m diabetic severely, and now I have severe depression and anxiety. What else could go wrong to say at that point.

That was kind of my thought process. And then they put me obviously on antidepressants, and they worked for a time and then eventually they didn’t. So we went through a cycle of them, and we could never really get to a place where any of them made me feel okay. So, eventually I made the decision just to wean myself off and was able to do that for quite some time actually, and it actually worked relatively well. And what I ended up doing instead, while I was weaning off was I left Alberta and came back to British Columbia to be closer to my family.

So I moved it back with my parents for, I think it was like four or five months, I think, or something along those lines and then eventually brought my dogs over and unfortunately left my ex there all by himself. I feel guilty about this where I never really considered his feelings in all of it. I just need to get better. And I need whatever I can do to do that. So I needed the dogs. So I took the dogs and then without even realizing that I basically had left in there all by himself.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Wait, wait, wait. So did you… because I just don’t know your life story. You went through a divorce in the same moment as well? You just brought in an ex out of nowhere into this story.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Oh, yes. So, no, I was never married then. We were basically common law, but… I think we were common law by, like, the government standards, but we weren’t married.

Morgan Friedman (Host): At the marriage point, I meant to say in this interview. What I meant to ask was you have this lawsuit, found that you had diabetes, found you were having panic attacks, and then you broke up with your boyfriend in in the same week.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Yeah, it kind of basically felt like that. It was good fun. And we actually ended up getting a house together too, so that was nice and messy. And the dogs, we also got together, but I just went, “I want them back here with me.” And at that time we were still together, he was such a kind man. He just basically gave me whatever I wanted. And then I basically just left him there to fend for himself like the asshole. But after a certain point he ended up being the asshole at the end of it all so let’s not feel too bad for him. He went and found like another girlfriend, like a week before we broke up, so we’re even, I think.

Morgan Friedman (Host): I don’t judge.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): I think we’re even. So I try not to hold them a lot of guilt and that but yeah. So that ended up happening basically August and then October rolled around and we went into mediation and I flew into the city for that. And he shows up unprepared, no lawyer, no nothing. My civil claims agent basically walks into a room, sits down, opens his briefcase and the stack of papers was like this much, like a ton.

And he literally looked at the mediator and he’s like, who emails somebody this much in 45 days? And I remember sitting there and I’m like, those are all the emails? Cause I didn’t realize how much communication had gone into it. Like I answered emails, but like that was just the end of it. I didn’t realize how much it was until he actually put those papers right here. And he’s like, you can go through every single one if you want. He’s like, these are literally communications between these two people. And he was like, explain to me how that happens in 45 days when that person is not like a complete psychopath, basically.

And I remember the client said nothing the entire time. He just sat there, listened, while my Civil Claims agent was going off on whatever points he was making. I think it was like a maybe… after that, they were basically like, okay, well, it’s either you guys settle out of court or you go to court, and since Wayne was my friend, the Civil Claims agent, he came up to me and he was like, well, it’s really your choice at the end of the day. He’s like, I’m fine with either decision, but for him to make money, it had to be settled out of court because when he goes to court, he was like, I basically lose money. 

And I kind of sat there thought about it and I was like, okay. Okay, that’s good piece of information to know. And then about a week later, I believe it was, the client sent me an email and he’s like, I’ll give you… I can’t remember how much it was. It was less than what he owed. He’s like, I’ll give you X amount and we’ll just call it a day, but you have to give me my site. And I was like, yeah, take everything. I don’t care. I just want my cash, right? So I sat there, thought about it. I think I countered and then we eventually got to a place where I was moderately happy with it.

And I kind of just wanted it to be over. And frankly, if I was put in that same position again today, I think I probably would just settle out of court and just call it a day cause honestly it just doesn’t seem worth it to me. I’d rather get 80% percent of my cash than to go into court and get the remaining 20. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Morgan Friedman (Host): You mean a few thousand dollars isn’t worth the complete destruction of your life?

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): It was. But at that point, do you really want to put yourself through that mental turmoil even longer? And for me, because I was just already so, broken really at this point, like there’s no other word for it. I was basically broken at that point, but I I wanted to start rebuilding and less focus and, you know, kind of move away from 2016 and move into 2017 on better grounds. So for me, that decision, I don’t know, I think I would probably make the same decision again today. If it’s mental health or money, I’m going to choose my mental health at this point.

If I’m not good, then I’m not… the money. What is it going to do? It’s going to do nothing for me really at that point, right? So, we ended up settling out of court and that was kind of the end of it. I never heard from him ever again. Sometimes when I’m in Edmonton, I’ll drive by the place and I’ll be like kind of cursing at him that way, but it doesn’t happen very often.

It was an interesting time, but the end of it all, at the end of the lawsuit, I basically actually ended up packing up my things. I went back to Alberta because I refused to let that be my story of why I left. So I was like, if I’m leaving, I’m leaving on my own terms. I’m not leaving because some asshole made my life a living hell. I couldn’t live with that. So yeah, I went back and completely crushed it, built an agency, and then came home. That’s the story.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Through Joseph Campbell hero’s narrative, leave a town, crush it, have all these wars, fight the dragons, and you come back to your town the big victor.

So my final question is, let’s talk about what you learned from this experience. We shared some of the learnings before and about the red flags in the beginning. And then at the very end, just now you mentioned another important learning to prioritize mental health over over winning or $3,000.

And both are important lessons. Other than these two, are there any other important lessons that you want to share?

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): I think the other lessons are one, slowing down. That sales process was far too quick. If I had slowed down, I think I might have seen the flags. I can’t guarantee it because, again, I was 25. I was pretty stupid. I mean, I’m not much smarter now, but I feel like I’m just a bit more experienced now that I can kind of figure it out a little bit faster. So I wish I slowed down that sales process cause that’s something that we’ve even learned even at the agency last year, we started working with a client and they were like, we want to get started now.

And that was the notion that we had thought that that was what they wanted. So we were trying to basically start an account really, really quickly and then there was a lot of mess ups in between because we didn’t slow anything down. We literally just tried to rail through it. And that relationship completely fumbled before us.

They didn’t end up paying basically any of their invoices aside from the first one, and then that was the end of it. And again, he had the same tendencies where he paid right away, all of that stuff. But because I wasn’t the one who was in the front seat doing the sales process, I didn’t realize what had happened.

So it was a really great learning moment for our director to sit there and be like, “Oh, yes, we do need to keep it slow.” So now every time he closes the sale, I’m like, “this is the cutoff date. Otherwise, we’re not doing it until like the following intake basically.” We have two intakes every single month. And that’s been really kind of easy because now if you contact me on March 7th, I’m not starting your accounts until March 15th at the earliest.

At the latest, maybe April 1st, and that makes it a lot longer for us to be able to have those conversations and really figure out if we’re actually going to be a good fit. So slowing down I think is really the big one. I know like as freelancers, especially when we’re getting our first few clients, we’re just super duper stoked that we want just to do the work, prove that we’ve done well, maybe get a testimonial, get paid and do all these great things.

And slowing down is obviously not that glamorous, but it really does save you a lot of headache at the end of the day. And really in reality, if you think about it, it might actually make you more money because the amount of time that I spent on this lawsuit and the amount of time that I spent crying and in bed and all of these other things, that was a ton of money. I stopped working for seven months. The amount of money that I lost in that seven-month period was not worth the $5,000 that he was paying us. 

So I think really at this point, if I slowed down, it might have made me more money. There’s no way for me to know. It’s just kind of an assumption that I’ve made really at this point I guess. So yeah, I would say slowing down and then also trust your gut. I really do feel like my gut was saying something. I think I just ignored it and I kind of just walked down and went, “Hey, money.” Like, this is what I wanted. And I wanted to go home to my boyfriend and be like, look, I made money today. Like I have a check in my hand, like I’m not completely useless and I’m not like, you know, a succubus on her income and stuff like that, but that moment I I didn’t see or hear what my mind and my body was trying to tell me.

So yeah, I would say those two additional would be pretty, pretty good things if I could ever tell anybody what I learned from that experience.

Morgan Friedman (Host): Both of these are great lessons, and they’re so good. Uncharacteristically, I have nothing to add to them. And they’re wise, wise observations, perfect to end the podcast on. Ameet, awesome story. So many lessons and I’m glad you’ve survived and recovered, and I’m glad that you’re open enough to share all the challenges and everything you went through and everyone that’s watched this to the end, I hope you enjoyed it and learned as much as I did and thank you for watching.

Ameet Khabra (Interviewee): Thank you for having me.


This transcription belongs to Episode #43, please watch the complete episode here!