6 Types of Clients You May Not Want to Work With, and How to Deal with Them

More than likely we all come from humble beginnings as workers on the web. We were eager beavers as well we should have been, and took any client that came through our email inbox. Our eyes were definitely on the prize and had tunnel vision for the final payment or building our portfolio. Then, it happens. Almost out of nowhere. The unhappy client. We sit and ponder to ourselves, ” I made them 20 design revisions,  they finally approved the design, developed the site to their 30 page scope of work, uploaded the site to their host ,cross-browser tested it even after they broke that plugin, gave them private training,  continued to edit the design, development,  cross-browser tested it again, and they are still charging me back the full amount in Paypal…WTF!!??”.

The bad news is sometimes there is no avoiding the potentially bad client. We can edit and email to the tenth degree and it still won’t be enough. Then again sometimes bad clients don’t come in just angry form. Sometimes they are as sweet as can bee but your email conversion will say 80+ emails and you haven’t even gotten to the design phase yet. The good news is we can pick who we decide to work with, and if we do work with them how to deal with them.

Let’s look at the 6 types of clients you may not want to work with and tips on how to deal with them:

#1 They Don’t Know What They Want or They Don’t Have a SOW ( scope of work)

At first this type of client is very easy going. In fact they can come across as a perfect client because they are all ears when it comes to your ideas and your imagination can run wild with ideas.  They are just as eager as you are and can be putty in your hands…in the beginning. However, indecisiveness can quickly turn into frustration and with it, revisions. Which can lead to “cha-ching” in your online invoicing system, but not something this type of client wants to hear. This client also has the potential to just all of sudden know what they want and this typically happens once you are over budget. You more than likely will spend most of your budgeted hours in the beginning part of a project not leaving enough to actually complete the project. The clients fire and excitement can turn to hostility as they have a tendency to think you may only be after their wallet when you have to confront them on budget. I find I never even charge enough for all my project management because they like to send A LOT of emails and it is hard to just turn on your timer for every email.

Tips on how to work with type of client: When quoting their project quote a number typically double of what you normally do. This can leave room in the budget to deal with all their indecisiveness and ever growing scope of work. This will save you in the long run and avoid any miscommunication. Try, if you can to write your own clear scope of work. That way when they start changing and adding new things you can always point back to the agreed scope of work.

#2 No Circle of Trust ( They have been wounded by a previous designer/developer)

As with any good relationship trust is a key component. Obviously this type of client you are going to get more often than not, because as is the nature of this line of work. They are highly suspicious of any ideas, edits, and ESPECIALLY your invoice. They will doubt you from beginning to end, and our site- sabotaging. Meaning, they sometimes doubt so much that their finished product can wind up looking less than portfolio worthy.

Tips on how to work with type of client: Score some brownie points by starting small if you can. Do a small project for them first for them to instill some trust in you and go over the top for them. They will need hand holding and lots of details. Keep very good records of your invoice details and revisions as they will want proof.

#3 High Expectations

This particular client comes in all forms especially nice and mean. Maybe they fell in love with you because of your portfolio but they want you to “wow them” too. These types come in amped about your work and expecting you to do ten fold for them because like the title says they have extremely high and more often than not unrealistic expectations. They will always expect that their project comes first, you have no life, and if you do not email them back within 1 hour you must be slacking. Sometimes this type of client has such high expectations that when you send over a first draft and it isn’t what they were expecting instead of working through revisions they become deflated and defeated and lose trust in you instantly turning all sweetness into sour. This client can be a real red flag when it comes to getting paid and a high Paypal chargeback rate.

Tips on how to work with type of client: Google them. Seriously! I had a client like this once and I didn’t Google him. Turns out he had previously been disbarred as a lawyer from working in any state in the United States. That was a learning experience! Check out what type of person they are and what their working history with other designers is. Maybe they have burned through 3 previous designers and developers and now you are their next victim. Try to gauge their personality and not just their project. Their personality will determine whether you can deal with their over the top expectations. Sometimes these projects can turn our beautifully because they can really push you as a designer and developer, but be aware it may be difficult to get there and it may not pan out.

#4 I Need it Yesterday

Ready, set, GO! This client needs a custom design, custom theme, ecommerce, SEO, migrate their site, plus all redirects done ASAP. You think, “ok, I’m up for the challenge!”. But wait, what was that little sentence at the bottom of the email? They need it in 1 week. You think “Cha ching”! I’ll just charge an expedited rate and no big deal. This my friends is a losing battle, because while this client seems like they have their ducks in a row that scope of work will undoubtedly change, and that ETA you both agreed on just got blown out of the water and now it is YOUR fault. This may fall into the high expectations clients, but they are different because they only have one goal in mind….Going Live.

Tips on how to work with type of client: Bend their deadline into something realistic and you can both agree on. Even in they say they need it in a week suggest you don’t want to sacrifice your quality of work, and that the quickest you can do is 2-3 weeks. Which brings me to the next point. Do a date delivery range that way when they come back with edits you can give yourself more time. If they do add to the scope of work just tell them immediately this will effect the deadline and get their approval before moving forward. Open communication with this type is crucial

#5 Tight Wallet

This type is a tough one. I myself am a fru-gal , but there comes a point when frugality can become flat out cheap . Big hat no cattle with this one and they will even try to barter or let you in on being a part of their new hip company. I did bargain once with a lawyer for services actually to deal with the guy from #3, and it was the the best deal ever, but 9 times out of 10 that won’t work out too well. Sometimes they even have the grand idea of making you do a sample for free to see if they want to hire you. In that case I point them to my portfolio.

Tips on how to work with type of client: Stick up for yourself, and tell yourself you are worth your rate. Emphasis your quality of work and let them know if they want to work with you then select a service they can afford. You will not do as good of a job if you know you are not getting paid what you are worth. If they want to work with you they will come up with the money, trust me. For every person who can’t afford you there is a person who can, so remember they are not the only work out there.

#6 Verbally and Emotionally Abusive

You may laugh at this types title, but really this does exist. Abuse in any form is not ok, and it can be draining. Sucking the life out of all the other projects, and can really strike down your creative ability. I had a client one time when I submitted a proposal answered back with the most vulgar email cuss words and all. I was quite shocked and I emailed her back ( yes, it was a woman!), and asked if that email was meant for me because it was uncharacteristic. She apologized and said she was having a bad day, but if I did that when I was having a bad day I wouldn’t be in business. I quickly withdrew my proposal and decided not to work with her. She begged me to work with her but I referred her somewhere else. Just imagine this was the very beginning stages. Just imagine how she would be once you were actually working together.

Tips on how to work with type of client: RUN!!! Honestly, don’t even put up with that type of behavior. Most people don’t act this way right off the bat, but there can be signs. Look again at their personality and Google them. If you  happen to have already started working with them you can always give them an ultimatum that if they act like that again you will discontinue work and keep the money you have already worked. This will do 1 of 2 things. #1 it will make them respect you and they will stop, or #2 they will freak out. Normally #2, but it can be a blessing to not have to continue working with them even if it costs you money, because it can keep you from working on other clients projects.

Conclusion:

If you may have noticed the theme in all my tips really boils down to honesty and communication. Something I talked about in my last post, How to Succeed with your WordPress Company. Just having clear scopes of work, communication, and honesty can help you avoid conflict with all these types of clients. Don’t beat yourself however if all your best efforts to resolve an issue fails. Sometimes you cannot please everyone, and that is ok.

Now, have a good laugh and read some client stories on Clients from Hell.