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When you first start working with a new client, it's like a lovely new relationship. Everything seems to be going swimmingly and they seem very nice and reasonable but then all of a sudden, they turn into a complete and utter nightmare. They become over-demanding, stressful and a big thorn in your side.
So how on earth can you spot these characters before it's too late? How can you avoid those potentially difficult clients who make our working lives a misery? Well, I believe that first phone conversation or meeting holds the key to helping you pick them out. Because the things that they actually say will be a good indication of whether they're going to be a pain. And here are some examples to help you recognise these troublemakers and their potential bad traits...
"If you drop the price, I'll send lots of business your way!"
How many times have we heard this one eh? Too many times, that's for sure. One recent encounter even ranted at me that I'd be stupid not to provide a cheaper service, given all the contacts she could put me in touch with. Seriously, people who think they're important are just egotistical and will probably never value your work.
"I'm really laid-back and easy to work with!"
People who say that they're easy to work with, who feel the need to spell it out, are usually quite the opposite. They're also likely to be insecure of the fact that they know they're difficult to work with and are paranoid that you may have heard about their bad behaviour. It's quite a desperate thing to say as well - like they're almost trying to sell themselves to you. These types are likely to have a string of former agencies or freelancers behind them, never really able to stick with one company due to their over-demanding nature.
"I'd do it myself as it's an easy job but I don't have time!"
This type is very likely to undervalue your work and not respect or appreciate the amount of skills, expertise and time involved in any project you work on. If your creative skills are so easy and they really can do it themselves, then why would you want to work with someone who is clearly going to be very fussy, over-demanding and unappreciative of your work?
"Are we doing a handshake on this? I don't do contracts."
This type of person suggests to me that they'll want to make lots of changes in future and add on lots of additional work to the project, without expecting to pay for that additional work. They're also likely to have you up on things at every opportunity, ensuring they get as much work out of you for as little cost as possible.
"I've been in this game way before you were born!"
Only a very insecure person would say such a thing as they feel they have to prove their worth. This kind of statement suggests they'll never respect you or your work, so there'll be obstacles on every project. And then if something goes wrong? You'll certainly get the full blame for being so 'inexperienced' and nowhere near as skilled as them.
"Remember, we have a tight budget so we need your best price!"
This type of person obviously doesn't understand the amount of work and expertise that goes into any given project. They'll never truly appreciate you and will probably be very slow and reluctant payers.
"I fell out with my last supplier..."
Run away, run away! If someone admits that they fell out with a former supplier, then that's a pretty darn good indication that they're going to be a nightmare. I mean, really - how old are we? Falling out with people? It's pathetic. And someone who falls out with anyone in business is not the sort of person you want to work with.
"Let's meet to see if we get on..."
This screams high-maintenance client. Why would you need to meet just to see if you're compatible? Business and meetings should be about ensuring the work gets done and is done right. If someone wants to meet to see if you'd 'get on', that's a very good sign they'll be very difficult to deal with.
And those are just some of the signs that will help you spot potentially difficult clients. Of course, I never like to turn business away but I like to look out for the warning signs and then consider whether a project is going to be worth the hassle. And if I do go ahead with a potentially difficult client, at least I'm better prepared and ready to deal with any issues that may arise.
So what crazy things do potential clients say to you? Have you any examples? Please share them below. It would be good to share.