Here at Accountancy Extra we are huge fans of Michael Gerber and the book E…
No matter what industry you work in, you will meet both good and bad clients. Of course, to make the absolute best from your business, it’s important that you attract as many good clients as possible and avoid the bad ones at all costs.
But how do we know what makes a bad client? Thankfully, they are pretty easy to spot and also (on the whole) fairly easy to deal with. Here is my list of the most common types:
- We all want to make it easy for new clients to pick us, so in a lot of industries it is now the norm to have a free initial consultation. This gives us the opportunity to showcase our talents and convince the prospect that we are his/ her best choice for the job. However, occasionally, we will meet “Mr Something for Nothing”. This is the guy who uses the free meeting to gain the absolute maximum amount of technical information as possible, often with no regard for the cost of your time. If you are a lawyer, he will possibly want all his legal working discussed in that first meeting. Luckily, this guy is easy to avoid by setting out the “rules” of your first meeting, and sticking to them (however tempting it might be to give more in order that you can “seal the deal”)
- The “Dreamer” prospect has unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved and what the budget should be for doing so. I’ve had many conversations with digital clients who tell me similar stories of prospects who ask them to “build the new Ebay/ Facebook/ Google” with a budget of £500. The secret to avoiding this guy is to create a list of high quality questions that you can ask before agreeing to a meeting with them. These could be around project timescales, overall framework, background to the idea and the prospect, maybe even budget. It will save you a lot of time!
- The Scope Creep client often agrees to a project specification and a price and then starts adding those little extras in as you go along. For example, the guy whose laptop you fix for a pre agreed price who then expects you to fix his printer as well, for free! Or the bathroom you fit for a customer, who then expects you to do half a dozen extra plumbing jobs around the house “whilst you are there”. Be careful, these extras, soon mount up. To avoid scope creep, document what is included in the price and maybe even include a list of what isn’t and typical prices for doing these tasks.
- Have you ever been told “XYZ down the road are cheaper than you”? Then you’ve met the Discount Seeker prospect. He’ll often low ball your fees with promises of loads of future work (which never materialises!). His cheapness is often seen to match his ability to be ever demanding of your time. Know your worth and stick to it! If he wants a cheaper price, then take something out of the deal to match his budget.
- The Discount Seeker is often morphs in to the Time Vampire. This is the client who e mails you regularly, often without reason and who expects an instant response. If you don’t provide one, he’ll be calling you within the hour to ask why not! He may want regular meetings “just to stay in touch”. Ask their expectations up front and agree a support package to suit them and their project and then price properly for it!
- The High Profile Client often will lowball your fees in the same way as the Discount Seeker, but will justify his move by claiming “As a high Profile client, my XYZ project will be great for your portfolio”. Unless you are planning a targeted strategic move and need this client’s testimonial in your portfolio desperately, avoid his ploy. It’s just his way of getting his work done cheaply! Try telling him that you provide first class service to all your clients and it would be unfair on the others to subsidise him.
- The Impossible to Please client will constantly bombard you with complaints, changes, queries, price objections and will almost never say thank you, even if you have really gone “the extra mile” to make them happy. Stick to the script and refer back to your brief wherever possible.
- The Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay client. These are a difficult beast to spot! All starts well when they agree the scope of the work you’ll be doing and even agree the price. You then do the work and start the waiting and excuses game! Weeks or months will pass and they’ll make no attempt to contact you to discuss the invoice. When you do speak with them, there will be a raft of excuses for non payment, including the infamous “the cheque is in the post”. Structure your contracts so that you get paid up front (in part at least) and include milestones and payment milestones within the contract. That way, even if they default, you’ll only be ever down one stage payment.
By avoiding these types of clients, you can concentrate your efforts on the good ones, the profitable ones and above all, the ones are that great to work with.
What other stories of bad clients have you got?