The Time I Refunded a Client 5K

Today is going to be a treat!

For you.

Not for me.

I’m going to share an embarrassing story. Thankfully it’s not so embarrassing anymore, but at the time I wanted to melt into the floor. Anyway. Here it goes.

Once upon a time, I was first starting out in SaaS software as a service. I didn’t have experience with onboarding emails, but I had a lot of ideas and kind of concepts that I thought would work.

I didn’t really have any real-world experience, so what I did was approach software companies and I would say, “I will write your entire onboarding process for you for $5k, and if you don’t see an increase in conversions after a few weeks, you’ll get a refund!”

In retrospect, that was a terrible idea because it takes more than a few weeks to see a difference. They get results from an onboarding sequence.

I didn’t realize that at the time, because like I said, I was new to all of this.

Anyway, so I got this client and he agrees to my terms.

I spent weeks creating this onboarding process.

I did interviews with customers.

I wrote each email.

I created a trigger base onboarding sequence.

I spent tons and tons of time building out this onboarding process for this client.

Ugh, writing it all out is making it all come back. So much work put into this!

So, they put it into their onboarding process. And we wait.

Maybe a month later they send me an email saying their conversions haven’t increased like I promised.

This was like one of my first clients, so I really didn’t have any other revenue coming in and it was a $5k deal for me. That was a lot of money for me at the time!

But that was the deal.

So, I refunded all the money like I promised. I couldn’t even pay all the money back up front. I had to split it up into multiple payments to send it back, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to have enough money for the month!

Looking back, it was very scary. But the reason I’m telling you this is because my goal is to get people, clients AND founders, a result.

What I focus on is results.

I guess I’m a bit old fashioned, but I just don’t feel like if someone has invested in me and I haven’t helped them in some way, either monetarily or in a way that they feel like they’ve gotten value, then I don’t feel comfortable getting paid.

Wouldn’t you feel a little reluctant to pay for a sandwich that tasted like old socks?

If, for you, my product tastes like old socks, then you don’t have to pay for it.

I take pride in my work—I don’t want to serve ANYONE old socks!

So, I want to remind you that we’re not in the SAAS business, we’re in the results business.

Our goal is to get a result for a client, and that’s an important differentiator between SaaS business and the results business.

 Some people would argue and say, we’re in a totally different type of business. McDonald’s isn’t a real estate business!

But really, our goal is to get our clients results.

Also, realize that the solution to their problem might not be YOUR sandwich. Heck, it might not even be MY sandwich. And that’s okay.

When I talk to clients, I probably turn away 75% of clients right off the bat.

I was talking to someone a few weeks ago and he said, “You know, this guy, he may have started three SaaS companies and been successful, but I have failed a hundred times more than he has succeeded.”

And I think that’s more valuable than the successes that he’s had. You may or may not agree, but I agree with that.

I think failures teach someone a lot more than successes do. You learn so much from failures, as annoying as they are at the time.

When I had to deliver that onboarding sequence to that client, after all that work, and then open up my stripe account and refund that $5k to that client because I made a promise.

The mistake or failure wasn’t doing all of that work. It wasn’t even a failure when I refunded the money when I couldn’t deliver. My failure is only that my lack of experience caused me to underestimate how much time was needed to see results. (Sometimes I wonder if my plan did work in the end, and how much I helped them.)

Regardless, that was a huge learning experience for me. I look back on it now and realize it was a defining moment for me because I put my reputation and myself on the line and when it came down to it, I did stay true to my word.

It hurt to refund that chunk of money when I was first starting out and broke. But I did it.

I just hope that’s helpful for you, and you can learn from my experiences—the good and bad. 

I’m pleased to report that hasn’t happened to me since, luckily!

We’ve learned a lot since then. There’s been lots of failures, lots of successes, and lots of learnings from both.

See you next time!



I put together some of the best onboarding emails that we’ve ever written into a guide.

It’s called the Onboarding Email, swipe file. It has 22 emails you can copy for your own onboarding process.

These ones work. We’ve tested them and proven them over and over again.

You get it for free here