We all have great clients. They understand their market, communicate their goals, work with you, offer constructive criticism, pay on time and rave about your business. They make all the hard work, deadline and results worthy! Then there is another set of clients, the ones you end up regretting most of the time. The thing with a problem client is that they are never happy no matter how hard you work, how reasonable your rates are or how successful their projects are. If you don’t recognise these clients soon, you are in for some serious trouble because all your hard work might never culminate into a profitable deal with them.
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Here are some signs you should watch out for:
The problem client will always demand constant attention prior to even starting a relationship with you. Although you should help clients understand your services, project details and deliverables, some might arrange for multiple meetings to discuss minor issues without any of them indicating a closure of your deal.
Good clients could be experts in their fields and have a decent idea about their requirements and budgets. But your problem clients won’t. You may have clients with bizarre expectations from say a research project. They won’t be able to reveal confidential details but will still need a quote. In such a case, be prepared for lengthy legal negotiations and NDAs, at the end of which they might just demand a clone of what their competitors make.
Haggling for a deal
Hearing a “but we’re only a small company” or a “we cannot pay your rates” will be common. But remember, never haggle. Haggling devalues your service and will only prompt them to ask for further reductions. It’s easy to slash costs—simply cut down features for your client’s research or project details. However there are some who will negotiate to bring costs even further down . In that case, stop dealing with them.
Failure to return calls or emails
Consider this scenario. A new client tells you that they are in a rush thing so they can use your report to implement changes. Being someone who loves to provide great customer service, you agree to fast track the project to deliver before your deadline.
The day arrives when you need some feedback on the progress done so far, so you drop them an email and don’t get a reply. There is no reply in the form of acknowledgment, feedback or anything. Ten days and three emails later you get your first reply, and it’s full of apologies and excuses about how busy they have been. If this happened too many times, good luck because you might be the only person interested in making this project a success. Go ahead and put the client on a low priority list until they take active involvement in getting works done.
Payment is a hassle
Payment for services is always a tricky subject. You don’t want to commit time without being paid and your client doesn’t want to pay for something up front and risk of losing out on the commitment. You need to find a balance that is fair to both parties and at the same time quickly identify clients who are a payment risk. One simple solution is to invoice based on certain milestones. For example, splitting the payment into three parts – 30 percent at beginning of project, another 30 percent when the project is complete and rest on report submission, could work for you. The milestone payment should also take into consideration your client’s payment capacity and past record.
Outline your payment expectations and make it clear to the client and negotiate for an advance, before you even begin with the task.
Not all the potential clients you come across will be understanding and delighted to have you on board immediately since they don’t treasure your experience and expertise. So ensure you steer away and focus on the ones that matter. If you have had any experiences you would like to share, do mention them in comments section below.