Clients Say The Darnedest Things
It’s time for another visit to the fine folks at Clients From Hell to flex our negotiation muscles!
Let’s see what whack-a-doodle things clients are saying and how to respond to them without the use of weapons or swears.
Our first entry is from the Handle With Care Department:
CLIENT: I don’t like any of the logos my current designer did and I want you to see what you can come up with.
ME: Great, I’ll have some concepts ready for you next week.
CLIENT: Oh, do you do any writing?
ME: Yeah, what do you need?
CLIENT: This would have to be for free. I need you to use my Outlook to email the other designer and tell her that I don’t like her work.
Beware the client who is not happy with someone else’s work. Beware the client that arrives full of flattery for your skills while proclaiming the last guy “a total moron.” Be very wary of the client who has many stories of designers, illustrators, editors, and artists who just don’t understand her vision.
This is not a client you should welcome with open arms. You should not nod sympathetically as they tell you of how poorly they were treated by the last four freelancers they worked with on this project.
You should run.
Clients like this are never happy and you will not be able to magically make them happy. They are committed to being misunderstood and disappointed by life.
It can be hard to say no to these clients because it’s so attractive to think that you might be able to be the superhero. You, with your amazing skills, unquestionable talent and compassionate approach will be their saving grace!
But you won’t. You’ll be the next freelancer they bitch about. So when approached by a client like this, the very best thing you can say is, “No.”
Next up, the Good Things to Remember Department submits this entry for your consideration:
ME: The price for the project we’re talking about will be $XXX.
CLIENT: Really? I had another designer work on this for me last year and he did it for free.
ME: I’m sorry, I can’t work for free. You may want to try going back to him and seeing if he’ll do it for free again this year.
CLIENT: I can’t. He’s no longer in business.
Don’t work for free.
Don’t work for free.
Don’t work for free.
If you work for free people think you do not value your own work. Or, worse, they’ll think that your work is not valuable.
And this stigma won’t just impact you, it will impact every freelancer in your industry this person approaches after you.
But you read this blog, so you know better. But what do you do if you inherit a freebie?
Politely but firmly decline their offer for “opportunity” and “exposure.” Then use your other clients to your advantage.
“I’m sorry, I can’t afford to do free work. I work hard to make sure my rates reflect the quality of the work my clients receive. If you’re interested learning about the work I provided for [Awesome Name Client] or [Super Impressive Client], I’d be happy to connect you with them for a reference call.”
This communicates two important things:
1. The work you provide is valuable. You care about the quality of your work and you’re confident in what you do.
2. Other companies, companies they might want to be like, companies that might be more successful than they are, are willing to pay you for your work.
People always want to be considered part of the in crowd. Make the in crowd the clients that pay you well.
And finally, the They Mean Well Department‘s contribution:
“Can you bill your design time in 6 minute increments?”
I will bet you $100 a lawyer said this. Why? Because we lawyers bill in six minute increments.
When someone doesn’t have a good frame of reference for the work you do, they’ll use their experience to set their expectations. This can be unfortunate because very rarely are people’s experiences relevant to the thing they don’t know anything about.
If working on the weekend is expected of them, they’ll expect it of you.
If hour long status update conference calls every Thursday at 7:30 am are standard in their business, they’ll assume you’ll be OK with them, too.
If they bill in six minute increments for perfectly good reasons, you, being an upstanding professional, must do the same, right?
These people mean well. They assume these things about you because they view you as a professional, just like they are. They just don’t have a good frame of reference to understand how you work.
Does that mean you need to invest in a good alarm clock and start keeping time with a stop watch?
But it does mean you need to help your clients understand how you work, when you’re available and how you’ll bill them from the beginning of the engagement.
Do not underestimate the value of client education in avoiding future conflicts. If you don’t include these things in your contract, consider providing clients with a “Practices & Policies” sheet that has an overview of how you work and what “normal” is in your business.
It might feel silly to explain that you don’t respond to emails on Sundays or weekdays after 10pm, but it’s a lot better than starting your Monday off arguing with a client who wants to know why you haven’t responded to the email he sent you at midnight Saturday.
Good luck with all of your client communications this month! May the horse be with you.