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I'm a former corporate employee who decided to ditch the 9-5 and start my own business.
Now, with a lukewarm cup of coffee in one hand and a baby on my hip, I'm sharing all my best business, branding and website tips.
educator. designer. mama + wife
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Having a business where you get to work one-on-one with clients can be very rewarding. But having client who is easy to work with and reliable isn’t always a guarantee.
I’ve been working with my own clients for over 10 years and have learned the best ways to handle difficult clients. Over the years I’ve perfected my process to help identify the red flags of a difficult client and how to avoid a disastrous ending to a project.
If you work directly with clients, you’ll want to be aware of the 6 warning signs of a difficult client. I’ll also share my tips for how to best handle your client so your project doesn’t turn into a nightmare.
If you have a client who has missed a meeting or cancels meetings at the last minute, they don’t respect you or your time. You’ll most likely continue to have conflicts with this client as they continue to miss deadlines and appointments.
What you should do next: First, be sure to always send your client a reminder (or two) about your upcoming meeting and ask them to confirm that they will be attending. After your client misses their first meeting, give them a chance to explain their situation. Assume that the worst has happened and show that you are concerned for them.
If your client says they forgot, or something came up and they clearly could have tried to reschedule the meeting, you’ll need to send them a firm but friendly email. In the email state that the project will be cancelled if a meeting is missed again without warning, or suggest that they will be billed for the next missed meeting or if a meeting is rescheduled with less than 24 hours notice.
Once your client learns your boundaries, they’ll be sure to never miss another meeting!
The worst type of client is the client who doesn’t pay their bill on time. When I first started my business, I made the mistake of not using a contract for client projects. A contract states the terms of a project, and outlines the schedule for when payments are due. Most of my projects have payments split into 2, 3 or 4 payments.
If your client isn’t paying their bill, you should immediately stop working on their project and assume they may never pay you.
What you should do next: Remind your client of the terms in your agreement and ask them when you can expect to receive the payment so that you can resume the project.
If the project has gone beyond the planned timeline because your client has failed to pay an invoice, send your client an email letting them know the project will be rescheduled and payment must be made in full.
When a client disappears and stops all communication, it can be really frustrating. You may even notice your client continues to post updates on social media, which is even more confusing
What you should do next: Assume there may be something serious going in your client’s life and send them a message asking if they are doing ok. End the message with letting them know that you are concerned about their lack of communication and ask them if they will be able to commit to completing the project.
If your client continues to ghost you or if their communication habits don’t change, let them know the project will be ending by (name a date) and they will need to begin a new project, for another fee if they want to continue.
There are some cases where you’ll never hear from your client again for whatever reason and the project ends. I’ve had this happen before and it’s best to consider yourself lucky that the client didn’t continue if they weren’t truly serious about the project.
When a client let’s you take the lead and trusts your process, the outcome is better for everyone. In the past I’ve had clients who like to control every detail of a project, and in the end I question why they even hired me. A client who doesn’t trust your decisions or advice is very difficult to deal with. In the end they will probably not be happy with the outcome because they haven’t let you do your job and they’ve managed to sabotage their project.
What you should do next: If you’re starting to see signs of a client being controlling, speak up early on. Explain to your client that they’ve hired you because of your expertise and knowledge and that it’s important they trust you. Ask the client if they are willing to let you make the decisions and that they (the client) will have the final say.
A client who changes direction throughout the project can be really frustrating to work with. It’s not uncommon for this to happen, which is why I added Client Questionnaires and limits to the amount of revisions for all of my projects.
The questionnaires I provide to my clients are fillable PDFs where they can tell me about their business and answer questions about what they want for the branding or website design. I also set a limit to the amount of revisions for designs. If a client is approaching the limit, I warn them that there is only one more round of revisions remaining. Any other revisions after that will be billed by the hour.
What you should do next: Some clients have trouble communicating what they want and will wind up changing their mind over and over. It’s important that you are clear with them about how many times they can make changes. If you have to, get on the phone with your client to talk about their changes before you do anything more.
Well this is possibly the worst offense a client can make. No one wants to work for free, even if you’re just starting out. When a client says something like “Can you just create another quick design for me, it won’t take much time!”. Once you do something for free for a client, you’ve now set the precedent that you’re willing to work for free. Even if you feel uncomfortable with charging for something, you’ll feel more uncomfortable when you look at your income for the month and realize you spent time working for free.
What you should do next: If a client asks you to do any work for free, or insists it won’t take much time, gladly be willing to do the work and send an estimate for your time. You should never have to make an excuse for charging for your work, so without any explaining or rationalizing, include an estimate. Your client will get the message loud and clear that you would never even consider working for free.
Working one on one with clients can be so rewarding. But, there’s always that one client that can make your job a little bit harder. Being on the lookout for the warning signs of a difficult client can help you to avoid these types of clients in the future and help to save your project before things get out of control.
What do you think of this article? Do you have any questions for me? Ask me in the comments box below!
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