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How to weed out the shitty clients with 5 simple steps

If you have the cure for cancer, why keep it a secret?
August 18, 2019
If you email me from a Gmail address, I’m just going to assume you want my kidney. And you can’t have it!
September 2, 2019

Shitty clients exist, no matter what business you are in.

If you’re in the service industry, these are the customers that don’t tip the waiter for no apparent reason or complain that their table order of six full meals has taken longer than 15 minutes to get to the table.

If you’re in retail, this is the over-sized woman that has brought back a garment that is CLEARLY two sizes too small and complained that the zip has split. And she screamed at you like it was your fault!

If you’re a creative, it’s that nagging client that has given you the VAGUEST BRIEF EVER, tried to hustle you for the lowest price, and then told you that the finished product is “not what they’re looking for”.

These clients are everywhere! And it’s sometimes hard to spot them, from the get go, when you haven’t set up a good client screening process. I STILL make this mistake sometimes.

I’ll chat to a new client, thinking “they seem so cool!” and then skip them past the screening process. It’s that annoyingly optimistic side of myself that I sometimes need to keep a leash on. DOWN, GIRL!

Next thing I know, I’ve quoted too low on something that really just isn’t worth the effort. I’ll have a meeting, follow it up with an email, then have another meeting to discuss what was ALREADY SAID in the email, and before I know it I have spent 16 hours on a project that I thought would take 10% of the time. For someone who trades my time for money, that is not a good thing…

Also, I hate meetings. I work with big organizations overseas that have never had any other communication with me outside of an email, but somehow a little one man band needs 3 hours? I get grumpy when I have to put on pants…

Don’t get me wrong, I love the majority of my clients. There are a few that I have built such a cool relationship with that I don’t even have to bother with the admin anymore. I get an email with a brief, I do the work, they get the invoice and the bill is paid the very same day (Shoutout to my peeps in Thailand! Love you guys!). These are the clients that make me happy to do my job. But the shitty ones… they change my wakeup mantra from “You get to create for some awesome people today!” to “Let’s just get this shit over and done with.”
Trust me, the latter puts a serious damper on my creative vibes.

As a startup, it’s so important to get excited about who you get to work with. This is why a screening process for your clients is a must do. I have learned the hard way that the client may sound cool, but they NEED TO GO THROUGH THE SCREENING PROCESS!!! (Even if you have a personal relationship with them). And, for your own sanity, it is okay to say “no” to working with bad clients.

Here are the methods I use to make sure that my clients are worth working with:

1. Get all their contact details.

The more details you have, the better your lines of communication are going to be. The better your communication, the better your working relationship is going to be.

It happens all to often that emails get forgotten (especially on a busy day) or end up in the junk folder. What will make this a hell of a lot easier is if you can follow up in 24 hours with a phone call to say “Hey! How’ya doing? Did you get my email?”.

2. Make sure they know what they want.

If the client can’t tell you what they want, how are you ever going to give it to them?

Imagine a woman sitting down at your restaurant and saying “Just give me your chef’s specialty”. You bring her your chef’s special fillet flambe with creamy white wine sauce, only for her to turn around (highly offended) and tell you she’s a vegan! Next thing, you have horrible reviews on TripAdvisor and a scathing review on your Facebook page. Not to mention, she shared a pic to her vegan networking group and now the entire local vegan community is boycotting your restaurant, even though you do offer vegan-friendly meals.
All of this could have been avoided with just a few simple questions:
“Do you have any dietary preferences?”
“What’s your favourite food?”
“What are you in the mood for?”
“Would you like fries with that?”

The more information you get, the more likely your client is to be pleased with the final product. 
We’re entrepreneurs. Not mind-readers

3. We don’t negotiate with terrorists!

Be upfront with your pricing. Your rates are your rates and any client that tries to lower your value by trying to haggle you down is just not worth it. In fact, I have found that the clients I have given discounts to are often the WORST with payments.

Do you believe in what you do? If not, you shouldn’t be doing it. If you do, then you are a diamond! A MUTHAF*CKING TIFFANY’S DIAMOND! Not everyone can afford you, but that’s okay. If they see the value and really want you, they will save up until they can. If they are cheapskates, they’ll go and find a second-rate knockoff and it’ll never be as good as you. End of story.

4. Get it in writing

I like communicating in email so that I have record of everything. If you’re better at talking over the phone or in person, that’s cool, but for the love of all things chocolate, make sure your client signs a quotation or a contract with Terms and Conditions clearly stated!

I have a client service agreement for each one of my clients. In each agreement, I clearly state EXACTLY what they are getting, for what price and what will be expected of them. I top it off with deadlines for feedback, payments and what happens if these deadlines aren’t met.

These contracts save lives! In fact, I’m going to release a few templates in my Ninja Skills later this year, so watch this space to get your paws on them!

5. Get upfront payment!

If I am buying groceries, I don’t walk in to Woolworths food and tell them how I will pay them at the end of the month. If I want my chocolate mousse (because Woollies chocolate mouse is THE ONLY ONE WORTH BUYING), then I have to cough up the cash!

It is common practice for creatives to charge at least a 50% deposit before starting on a project. I make sure I get the balance before I release the final product.

You would be surprised how many clients simply ghost once they have the final product, with no intention of paying. The good news is, if you have done the first 4 points, you have these guys by the balls! And they’re not getting away with being shitty human beings…

At the end of the day, I would love to believe that everyone holds themselves to the standards of integrity that I like to think that I have, but I have dealt with enough assholes to know that this is just not a reality.

Protect yourselves, hustlers! Work with integrity and high standards!
And clients… don’t be assholes! When you communicate with positive vibes, you’re going to get a positive response, and then everyone is happy 🙂

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