How To Deal With Bad Clients

When you're starting out in business, you're a little unsure of yourself. This is a new game without a written rulebook.

You are keen to make sales, so you take on clients who, in your gut, you know you probably shouldn't.

That is because your subconscious is analysing incoming information better than your conscious mind can, and, based on available data, it knows that the client who mainly wants to gripe about fees is going to a problem when you send him your invoice.

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And sure enough, he wants constant changes made to a spec already agreed on and then takes his time paying you.

One thing to be aware of in business is: If people aren't forced to pay you, then they probably won't.

Here are some signs of a bad client:

1. They're always asking to pay less.

Someone who wants a fat discount on something that's already competitively priced should not be taken on board at all. They have an obsession with cost rather than quality, or else they're skint. Either way, they're of no use to you.

Want a free trial? Don't want to pay a deposit upfront? Ask someone else sir, and good day to you!

Someone who is successful, with a thriving business, is concerned with quality and speed.

If a client you take on can see you can do the work well and in fact you've even thrown in a bonus, but they're still quibbling all the time about fees you agreed upfront, you need to put that client on the B list, pronto.

2. You can't find much about them online.

No website, no contact details anywhere, free email address, they only have a mobile phone number but they're representing that they have a substantial business? Those are red flags right there.

Such people can hire a plumber for a one hour job but no one should offer to do long hours or expensive work for them without a substantial deposit up front.

3. They won't sign a contract.

They don't need to, because they say you can 'trust' them, right? Wrong! A loser who is used to exploiting remote workers via online platforms reacts to a contract the way a vampire reacts to garlic.

A good contract simply states the obligations of the signatories and should be easy to read and understand. If a potential client gets scared by this, it's a sign he probably wants wiggle room to welch on your deal.

4. They're bugging you all the time.

Phone calls, emails, texts, question after question ... time is money and someone who's living in your ear all the time should be put on the B-list.

5. They take ages to come back to you.

This means, at some level, they don't care about the work you're doing or they have a current Big Problem in their life which is taking priority.

If they don't tell you what the Big Problem is, then put them on the B-list.

6. They constantly change their mind.

'What, you wanted it in white, and now you want it all in black?' Put them on the B-list!

7. They disparage what you do.

These are the worst. They can't do what you do, so they hired you, but they run down your work or tell you 'X shouldn't be a problem to do, it's easy, I could do it myself!' Sure, buddy, then why don't you?

Again, put these clients on the B-list and read on.

8. They say they've hired a series of bad workers.

Guess what, you're next on the list! They've had a series of bad experiences because of their own inadequacies, either personal or financial. You don't need to be the No. 6 hire on their NeverEnding Project.

So what to do with bad clients?

1. Trust your instincts.

Your subconscious is monitoring your environment constantly. It's very good at spotting inconsistencies. Your conscious mind tends to overrule it either by being too positive ('I need the money, so this guy is okay') or too negative ('This guy has bad breath and poor taste in clothing, I must flee!')

On a lower level of consciousness, you know that Mr. Angsty who wants to pay you chump change and has a spec written on a fag packet is someone you should not take on board.

Contrariwise, Mr. Energy who's quite at ease in his own skin but is sitting in a plush office getting underlings to do complex tasks, efficiently, is someone you can take on board.

2. Stick to your guns.

You're a pro and the knowledge you have didn't come cheap. Be polite but firm with clients who demand too much.

3. One you get enough good clients, drop the B-listers.

Be polite. Say, 'sorry, I can't take on any more work', or charge them extra for the hassle they bring, including getting larger upfront deposits.

These tactics will wake up any B-lister who can be salvaged and the rest will scour the free classified ads to find someone else's time to waste!

4. Build up savings for the lean times.

No money makes you desperate. Desperate people take on jobs they shouldn't. Having 6 month's rent in the bank will make negotiating contracts much easier and more pleasant for you.

5. When it comes time to say goodbye ...

- Be polite when you explain the situation;
- Focus on what they're interested in;
- Tell them what's going to happen next;
- Don't burn your bridges; you may run into those people again in the years to come!

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