Handling Difficult Clients
Although we strive to only attract the ‘right’ clients - you know, those dreamy ones that are everything you ever wanted and more. The ones you work with, and not for. The kind that gets your whole ‘vibe’ and whose brand (if not ) life philosophy aligns to your own?
Yeah, we just don’t have those all the time. Despite our whole brands being tailor-made to attract them. Sometimes one slips through the cracks and you don’t know it before it’s too late. Or maybe you knew it before but you needed a paid invoice. Been there too.
So now you’re in the thick of it and you’re starting to realise this isn’t what you had imagined. They’re changing their minds 1000 times about what they actually want. They keep asking for free project add-ons. They don’t pay on time. They don’t reply to emails in a timely manner. They’re just not nice to work with.
Here’s what to do when you find yourself in this tricky situation.
Don’t be shy to remind them of the scope of the project, the due dates for tasks and feedback and when their payment is due. You may see this as badgering or being forceful, but chances are they won’t. Remember, you know your products, packages and processes inside out - they don’t. And don’t think because you discussed it and they agreed to every last detail in the contract they will remember it all. And at the end of the day, having a client try to lay blame on you because she didn’t know could just be prevented by a couple (or few, or several) reminders.
02. Be firm
One really important thing to remember: a client is not doing you a favour by hiring you. It’s a business transaction (that in the best of situations turns into friendships #clientgoals). But they didn’t hire you because they felt sorry for you and wanted to help you out. They hired you because you’re providing them with a service. So be firm. Don’t give in to demands of unrealistic (and free) add-ons. Don’t compromise the level of your service by being bullied to do work beyond the scope of your skills. Don’t extend deadlines beyond what you’re comfortable with. Just be firm in who you are, what you do and realistically what you can provide them with.
03. Speak honestly
Maintaining a professional and mature tone, speak honestly about the repercussions of their actions. 2 days late with feedback? Sorry, we’re not going to make the proposed deadline. Didn’t pay the invoice? Sorry, I can’t release any final files without payment in full. Changing the direction of the project, again? Sorry, a new concept fee is going to have to be added to the invoice if you’d like this new concept developed. Don’t beat around the bush and don’t down-play. Your honesty will only serve to back you up if things go really very wrong (a little paper trail never hurt the good guy).
04. Take heart
Lots of it. Not all clients are bad. Not all projects are a never-ending mess of frustration and tears. Use your experience to refine your process, onboarding documentation and brand. I’ve often looked back at a situation that was terrible at the time and realised how much it taught me and, while I may not be entirely grateful to the client, I am aware that without that experience I wouldn’t really know/have/do what I do today.
Have you had a bad client experience? How did you handle it? I’d love to hear how the experience helped your business grow!