Do you have a client that you would just love to fire? You know the one I’m talking about: The one who is a constant pain in the derriere, sucking up your precious time and resources, and so on? So what do you do?
The first thing that we are going to do is address the very important steps to take to PREVENT working with a problem client, and what steps can be put in place to stop a client from becoming a problem.
With the popularity of the “gig economy”, contract workers, freelancers, and even large companies need to protect themselves from accepting projects or work that can end up being frustration or costing money.
As way of introduction, we have either experienced or heard stories of the potential client asking a freelancer or agency to perform work that will “look great on a portfolio.” If you are even entertaining the thoughts of doing this type of work, this article is not for you. You should never be expected to work for free or even at a reduced rate.
Set Down Expectations Early
It’s my personal belief that because a company or a business relies on contracted work, clients often feel entitled to negotiate a lower (and often free) fee. It’s as if the skills and experience we have are not viewed as valuable. I often make the comparison of that same person going into a restaurant and trying to negotiate a reduced cost for a meal based on the customer writing a glowing review — thus, the portfolio model. The cases where the client attempts to negotiate a lower (or free) cost by saying, “It will be a great addition to your portfolio”.
Then there is the client who will try to get additional add-ons or free work that was not part of the initial project scope.
Clients are the lifeblood of the freelance or gig economy business model and are needed to make a successful business. The following are warning signs of potentially problematic clients. You will also see how important a well-written contract is to the success of any project.
Here are some of the potential warning signs that might face you and/or your company when working with those potentially problematic clients
- You have been asked to take over from another company that the potential client says “screwed them over”. This is one of the first and best indicators that this could turn into a problem client. Additionally, you will also be viewed as the bad guy because you will be charging for work they feel has already been paid for
- Failing to identify a knowledgeable contact person. Who will your contact person be? Who will you be primarily working with? If you will not be working with a “technical” sort, you will probably be expected to do everything outside of what the scope of the project is…ie you might be “expected” to write copy when that was not part of the quoted job.
- Be wary of under-financed start-ups. They are usually looking for the cheapest and quickest solution and are not willing to invest or will have expectations of you doing tasks that are outside of the scope of the project.
How to Write the Perfect Quote and Why You Need a Contract
The initial job quote should set the expectations down prior to the contract.
Understand the entire scope of the project — EXACTLY. Establish in writing what the customer wants from start to finish. In order to write a comprehensive quote/contract, you will need to ask a lot of questions. In fact, a written questionnaire of what the client wants and the expectations is highly recommended. Followed up by more questions that can lead to a well-written and well priced quote. Question everything!
Do not allow scope creep, ie doing work that wasn’t contracted for or were to be the customer’s responsibility – This should be outlined in both the quote and subsequent contract. Should you be asked to do something that was not in the project scope, make sure you have the added fee rate outlined in your contract and point that out before agreeing to perform that work.
Make sure that the quote includes charges for calls, meetings and consulting services. Add in additional fees that will be charged if the client asks for things that are not covered (Scope creep as noted above). Revision requests should be outlined and billed accordingly. The number of allowed revisions should be outlined with additional charges billed for any revisions that go above the number stated in the contract. By stating the number of revision inclusions, you can avoid the high-maintenance client who will simply continue to make changes.
Contract – Contract – Contract!
The contract must be signed and deposit received before work starts. You should also receive additional payments on a schedule as stages are completed. This will hopefully eliminate the client not completing full payment. It’s also a good idea that should any additional costs be implemented through additional requests, payment must be received prior to starting that task.
Set these out in the ‘Net Terms’ section of the contract.
The contract should include a step-by-step outline/timeline of expectations and tasks that must be completed by the client to stay on course. There is nothing more frustrating that waiting on a client and then be blamed for project deadlines not being met.
While this may seem a relatively harsh approach to client acquisition, it will actually keep you and the client on the same path. With the client understanding completely his or her responsibilities, as well as the totality of what you will be providing, the project has a far better chance of running smoothly to a successful completion.
Part II: Our next blog will discuss how to fire that “problem” client.