Not everyone will be your ideal client and that’s ok. In fact, you may come across clients that make you cringe anytime you see an email from them, clients who are slow to pay you for your work or clients who are unhappy with anything that you do. Those difficult clients are part of the cost of doing business, but it can be also hard to know what to do. I definitely don’t recommend burning any bridges in frustration, but keep reading to find some tips on how to manage them, cut ties with them and also prevent the situation from happening again in the future.
First, How do I identify difficult clients?
I’ve seen difficult clients take on all types of forms. From the client that is convinced that everything is an emergency, calling you after hours and on weekends for something that could’ve waited. I’ve also experienced the client who has convinced themselves that they are easygoing and want to allow you full creativity on their project when in reality, they know they are the pickiest individual in the world. These clients can contribute to stress-related issues, less enjoyment of your work, and a poor reputation.
A difficult client every now and then is common, but it’s important to try and turn things around or cut them loose without burning any bridges. Here are some common types that you should look out for:
- Ms. Can Do It Better: This client swears that she can run your business better than you can and will research ways that you can do your job better. She’ll even send you a list of tools that you should be using for her project instead of what you’re doing now. Ma’am, you obviously didn’t need my services when you’re capable of doing it yourself.
- Ms. Easy Going: This client loves to stress how simple they are, but keeps requesting the most detailed items that were not a part of their service contract.
- Ms. Pants On Fire: This client swears that they are your favorite and only client. They have no consideration for your time and space. They also have unrealistic timelines.
- Ms. Nitpick: This client always has issues with your billing, regardless of whether they agreed and signed an itemized contract prior to beginning their project. They are also constantly looking for a reason to receive a discount.
- Ms. Aggressor: This client is always in a bad mood. Raising their voice to you and berating you over minor issues. They have you constantly looking over your shoulder and anxious anytime your work phone rings.
I haven’t had to deal with ALL of these types and I’m pretty sure there are more, but these are who I look out for the most.
How to deal with these difficult clients
So now that we’ve identified some of the difficult types, how do we deal with them? As I mentioned, my goal is never to burn bridges even if it comes down to firing the client.
1. Listen to your client
Sometimes your client just feels like you aren’t hearing them. Take some time, without getting defensive, to listen to their issues and make sure that they understand that you acknowledge their problems and are trying to solve their issues.
2. Provide prompt communication
Not replying back or ghosting your client will NOT help the situation. As soon as your client communicates an issue, get it sorted quickly. No, you don’t need to provide a long letter of apology or accept any blame (depending on the circumstances), but by doing this you establish good/open communication.
3. Provide records
Normally if there has been a communication problem between me and my client, I can determine where the disconnect occurred. Sometimes a client’s expectations are off and I can copy and paste from old emails or their service contract what was agreed upon.
4. Provide a solution
It’s not about who is wrong or right, but more about finding a solution for your client without losing any business credibility. If you are the one in the wrong, admit it and show the client how you will correct your mistake.
If the client is in the wrong, refer the client to their signed contract and if the client would still like to continue working with you make sure that they know what to expect going forward. Not all clients communicate the same way and maybe adding more check-ins will help in communication.
5. Fire your client
Your reputation is way more important than the money you would’ve received from that difficult client. Fixing the problem, even if you lose some money over it, can benefit you in the long run (no bad review and they may still refer others). You will not solve every issue in the manner that you’d like, but keeping things professional will always put you in a better position.
Firing your clients can take on different forms. Some things that I have tried include:
- Raising prices
- Phasing out a service
- Acknowledging that I may not be a good fit for them and then referring the individual to someone else.
6. Determine what went wrong
Finally, reflect on your dealings with your difficult client. Determine how you ended up working with them. Did you follow through with a client intake process? What could you have done differently? What will you do to avoid a similar type of client in the future? Do you need to modify your client agreement? Do you need to improve client communication?
I’d love to hear from you! Have you had to deal with a nightmare client and what was your solution? DM me @thestartup_pro on Instagram.