"I'm done with this! I just want to go out and drink tequila."
The source of this tirade? I respectfully questioned his misunderstanding of what one of his senior people was trying to communicate to him. The problem was, these temper tantrums of his apparently happen all the time at work.
While this is an extreme example of bad behavior, every entrepreneur comes face to face with a problem customer now and again. These challenging clients can drain our energy, take up our time and suck the joy out of doing our jobs.
It's the classic 80/20 rule in action: Twenty percent of your clients will cause you eighty percent of the grief. By learning how to identify these trouble clients at the start, you can prevent problems early on, or just avoid working with them all together. Here are three types of bad clients I tell my good clients to send packing.
1. Nickle and Dimers
These are the people who, no matter what the price, always seem to have a problem with what you are charging. Once, when a potential client indignantly said to me, "That's a lot of money for only a day's worth of work," I replied,
"That's a day plus the 30 years it took me to get really proficient at this."
I went on to explain that he could of course hire someone with way less experience for a reduced rate and be their training ground if he preferred.
Just to be clear, the rate I was charging him was completely in line for my field, and fair given my expertise and track record. The best clients are those who settle on a fair rate with you and then get on with the business of working together. The ones who constantly bring up what you charge are bad clients. A few things you can say to nickel and dimers include:
- "I'm sorry, but I just can't do what you want for that price."
- "I'm sorry, but I don't discount my work."
- "I can understand if that's out of your budget, but I charge a fair price for the value I am offering."
2. Entitled Whiners
Any entrepreneur who has ever been nitpicked to death by a client knows the pain of this type. Even at the proposal and pitching stage, they seem to find small things to point out that you have done wrong or could have done better.
Even when you deliver on your promises, keep to your timelines and fulfill the terms of the contract to the letter, somehow, they feel like they are entitled to something more, better or different.
Part of the frustration with these naysayers is that they mostly focus on the negative and rarely, if ever, acknowledge you for what you have done for them.
If this sounds like someone you work with, you may want to address the gap between what you are promising to deliver and their expectations. A few things you can say to entitled whiners include:
- "What are the expectations you have about this project that you don't feel I'm living up to?"
- "It seems to me that you are expecting something I did not promise or agree to."
- "I'm sorry, but I can't do that. It's not what I agreed to."
3. Prove It Peters and Pams
Nothing is more frustrating than being hired for your expertise, experience or ability to help your client achieve their objective--and then being completely ignored or rendered ineffective.
Clients who insist on doing it their way and then complain when they don't get the results are simply bad clients. The best thing to say to these prove it Peters and Pams is:
"I'm feeling frustrated that you don't seem to take the professional advice you are paying me to give you to heart, and I think it might be better for you to hire someone whose opinion and expertise you feel more comfortable with."
In the end it's important to be able to sniff out the essentially good clients where we may occasionally have a misunderstanding from the truly bad ones who can make our work lives miserable.
While it's always confronting to fire a client, continuing to work with problematic ones carries with it opportunity costs in terms of time, energy and resources.
The next time you get an email, text or call from a client and find yourself thinking, "Oh no, not him/her?" it's probably time to have "the" talk, or just take the leap and get rid of them. Who knows, the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional energy you get back might just help you create the clients of your dreams.