This post is a continuation from my yesterday's post 'There is no such thing as an urgent job!' If you're curious about it, you may want to read it first.
This post will be on my collection of (to put it mildly) Top unreasonable clients, and some specifics they exhibit all the time. A freelancer learns to spot these clients and prefers to reject their generous offers, to save some precious nerve cells. So, who are these clients and how to avoid them successfully?
While you can easily run away from people you dislike the moment you meet, it may not be as easy if they were your client. Freelancers may often fire their clients, but before that happens, both sides may tug at one another and waste their time and resources. I personally wanted to figure out how to avoid such moments, so I never had to fire clients again.
Here's my list of 'watch-out-for' clients and their typical behaviour.
Client No#1 The endless compliments
With this client, Mr. L, it all started great. He was friendly, we talked about each other, and it felt like I am basically making a friend and a parner. He was a web and logo designer, and needed my help to assist him with the multitude of clients requesting his services.
All good and well. I started on a logo, for which he requested only initial concepts. Since I was working through Upwork, I consistently requested that he funds the next milestone. Many times did he avoid to do that, until I insisted even more. The worst part was that the client was a third person, a lady, who had such an incredible amount of requests for changes, that at certain point working for him was a liability for me.
I kept telling him that he needs to do something about the lady client, but he only softly said that we're getting there (with the logo). I'm doing a great job. Just this minor change. C'mon. We're nearly there!
We really were. Christmas time he disappeared. He never appeared afterwards. He didn't respond to my messages. I was glad to close the contract and be rid of him. I was patient with him, but he abused my patience. It was a tough lesson learned.
Client No#2 The bossy type
This type of clients usually uses condescending tone, and you can immediately recognize them. Once you do, run away. You don't want to be treated the way he treats his poor employees, right? You're a freelancer because you're tired of putting up with this behaviour!
While these can be the worst, they are (thank God for that) easy to spot.
If they are generous and willing to pay a lot for your work, then you may have to prepare to set up some preliminary agreement. Make them understand you're not their employee and a prospective deal is a mutual benefit for both of you.
Once you establish that rapport, you can earn their respect, and the condescending tone should be gone. Your work relationship could evolve and be based on mutual respect. Of course, if that never happens, bid that client a farewell.
Client No#3 The neutral guy
These are the hardest to spot. I've had such clients. During the work process they never ever give you any criticism. They keep it to themselves. I've struggled with some clients. I've tried to understand if they liked the design I offer them or not. They stick to short sentences, which are mostly abstract or divert the topic quickly, but always stay mildly positive or simply neutral.
I try to push a little more and eventually may get some peanuts of a feedback to work with, and improve the design.
But these guys, while not critical, are difficult to decypher. You never know what they like. The lack of this critical information makes the whole design work devoid of meaning.
Unfortunately, I haven't figured out yet how to spot these guys before I enter into contract with them. But keep reading, I have a solution for avoiding any bad client!
Client No#4 Never satisfied, EVER!
Oh! Yes. This type is the numerous group of clients. They want tiny change after tiny change. They enter into such minutae that you realize they are annoying perfectionists. Of course, I respect the fact that changes and edits are an integral part of designing anything. But once you go down that road, you realize that it may not end soon. Or not at all.
Sometimes this category may exhibit the bossy type or the compliments type. Either way, if you feel it goes the wrong direction, consider discussing the problem openly. If you get some resistance, then brace yourself - you'll have to fight to defend your position, or simply fire them. Why waste more time?
I'd prefer the last one. Let the guy pick someone else, instead of you trying to convince him that he should honor your initial agreement. The relationship is already damaged, and you'll put more effort and energy in repairing it. Move on.
Client No# 5 The ASAP guy
I already mentioned this type of clients here but it's worth honoring them again.
These clients usually believe that if they don't have a logo by tomorrow the world will come to an end, they will lose their jobs, they will be fired, their family will break apart, and nothing will be worth living for any more!
Come on! What's with the drama!?
If a client approaches you with such a request give them your highest bid ever! Tell them something you never thought of. I'd try with a 'Give me $10,000, and I'll do the job overnight!' Who knows, that may be your lucky day.
Don't just tell them 'No, sorry', rather challenge them. Look at it this way, if they say '$10,000?? Are you nuts? No way!' you win, right? You won't waste time on someone who wants to put you under any pressure for a logo. On the other hand, if they actually say yes, you win again! It will always be a win-win for you!
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So, what can you do to avoid such clients? First of all, all these characteristics are present in clients who prefer to pay very low for the service you offer. It depends on what low for you is, of course. It may be high for them. To estimate that, consider their business and on what legal ground it is conducted.
For example, if the client is in a developing country, then expenses and taxes may be low, so the cost of living would be low too. If the client is not a foreign businessman who merely reinvests their revenue in a poor country, but a local businessman, who is trying to support a family, then the situation is clear - what is low for you is high for them. You are not hard-pressed to work with them, but if you don't want to work for them, and your time and effort is not worth the price, politely deny the job.
In any case, to avoid such headaches, consider how much these clients are willing to pay.
Another example. I had a prospect client from New York. She said she was running a business in NY, and needed me to design a logo. She complimented my portfolio, and sounded very professional. I liked the opportunity to work with her, but then when I stated my regular price per logo, she said this is beyond her budget. Mind you, my price was very much below the $500-mark. A regular logo designed by a New Yorker would possibly exceed the $5,000-mark.
I was surprised to hear that, because from what I know, life in New York is so expensive that my logo and a local cup of coffee share the same price tag.
I didn't lower my bid to fit in her budget, so I wished her good luck.
I'm not saying she would have been a bad client, but I am wary of clients who are incosiderate of how much time, effort and research I put in my work. The behind-the-scenes remains invisible for the client. That doesn't mean that the logo miraculously came to my mind and I designed it within 30 minutes.
And here's another advice from me - make a plan before you enter any type of work relation.
What do I mean?
Outline in excruciating detail what you are ok with, what you're not ok with, and what you absolutely don't like, and in what circumstances you'd fire a client. Do this for yourself first.
Consider all the above situations and draw a map of what you can accept and what you can't.
Afterwards, redo the list so that it has a contract-like feel, and prepare the client for your expectations - what you offer the client, what your duties are, and what is unacceptable from both sides. Outline the process of your work - from start, to end. From preparation to finalization. Try to be as detailed as possible.
Make sure you mention the number of edits you'd do, before you start charging for any additional edits. Consider what percent of the payment should be done in advance.
Set milestones - per initial sketches, per edits, per refinements, per deliverables (add any more milestones you can think of, but don't clutter it too much).
If you had loopholes, sometime in the future some client may sneak themselves through that loophole. Don't worry. When that happens, take that as a lesson learned and fix the loophole.
With time you will be more experienced both as a designer and as a freelancer. It takes time and many beatings from life. Freelancing is a bumpy road. Now you have an amazing client, and tomorrow you meet the devil incarnate.
On the positive side, over time you will run more into good clients, because you will develop a hunch for the bad ones. I'm not saying you'll never ever have bad clients, but it will be considerably less often.
Take bad experience as an opportunity to grow in your expertise. Life doesn't serve us the best clients on a silver platter, and never will. It is us who have to do the hard work in order to be rewarded with good clients.
Finally, listen to your guts! Western culture ignores intuition, but we shouldn't!
I like to think it this way - if you feel that something is wrong, then most probably it is! I've had bad feelings about certain contracts and it always ended bad for me. I should have listened to my intution, and I would've avoided the bad experience. But again - lesson learned!
Don't do the same mistake. I hope you consider the above factors when you enter into a work agreement! Be cautious and don't enter it unprepared.
Do the list, pay attention to the client's behaviour, and listen to your guts! If you do all that, you shuold be fine in the majority of cases!