In the immortal words of the Scottish philosopher Billy Connolly “There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes” and so it is with clients.
Let’s be honest, there are some businesses you should never work with and some who are slightly more work than others. Sadly, it’s this mismatch between agencies and clients that allows the “bad client” myth to prevail.
Clients you should never work with
Like people, there are some businesses you should never, ever work with. Do your homework; the engagement process is a two-way street. You can be certain they’ve checked you out thoroughly and you should do the same.
- Do your company cultures fit? If you’re an agency that specialises in mobile website design for the games industry then don’t commit to creating a corporate intranet. Say NO.
- What’s their burn-through rate? If they are burning through a couple of agencies a year, something’s broken and you probably won’t be able to fix it. Say NO.
- Do you have to cut your prices just to get in the front door? You have overheads so what’s the use in going out of business before the job’s done? Say NO.
- Are you being asked for the moon on a stick? You’ll never achieve the impossible, so if they aren’t prepared to be realistic say NO.
I know it’s tough to say no. You’re worried where the next cheque is coming from and there’s rent to cough up and staff to pay. But if you say yes you’re going to hate it. Worse than that, you’re going to demotivate your staff and you could miss the opportunity that’s just right for you coming around the corner.
Clients that are more work than others
If there is nothing fundamentally wrong but you find yourself being knocked from pillar to post then it’s time to take control. You’re the experts, you’ve been asked to deliver a project and that’s what you’re going to do.
Four simple tips:
- Be honest – explain the difficulties and propose a way of working to ensure a successful outcome.
- Communicate – Let your client know what’s happening. You don’t have to respond immediately but don’t neglect them. Most problems can be resolved quickly with a simple phone call.
- Set realistic expectations – Do not over promise and under deliver.
- Set ground rules – How will changes be factored in? What response time will you provide on emails and phone calls?
It’s probably not going to be smooth sailing, and you’ll probably have to reiterate the rules several times, but in the end you’ll find a happy medium that works for both you and your client.