Freelancers, Small businesses and those who are not yet at the ‘we tell you the way we do business’ stage will need to deal with clients of all sorts and often this means being flexible. It helps if you can spot the different breeds and have an idea of what makes each one tick. Master this and your business will run smoothly, fail to recognise the signs and you will spend hours or days at your desk wondering where it all went wrong. Here are just some of the most common species about which Sir David Attenborough can teach you nothing.
This client refuses to believe in any Darwinian concept. They have not evolved since the eighties and if it still works, they will not fix it. You create a technological masterpiece that has more bells on it than your average tour of the churches of Rome yet, they insist on you faxing them the details. If you are costing a project for this client, you need to add extra for materials, phone conferencing (if you are lucky) and extra hours as you put other projects on hold ‘in case’ of requests for revisions and there’s no way of knowing how quickly feedback will arrive. The only small business software this client has is in their desktop calculator. If you are in the digital industry or even using 21st century technology, it could be worth giving this client a wide berth.
The Blind Client
If ever there was a case for a new meaning to be attributed to the old saying ‘Like the blind leading the blind’, this is it. This client will have no real idea what they need, but they will expect you to:
- Read their mind
- Make their mind up for them
- Prepare another project just to explain why your course of action is the best possible
- Assume that feedback is something you have at a concert when the sound checks failed
Sadly, many freelancers have to suffer these types of clients. We spend days working their fingers to the bone when along comes the client’s friend who has no experience in the industry but all the trust of the client. The friend scuppers the project because he once read in New Computer User Weekly that you should always ask for several revisions to make sure you get what you want (even though the client doesn’t really know what that is). Deal with these clients by nailing everything down in a contract before starting any work and make sure you include key objectives and the number of revisions.
This client is the nightmare client that is in the same industry as you, but they decided to outsource the work because they have too much on. These clients are never happy because their way of working is different to yours. Unless you change your way of working, your style and your hours to suit every little quirk and bad habit they have introduced into their working life, the project will run on and on like a rendition of the complete works of William Shakespeare. While these may be a valuable source of income when the client list is a little thin, you may find it more productive spending your time prospecting for new clients.
The Erratic Payer
This client has no idea about the cash flow problems of the freelancer or small business. They have tea budgets bigger than your monthly wage bill and they have a list of approved suppliers that are more important to the running of their business than others and this is where the ‘we tell you the way we do business’ companies mentioned earlier, have control of your clients. Sadly, we cannot spend all of our time chasing payments even if we have our own accounts receivable department.
Doing so, will leave us little time to continue with the day-to-day running of our business and affect our morale. All this can have an adverse effect on the quality and delivery of work we have for our other clients. There are small business software packages available that can help automate the collection of invoices and this can speed up production, but it is important to get the terms of your contract clear from the beginning.
JonJon Yeung is a freelance writer and enjoys writing on Technology, Entrepreneurship, Business and lives a Savvy lifestyle. He writes about software products for businesses (in particular Intuit QuickBooks Accounting Software). He also provides great tips for small businesses.