We have all been there. We get a new client and set out to provide them everything that we promised and more. We get their work done on time, respond to all of their questions or concerns along the way, and provide the best service we possibly can.
However, despite our best efforts, we soon find out they are the “client from hell”.
Either their demands are through the roof or you find that they are extremely slow pay ~ or worse, no pay.
No matter the circumstance, this is when you need to decide if it is worth keeping them as a client.
And in my mind, it is sometimes best to let them go!
This is hard for many of us to concede. We believe that our clients are the foundation of our businesses, and letting any of them go seems counterproductive. We pride ourselves on good relationships with them and feel like a failure when they aren’t working out.
What we need to realize is that there are times when moving on is really in our best interest ~
and the money we may be making
just isn’t worth it.
Sometimes it is possible to work with these clients and make things better,
but other times it is not.
The key is to know the difference.
In the first installment of this two part series,
You will discover the Top 4 lessons you can actually gain from dealing with difficult clients and, in part 2, when and why
You sometimes need to Let Go!
Lesson 1 ~ You Have the Right to Pick and Choose Who You Want as a Client
Once in a while I have run into a potential client who, from the outset, gave me pause.
Whether I simply have a “gut instinct” that something isn’t quite right or from things they have said I can see we are not on the same page, then I have often found it is best to not work with them at all.
About a year ago I was approached by an online contact. They were interested in using one of my newest services and I was excited by the prospect of getting that part of my business going.
Our initial conversation went well. I explained exactly what I could do for them and at what cost.
She explained she was eager to hire me immediately since they already had an applicant they wanted to screen.
I sent her the release I use and asked her to let me know if she had any further questions before we began.
That is when things went south. Shortly after sending them the release, I received an email. In it she questioned having to provide a signed release at all. She also wanted what she called “immediate” results, the kind I could get from an “online court search”.
I explained why it was not in her best interest to do business that way. Her reaction prompted me to politely suggest she try another background check company.
My Take ~ It is best to stop what is sure to be a bad business relationship in its tracks. Choosing not take on a client that shows no interest in following your advice or who wants to do business in a way that is not in line with your core values will save you a lot of headaches.
Lesson 2 ~ The Importance of Being Specific on Your Terms
Take a look at this real-life situation ~
At the beginning of her business, Sandy Collier, owner of D’Zynes by Sandy (a wedding planner service), ran into a difficult client.
Collier was hired to plan her client’s wedding. From the outset, Collier found herself having to chase down her client again and again, whether it was to sign off on a design or simply to get paid for work completed.
Then, according to Collier, the client lost her job. Now things went from bad to worse. All of a sudden phone calls were no longer being answered and payments were no longer made.
Despite ultimately losing on this deal, Collier learned from it. She now uses contracts that spell out all her terms from the beginning. She also makes sure she gets the final payment 2 weeks before the event. This has been key in assuring the check clears before she has no recourse.
In reality, Collier’s bad experience helped her to never get caught like that again.
My Take ~ Working with a contract, or at the very least making clear what services you will provide and your payment terms, is really in the best interest of both parties.
For tips on what You should include in your contract, check out this article by Lee Crawford Law on “Why Should You Have a Written Contract?”.
Lesson 3 ~ The Importance of Being “Pleasant But Persistent”
Marian Hayes Gravel, now an Industrial Designer/Usability Specialist, entered the world of small business making hairbands and scrunchies. Gravel made a deal to sell them on consignment to a local store.
The problem was, even though inventory was being sold, the shop owner was not paying. Unsure of what to do, Gravel contacted SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). Her question to the advisor was ‘how do I take someone to small claims court so I can get paid?’.
Gravel says that this is when she got invaluable advice. Her advisor said that while he certainly could help her with that, he believed her best course of action was to maintain the relationship.
He suggested that Gravel be pleasant but persistent in requesting her money from the store owner. And, according to Gravel, “it worked. I called her again and asked her (politely) for my money. She apologized and said she had a temporary cash-flow issue. And I got paid”.
Gravel said “it was simple advice, but I remember it to this day”.
My Take ~ It is possible to get the desired result by being Polite but Persistent. Many times just meeting with someone & being willing to work with them is the best course.
Lesson 4 ~ The Importance of Dealing with Clients on a Case-by-Case Basis
Gravel’s experience mirrors one of my own.
When I first started, money was tight (as it is for many new small businesses). I felt fortunate to find one large company and a few small companies to work with.
While I was thrilled to have this large client, the volume of work was at times overwhelming. However, I stuck it out and made sure that all jobs were done on time and completely accurately.
My process was to only bill upon completion of the work (which I still do to this day), with a 30 day payment period. In the span of 2 months, this larger company amassed quite a bill.
The problem ~ they didn’t pay. I waited until a week after the 30 day grace period and called my contact. I was polite and explained that I had not received any payment and wondered if they needed me to resend their invoice.
My contact promised to look into it and get back to me. I never heard from her, and my calls were no longer being answered. After many attempts to get paid, I even sent a registered letter formally requesting payment.
In the end, the company filed for bankruptcy (in reality they simply merged with another company) and I never ended up getting paid for my work.
Despite this bad experience, when I encountered a similar situation with one of my smaller clients, I once again attempted to proceed politely.
However, this time the outcome was very different. I was able to talk to them and discovered that they were not being paid by one of their clients. Because of this, money was tight.
I worked with them and over time got paid in full. My willingness to treat them with fairness has kept them as my client to this day!
My Take ~ You need to look at what seems like difficult clients on a case by case basis. There are times you can get beyond a bad spot and work things out, all while earning a loyal client in the process.
The bottom line is that no matter what difficulties you encounter in your business,
you can learn from them.
What is important is that you then take that experience and make the changes you need
to keep it from happening again.
And that is what makes a good entrepreneur!
Be sure to check out Part 2 in this series on why, despite your best efforts, it is sometimes best to Let Go!