One of the most challenging duties of running your own business is working and dealing with bad clients. A driven business owner or professional will always work hard to deliver the best services they can whilst striving to please everyone they serve. Unfortunately, there will always be a very small percentage of people that can never be pleased and will give you hard time over it.
In my opinion bad clients will generally be negative, indecisive, rude, unprofessional, arrogant, aggressive, egotistical, untrustworthy and/or inconsiderate. Dealing with such clients can be frustrating. Knowing how to handle them is somewhat unknown until you have had to experience it several times.
I know from working in my studio, which is an artist and creative environment, such clients can negatively affect my creativity and distract my attention away from other matters. Bad clients will usually take up lots of my time and attention outside of business hours for mostly no reason or compensation.
If you have built a success of your professional reputation then you need to be confident in the knowledge that you do have a choice. The choice is whether or not you require work from somebody you know or consider to be a bad client. If your reputation has a proven track record of success then this choice is your right.
Not all clients are good for business and you need to protect yourself against the bad ones and focus on what can provide you with successful business experiences. Personally, I need my attention to be as hassle free as possible so that I can focus on serving my good clients. A worthy client should never be given the dregs of your creativity that have been dulled or hampered by a bad client. Promptly dealing with bad clients lets me focus better on the good ones.
How to Avoid Bad Clients
Arrange a consultation meeting before you start a project with a new client. This will give you the opportunity to get to know them and their requirements.
In an initial consultation you need to come to the conclusion whether or not you know you can help them 100% in what they require. Never take on a client or job if you know you cannot deliver on their requests. Taking on a client and not delivering will make you the same as a bad client… a cowboy.
Be honest with people if you feel you cannot serve them. Inform them that you feel you are not the best person for the job. Offer them some advice to help them get their needs met and wish them all the best.
If you come to the conclusion that you can help them but your gut reaction and instinct tells you something isn’t quite right, then inform them that you feel you are not the best person for the job and move on.
I find this a good filter in keeping the majority of bad clients away from my business and attention.
5 Ways of dealing with bad clients
1. Set Clear Terms And Conditions
Always have your terms and conditions understood by clients prior to any session or project. You want your client to fully understand the terms of working with you. Never be afraid to say NO when a client starts to work around your terms and conditions.
Example… One of my terms is NO DRUGS ON SITE. It has happened a few times when a client has kindly sparked up a funny fag in my yard. I had to promptly end the session, kindly read them the riot act and show them the door.
Never patronise a client, even if they are blatantly patronising you. Avoid confrontation at all costs but never be a doormat either.
Example… If a client is overdue paying an invoice then you need to contact them with a warning of action that you will take if payment is not received by XXX date. Always action upon any warnings you make. If they have ignored you then you need to inform them that due to the late payment you no longer want their business in the future.
3. Always Be The Professional
If for no apparent reason someone presents themselves as rude, impersonal or aggressive towards you then always ensure that you never stoop to their level. Always have the upper hand professionally.
4. End The Client Relationship
If you feel you are the victim in the client relationship then be strong and make the decision not to work with them again. Be professional and composed. Give them feedback with valid reasons to support why you no longer require their business and wish them the best for the future.
It is never worth leaving negative experiences between two parties on a bad note. If you know in your heart of hearts that you tried everything in your power to fix matters, which ultimately failed on their part, then at least you know you left things as well as you professional could and that nothing was left open ended.
Russ inspired this point. In 2013 Russ mentioned in a Pro Tools Expert Pod cast how he fired a client that was giving him trouble. At the time I was struggling with a client who I felt was on a mission to break me. I listened closely to Russ’s experience. All of a sudden it felt like a weight lifting off my shoulders. I had no idea that this could be done… firing a client?? I gave it a go. I contacted my nightmare client with feedback on why I didn’t want his business anymore and it worked. He moved on and I never heard from him again and it didn’t damage my business or reputation. I never looked back after that moment. It gave me back some control I felt I was losing with my client base.
5. Move On And Learn
Always chalk up any bad client experience as a valuable lesson learned. Over time you will find better ways to deal with bad clients and negative experiences. As I said earlier, I have consultations with new clients prior to sessions. If I feel there is a personality clash in that initial meeting then I think forward to the future and listen closely to my gut reaction. These days I try to recognise some of the traits of a bad client early on so that I don’t find myself in a situation where I have to break a client relationship in the future.
Conclusion - Here To Serve Not To Slave
You have to ask yourself… “Do I want this client?” – “Do I want the hassle?”. Of course all client work is going to involve a certain amount of hassle and you doing things you may not want to do, but remember that we work in a service industry, which means we are here to serve, not to slave.
These points are all based on my experiences over the years and it would be fantastic to hear examples from other professionals and creatives that have had troublesome clients.
Dan Cooper is the owner of UK based Rodel Sound more here www.rodelsound.com
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