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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 Spider" below.)

=> 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 completion; and


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, 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 hours; hence


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 standard."

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. Free ezines:

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