The Three F Rule Can Lead You to Happiness

Photo: Milesopie

In advertising, my chosen career, there is an unwritten rule for working with clients that makes everyone’s lives just a little better. It’s the Three F Rule. But when I explained it to people outside of my industry, they immediately saw ways that it could apply to their own lives. And so, I’m sharing it with you.

Now anyone who works as a creative services provider, and that covers a wide variety of careers, will easily be able to understand the Three F Rule. It’s a simple formula that keeps you sane and makes sure your working life doesn’t go off the rails. As you can imagine, three “F” words are at the heart of this philosophy; and not one of them is R-rated by the way.

The three words represent the three key traits of working for a client. If you consistently have two of these, and it can be any two, then you’re doing well. If you have all three, you’re more lucky than you know. If you only have one, you need to seriously reconsider your working relationship with that client. Something has to change to make this workable for you. And if you don’t have one single trait, you must run as far away from that client as you can…and quickly.

Here’s the list. I hope you can see where this can apply in your own life. Maybe it will inspire you to rethink your situation and move on to greener pastures. Or it may just help you realize that you’ve got a pretty good thing going on after all.


It’s simple enough – is the work you’re doing for that client fun? Does it make you happy and fulfilled? Do you look forward to getting out of bed to go and resume the project, or does it keep you awake at night filled with dread? Fun is an important part of the creative process, but it applies to so many professions. Some people look forward to working on the production line, others hate it. Some hate cutting hair, others can’t wait to jump out of bed to get to work. Whatever your profession, you need to be having some fun doing it. Like my dad, and many others have said, if you do a job you like you’ll never work a day in your life.


This is not Hollywood fame. This is more a case of getting noticed in your field, and that subject is wide-open. In my profession, fame comes from doing work that wins awards and/or gets a coveted spot in your portfolio. And I can tell you from experience that very few clients give you the chance of doing work that brings fame. But when that client does come along, you grab the opportunity with both hands. After all, this is work that could lead to bigger and better things. Now, how this applies to your own life obviously depends on what it is you do. If you’re an accountant, you may get the chance to work with a business that has significant connections; this could lead to a lot more work with a better class of clientele. If you bake cakes, you may do a commission for almost no money if the exposure is right for your masterpiece. Assess the situation, see if the fame the job will bring is worth all the extra time you’ll be putting in. Most people will forgo money for the chance at working with a client that will bring fame and additional work.


It should probably say “money” but that would ruin the theme. Fortune is too strong a word, we’re simply talking about income here. At the very least, you need to earn money for what you’re doing. But the three F rule is a balancing act. Now, if the job you’re working on is fun, and will bring at least a moderate amount of fame, then fortune will probably take a backseat. But if the job is about as fun as a funeral, and the work will never get noticed, then you MUST have fortune. You need to compensate for the lack of the other two significantly to make up for the amount of misery the rest of the job brings. At the end of the day, when you’re up at 2am working on a job that will bring you nothing but headaches and heartaches, you can at least comfort yourself with the big payday that’s coming (think of the guys who go crab fishing). If you have fortune and fun, fame is a bonus. If you have fame and fortune, you may have to let fun go bye-bye to keep the job.

In short, when it comes to the Three F Rule you need to go with the formula that works for you, but in general, two of the three traits will usually keep you happy.

So there it is - The Three F Rule. In my industry, having just one (or none) of these qualities eventually leads to the fourth F – you FIRE the client. In your life, that may not be applicable. But hopefully this guide can help you have a more fulfilling working career and live a happier life.

Carpe diem.


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Guest's picture

friends & family.

you got the other 3 but if you don't have these 2, you are still missing a lot.

Guest's picture

Well spoken. I quite agree with your view points. Thanks for expressing such beautiful thoughts.

Guest's picture

Thank you for such an article. I have recently changed my career and my life for that matter....moving from planning events to writing about them...and I have to say that I am having a blast! I get to keep my contacts and attend the soirees instead of planning them. Definite FUN

I hope that my new column with the LA Examiner [yep small plug] will bring me a bit more notariety. I would like to be the next Martha Stewart, my friends call me Magikal Martha. Definite FAME.

Although the money is not what it was planning the events, I realize that I have to 'pay-my-dues', put in the time to build a writers following and my resume which will lead to the books that I am always in the process of adding too and will publish in the near future. FORTUNE.

Thanks for my Sunday morning B12 shot!!!!! Here's to the three F's!!!!!

Guest's picture

Great blog, you made some great points here, thanks for this!

Guest's picture

Great article. I hope I can find the 3 Fs for my next job.

Guest's picture

Fun? It's work. Not leisure time. Experience has taught me that "fun" people, projects and clients...usually come with some questionable behavior.

I'll settle for a client who knows what they want, lets me do my work and pays in a timely fashion. Professional People!

I say: Professional is more important than fun. I have had "fun" clients who were fun at one point and horrid at another. And the worst clients of all? The ones who constantly talked about having fun, then did not deliver information, resources or product on time making it almost impossible, if not impossible, to meet deadlines. No fun when they are irresponsible.

Fame? Get real. What you want is a good rep with that client and hopefully a good reference and talk-up (positive PR) to other potential clients in that company. And a good reference if you need it elsewhere.

Again, if you're lucky you'll get a fair and reasonable wage. That's increasingly harder today with so much "free" stuff all around. Most people hiring think that all work (particularly creative work) is all the same and should be free, or close to it.

Finding someone who knows the value of what you actually get from a professional and pays for it:

So I say focus on the Ps:
* Professionalism

* Profit (you make a fair fee based on your skill/experience and the project demands)

* Project Potential (There are other people you might like to work with on other projects...sometimes it's about getting your foot in the door.)

* PR Potential (the good kind you get if you do the job well and your client is pleased)

Guest's picture

I think the title of this article is abit misleading? This article is more on happiness in career rather than happiness in general.

Guest's picture

One of the "f" words should be females =P

Guest's picture

Good set of rules and easy to remember to access a questionable situation. Thank you for sharing!