Beware The Difficult Client
By Angela Booth
Into each life a little rain must fall, and into each business
life waltzes the occasional difficult client.
Luckily, most clients are a pleasure to work with. The pains in
the derriere are also, when you have enough experience to
recognize the type.
I've listed several "difficult" types below, so that you can arm
yourself against them.
The major weapon in your armory is THE CONTRACT. Always have a
contract, no exceptions. Be especially wary of the prospective
client who says: "A contract? This will take you what, an hour?
Surely you don't expect a contract for an hour's work?" (See "The
=> The Convivial
You can recognize her by her cry: "Let's have a meeting before I
sign off on this!" The Convivial client:
Always has an office which is half a day's drive from you;
Rarely shows up for any meetings she's scheduled, and if she
does, is always at least an hour late; and
Never has an agenda for any meeting, and therefore never
remembers why she wanted to see you, indeed she'll convince
herself that YOU asked for the meeting.
Your weapon: a signed contract with a paragraph which states that
all meetings except the first are chargeable at your usual daily
rate, which is $X.
Note: if you don't have a schedule of fees, develop one. By the
close of business today. It's vital. Contact your professional
association or ring local practitioners to discover what the
standard rates are, and use these as a basis to calculate your
own fee schedule.
=> The Extremely Cautious
Her cry is: "I need to get input from Sales and Marketing, and
then Legal wants to look it over". The Extremely Cautious client:
Has trouble with decisions, so rarely sees a project through to
Micro-manages, so expect five phone calls a week while you work
on the project.
Your weapon: a signed contract which specifies your billing
cycle. This depends on the project, but always get at least a
third up front, and invoice monthly. Make sure that your contract
specifies that all revisions after the final draft are
chargeable. When you hear "Legal" think: "revision, revision,
=> The Bargain Bazaar
Her cry: "It came up that we really need X and Y and Z to make
the package complete. You won't mind including them, will you?"
The Bargain Bazaar client is always pleasant. She gets on your
wavelength. She asks about your children, your hamster and your
garden. She sends a box of mangos or a hand-tooled leather
portfolio with your initials in gold when the project is
complete. Unfortunately, neither the mangos nor the portfolio
cover the unpaid extra work you did.
Weapon: your reply: "I'd love to do that for you, I'll fax you my
rates and the amended contract later this afternoon."
=> The Artiste
Her cry varies. Variations on the theme include:
"This didn't grab me as it should have";
"I expected more from you"; and
"I was disappointed that _______"
The Artiste has a vision of the completed project in her head.
Unfortunately, she can't articulate her vision so that you can
execute it adequately.
Your weapon: a signed contract which specifies that you will
complete one revision. All further revisions are chargeable at
your hourly rate, which is $X.
=> The Spider, aka Quicksand
Her cry is: "I'm sorry to spring this on you at the last minute,
but we need it for a lunch meeting. It won't take you long". The
Spider is the most dangerous of the difficult clients.
Here's how a scenario with The Spider plays out:
She dictates the brief over the phone because she's in a
meeting/ in her car/ late for a plane;
The project must be completed within an hour or a couple of
No time for a contract;
You can't reach her when you realize you don't have enough
information to complete the project;
You'll complete the project knowing you've done a less than
adequate job; and
You won't get paid.
Your weapon: your mantra, which is "no contract, no deal". You
will be tempted. The Spider is plausible, and offers you candy in
the form of promises of future work.
Don't succumb. Remember: you won't get paid. This is because you
won't submit an invoice, because you know you did a poor job. You
know this because The Spider takes delight in calling you to say:
"We couldn't use the work you sent. It wasn't up to our
The Spider is dangerous because she will bad-mouth you in your
industry. After doing her best to ruin your reputation, she will
call you again within a few months, using the same tactics.
At times in your business journey, you'll work with so many
difficult clients that you'll begin to wonder whether you're
wearing an invisible "Kick Me" sign. Always remember that The
Contract is your primary weapon. It turns the most ferocious
difficult clients into purring kittens.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Angela Booth
When your words sound good, you sound good. Author and copywriter
Angela Booth crafts words for your business --- words to sell, educate or persuade.
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