What’s that thing everyone always says?
Something like, “the customer is always right.” Right. But in web design and freelancing, we quite often forget to choose the right customers.
Did your mom ever tell you to choose your friends wisely? Mine did. And you should be doing the same thing when it comes to handling clients. If you really want your business to thrive, you have to pick the best possible clients.
Remember that it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. And it only takes one bad client to ruin everything you’ve worked hard to achieve over the years.
It is critical to screen clients before you sign any contracts. Trust me, you’re not only doing your business a favor: this is the best anti-aging regimen. Avoiding bad clients saves you all the stress, worries and headaches.
So, how do you distinguish the good ones from the bad ones?
They pay for the quality of work you deliver, regardless. Good clients expect to pay for your services. They know that they must spend money if they want to get their desired results. They see hiring good designers as an investment rather than as an added expense.
They pay on time. Awesome clients always pay on time. They don’t make you beg for the payment. They also discuss the payment terms with you early on and they make sure to keep their end of the bargain.
Good clients are good communicators. Good, crisp and clear communication is crucial in any kind of relationship, romantic or professional. A good client makes sure that you are both on the same page when they request something in a project. They convey their requests or questions verbally and clearly, without assuming you have a psychic ability to read their mind.
They are committed to quality work and they’re willing to wait for it. Good clients know that truly exceptional work requires plenty of time for the creative process. They are willing work with your schedule to ensure they get the best possible design or artwork. They want the work to be done correctly and properly so they are not going to ask you to take shortcuts. They know that rushing designers will only produce shoddy work with mediocre results.
It’s equally important to know the red flags of a bad client, so you don’t fall prey to them the next time you encounter them. Bad clients can have one or all of the following characteristics.
The Abusive. These are clients who think designers are on-call physicians that they can just phone in 24/7. They do not respect your time and act as if they own it.
The Vanishing. These clients vanish into thin air. You have little or no communication for weeks or even months. It’s more than likely that these vanishing clients would have already exhibited early symptoms. In the early stages, observe how promptly they return emails and phone calls. If you notice a significant lapse, then they are at a high risk for vanishing.
Cheap clients and those who do not pay on time. The double whammy: they want you for half your rate, and they don’t even pay on time. These are clients who ask you to take shortcuts so they won’t have to charge as much. Or they pay really, really… really late. Avoid these types of clients at all costs. For crying out loud, you are not running a charitable institution here. This is your business—your bread and butter, too. If they don’t understand that and the urgency of getting paid, then it makes zero sense to do business with them.
Demanding clients who don’t pay extra. Doesn’t it irritate you if your client asks you to do this and that and then changes his mind again midway through the project? So now you have to go back and start from scratch. Worse still, they don’t pay you extra for expanded scope. Sometimes really good clients are demanding, but they also pay extra when they want last-minute changes or revisions that eclipse the original project scope.
Successfully Negotiating with Great Clients
Finally, I want to leave you with some tips for successfully negotiating with prospective clients:
Don’t be afraid to say no. You have to understand the importance of your clients sharing the same values with you. If you really think that it would feel horrible to be working with this particular client because you’re already seeing those red flags, then don’t be afraid to say no and decline the project. Sometimes, you need to reject an opportunity to make room for a better one. So don’t fret.
Charge what is due to you. A common mistake many new designers make is they don’t charge as much. However, good clients will pay for high quality work regardless of the price. So be confident enough to charge whatever you think is due to you.
Lay down your parameters. Clarity is one key to success. As much as your client is setting his expectations, you need to do the same too so both of you can manage expectations. Be clear with the things you want in terms of your values, your principles, expectations, payment scheme/schedule, deliverability, turnaround time, etc.
Ask questions. Part of keeping an open communication is to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to your client especially if there are things that are not crystal clear to you. What’s the worse thing they could do? They won’t bite anyway. So ask, ask, ask. They would even appreciate you for that because they can see how deeply involved you are in the project. The more information you can get from them, the better.
Screening your clients can be challenging especially when you’re still starting and trying to grow your business. Of course, you would want to get as many clients as you can manage. However, you have to look at the big picture here. Consider the factors that will give you long-term benefits and build those relationships with the clients who are going to value your skills and experience.