We can all admit that clients are extremely important to any business. If you have no clients or customers then most likely you will not be in business for very long.
But what do you do when you encounter difficult clients who are almost impossible to work with?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on some absolutely incredible projects with amazing clients, but every once in a while you’re destined to have one client who just doesn’t appreciate your time, becomes over-demanding and causes you unnecessary stress.
The question is, what do you do you about it?
After having my fair share of, what I would consider, the world’s best clients and also a few difficult ones, I thought I would share some tips for how to deal with the clients who seem almost impossible to work with.
1. Be prepared for almost anything
Make sure that, before starting a project, you explain exactly what you are going to do, what the payment milestones will be, and what they can and cannot expect.
You should then put all of this into a very clear contract or agreement and request that they sign the document before starting the project. I prefer Proposify for giving clients a quick and easily way to e-sign contracts and proposals.
2. Set expectations and limits
Your time in important and most likely you’re going to be working on several projects simultaneously. Let the client know up front what your working hours are and whether or not you work on weekends. You may also want to set specific days of the week that you’re available to have calls with existing clients and let them know exactly what these days are.
3. Be clear in your communications
When you communicate with the client, do your best not to not leave anything up to chance or guess that they might like or want something. There are many times when I have clients who say, “Just use your best judgment and we’ll go with that”, but if you have a client who prefers to micromanage projects then let them know very clearly in advance exactly what the final product or result will be.
4. Document everything
When you communicate with a client, try your best to communicate by e-mail so you’ll have a record of everything later if there are any disagreements.
If you have a meeting over the phone then ask the client if it would be okay if you can record the call so both of you can refer back to it later. This also really helps in case you think you forgot something and want to make sure that everything that you talked about has been taken care of.
(If you use Skype, MP3 Skype Recorder is a great way to record your calls.)
Also, make sure to tell the person that you’re recording the call so you can go back and make sure that you have everything covered, if you do that. If you do not tell them then make sure you check your local laws about recording calls.
Whether you record the call or not, or meet in person, be sure to send a summary of everything that you discussed as soon as you finish the meeting.
5. Do not work for free
When first starting a project, especially with a new client, make sure to request a partial payment upfront. This will allow you to know that they are serious about the project and that they have money to at least pay the first payment. It also shows that you are a professional and that you value your time.
After you have started the project, make sure to request milestones as you go or if it’s a smaller project then request the last payment before you deliver the final product.
6. Try to understand where they are coming from
Some clients may seem like they just wake up on the wrong side of the bed every day and that they’re never happy with anything, but understand that everyone has a reason for why they act the way that they do. If there is a conflict or an issue, it may only be because they just want to vent and be heard.
By listening to them and trying to understand where they’re coming from it will most likely accomplish three things: 1) They will calm down. 2) They will understand that you do care about their project and about them as a client. 3) It will help you understand exactly what the real problem is because sometimes it’s not exactly what you first thought it was.
7. Remain strong and in control
Never ever argue or be rude to a client, but ensure that you stay in control and are not being taken advantage of. There are just some people that, no matter what you do or say, will try to walk all over you and manipulate you.
If you do encounter a client like this then stay assertive, while maintaining a calm, cool, and collective appearance, and tell them if you disagree about something or if it’s impossible for you to do what they’re asking within their budget.
By doing this, it helps to keep you from doing anything that you don’t feel comfortable with and keeps everything from spiraling out of your control.
8. Be willing to let go and walk away
If you ever read anything about negotiations or sales, you may have heard that you should always be willing to walk away. People are normally very perceptive and can sense if you are desperate. When this happens, they can sometimes use your desperation to their advantage in order to try to get you to do things or make changes that you normally would not agree to.
Sometimes you are just going to have clients who are impossible to please, demand impossible deadlines, and just do not value your time or the quality of work that you do. When this happens, do absolutely everything that you can to deliver on exactly what you promised, as soon as possible, and then close out that project before you let yourself, staff, other clients, or your mental sanity suffer anymore.
Once the project is closed out then move on and never look back. There are tons of other clients out there who you will enjoy working with and will appreciate the amazing work that you do.
Questions: Have you ever had a really terrible client? How did you deal with them? Comment below!