Why Nightmare Clients Cost You Money!

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

Designers don’t want nightmare clients, but when business is slow, it is tempting to take any client because it seems like a better idea than having no clients. Is it worth taking a difficult client just to pay the bills? My answer is a resounding “NO!”

Here are a few red flags that warn you of trouble ahead:

1. One of the first questions the prospect asks is “how do you charge.” That indicates they are price shopping and that is never a good client.
2. They are late for your first appointment with no good excuse or apology. Most people are on their best behavior at the very beginning, and things tend to go downhill from there.
3. They are “too easy” saying they want you to make all of the decisions. You’ll be the one that is frustrated when they aren’t happy and they don’t pay your bills.
4. They want several changes on your contract. If you have a contract that’s worked for most of your clients, this could be a sign that they will nitpick your work and your invoices.
5. It’s hard to schedule a time to meet with them. If so, it will be hard to get them to meet to make decisions and move your project along.
6. They want you to hold their hand and be their friend. This means lots of extra non-billable hours.
7. They are too busy reading their text messages or taking calls (unless it is an emergency). You’ll be frustrated by their lack of attention to the details especially with your contract!

It’s crucial to take on clients that fit your values. Drue Lawlor, our Director of Coaching, wrote a blog post about values this year – be sure to read it if you missed it.

What are your top 3 values? If your clients don’t fit those values, you’re headed for challenges.

Why do nightmare clients cost you money?

1. They question bills.
2. They negotiate for better rates (which leaves you frustrated that you are working for less than your ideal clients pay you).
3. They get angry to control you which is stressful and can end up in you walking away with bills they haven’t paid.
4. They micromanage which costs you time and ultimately money.
5. They delay decisions which affect your efficiency and cash flow.
6. You find yourself working extra hard to convince them of your value, and that means more non-billable time.
7. You question your abilities and your confidence sags which means it is harder to get yourself “up” and positive when ideal clients do reach out.
8. You’re too busy trying to make difficult people happy and you spend less time on your good clients leading to other unhappy clients that might have been ideal before they were neglected.
9. Difficult clients make lead to unhappy staff members that make costly mistakes.
10. If you keep taking difficult clients, that can lead to you doubting yourself… and who knows… that could lead to counseling fees!

Just say NO!

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