It’s popular opinion in the freelance industry that clients are always the ones at fault. This idea is popularized by sites like Clients From Hell, and a lot of “gurus” who run around and advise others to fire clients at the slightest hint of trouble.
I’m not saying that every single person you work with will be amazing, and that there aren’t any jerks out there. But can you really afford to place the blame on everyone who hires you and give them the boot?
Not if you want a good reputation and to actually make money.
Look, I’m all for firing clients when necessary. But I’m also all about taking responsibility for things I’m doing wrong that are making projects less enjoyable for everyone. You should be too.
Here are the things you do that drive your clients nuts.
Taking on projects you’re a bad fit for
You know you’ve done it. We all have. Sometimes we take on projects we don’t want to do, or that are over our heads because we need the money, or we just don’t have anything else lined up. Or maybe because we’re bad at saying, “No.” The point is, we’ve all done it, but we shouldn’t.
When you work on a project that you’re not excited about, you start to resent it, and your client. And they can tell.
You also don’t produce your best work. Every time you work on the project it feels like a chore, and it’s a struggle to complete.
That’s not fair you you, or the client.
Or what about the projects you take on that are over your head? While I do believe we should challenge ourselves, I’ve seen the inside of a LOT of websites where the original designer/developer obviously had no idea what they were doing, and I’ve spent many, many, MANY hours fixing these sites. If you ever want to NOT impress a client, take on a project that completely baffles you, slap together a solution so it appears to be working correctly on the front end, and then hand it off to your client who will have to spend twice as much as they paid you to actually get things working properly.
Be honest with yourself about whether you are actually the right person to complete a client’s project. Whether it comes down to the tech, or just interest, you should only work on projects that excite you and you are capable of completing properly. If you’re a bad fit, your clients will figure it out.
Clients don’t speak web designer, or copywriter, or whatever your profession is. If they did, they’d likely be in your profession and not a client. That’s why it’s important to drop the tech talk and industry lingo and speak to clients in a way that they can understand.
A lot of business owners don’t understand the difference between a logo and a brand, or a logo and a header image, or a server and a domain registrar. And what the heck is a widget and why do you want one in a sidebar? Not knowing these terms doesn’t make your client stupid–it simply means that they’ve spent their time running whatever their business is, and not focusing on learning YOUR business. That means that you’ll need to spend some time educating clients on any jargon you can’t get around, and using simpler terms whenever possible.
One of my favorite things to do is hop on Skype with a client to review a design or website, so that we can share screens and actually see what the other person is seeing. This means that we BOTH know what the other is talking about, whether we are using the same name or term for it or not. Another option is using screenshots in emails of just the element that you’re talking about, so that there’s no question about whether you’re talking about the font in the footer widgets, or the footer credits.
Not communicating at all
The last thing a client wants from you is radio silence. How would you feel if you paid someone a few thousand dollars to start work, and then didn’t hear from them for weeks? Probably not too good, and you’d start getting antsy and wondering if she ran off with your money to go sip mai-tais on the beach.
I’m not saying you need to have daily, hour-long phone calls with your clients. When would you get any work done? But you can alleviate a lot of anxiety for your clients by shooting them a quick email each week outlining what you’ve completed and what’s happening next.
Feel free to steal this email template:
Here’s an update on what I accomplished this week on your project:
- Brand moodboard (approved)
- Initial logo designs
Next week I’ll need the following from you:
- Your choice of logo to tweak
Once you do that, I’ll start working on:
- Logo tweaks
- Website layout
Have a great weekend!
Not only does this email tell the client what you’ve been up to, but it lets them know what you’ll be working on next, and if they need to do anything. This keeps clients in the loop, and happy!
Are you driving your clients nuts? If you are, you might be creating nightmare clients. Ack! Don’t let that happen! Take responsibility for the role that you play in creating great relationships with your clients, today. Projects will run smoother, and you and your clients will be happier.
Stop taking on projects you have no interest in, or that are over your head. Clients can tell when you’re not happy to work with them, and it leads to resentment on both sides. And if a project is completely over your head, pass it on to an expert. Not doing so can lead to a seriously bad reputation, and end up costing your clients a lot more.
Don’t use jargon. Or, if you need to use jargon, educate your clients so they know what you’re talking about. Hop on Skype, send screenshots, and make things as easy to understand as possible.
And finally, remember to communicate! It doesn’t have to take long, but you need to let clients know what’s going on, or they’ll get antsy, angry, and think you’ve run off with their money. A simple email every week reporting your progress goes a long way in keeping clients happy and informed.
All three of these steps will help you improve your business and make your clients happy (which can lead to some great referrals!). But you have to take a step back and look at what you’re currently doing and what you can do better. These simple steps can help you avoid working with bad clients–or creating bad clients out of good people.