My clients rock! I truly care about them, and love seeing them succeed. They value my opinions and advice. We get along great because we have something in common – we’re passionate about what we do. Not all of my clients have a business that I think is just super cool, but their excitement for what they do is infectious.
My client list has, unfortunately, been infiltrated by bad clients in the past. I’m lucky to have had only three clients that I consider bad in the past. Note that I said the past. I didn’t let them hang around too long. We completed the terms of our original contract and parted ways.
I’m not a superstar website designer with a swollen ego. In reality, I’m more of a coder than a designer. I simply know what kind of client I want to work with, and I won’t settle for anything other than that. While I’ve had three clients I really wasn’t crazy about, they did serve a great purpose. They helped me to further develop a knack for “cherry picking” clients. I love what I do, and I don’t want anyone bringing me down! Money is not the key to happiness; happiness is the key to happiness.
I’m not a perfect judge of character, but I’m pretty successful at hand picking my clients. I’d like to share with you a few things I’ve picked up over the years that seem to help me consistently team up with clients that I love working with.
Communication is Key
I strongly believe in talking with a prospective client before accepting a project. You don’t have to meet with them face to face, but at least talk to them on the telephone. During my career I’ve accepted three projects via email communication. How did they turn out? They are the three clients that I no longer work with. One stiffed me after his design was completed and the other two just turned into problem clients for various reasons.
It’s hard to get a good take on a person via written communication. Face to face meetings allow you to read a person’s body language. This can really help key you in on who you’re dealing with. Sometimes distance or other factors make it impossible to meet in person, but you should always try to have a telephone conversation if nothing else. Pay attention to how the potential client responds to questions.
It’s hard to get a good take on a person via written communication. Face to face meetings allow you to read a person’s body language.
You’ll most likely be able to tell if you can work with the person even after a brief phone conversation. Be sure to bring up any topics that you think might turn into sticking points, such as budget. How people react to about money is important. If your lead doesn’t want to talk about cost or seems annoyed by the topic, you should be leery. A strong business owner realizes that they are making an investment in their company, and should be undeterred by talking about cost.
Not Every Client is Your Best Friend
Not every client you work with is going to be the best friend you never knew you had. Some of them won’t be your favorite person in the world, some of them may be. Instead of asking yourself if you’d hang out with ‘em on the weekend, ask yourself if you could work with or for them. You don’t have to be best friends, but as long as there’s a mutual respect between the two of you then you’re heading down the right path.
Watch Out For Know-It-Alls
If a potential client tells me they’ve done a lot of website design work, and know exactly how long a project should take and cost, I politely show them the door. Not because they might have experience, but instead because such people are often lying. I won’t work with a client who thinks they know everything about website design and marketing.
I have clients who have some serious web design, marketing, and SEO skills. Why do they need me? They are normally strong in one area, and need help in another. I love working with these folks because we both usually learn a lot! It’s great to work with someone in a closely related field, just make sure they appreciate that you are the subject matter expert in the area they are hiring you for.
Money & Legal
When I first started taking clients I didn’t require contracts. I don’t really know what I was thinking. If you’re planning to start a business, start by developing a good contract for each service you provide. Any client should be fine with entering into a contractual agreement with you. If not, don’t mess with them!
If you’re looking for your first contract, we highly recommend Andy Clarke’s Killer Contract
In addition to a contract, you should always make sure to get a deposit for any project you start. This is especially true if you’re working with a new client. As I said above, I’ve only had one client run out on me without paying the bill, and sadly I didn’t make that client sign a contract or put any money down. If a potential client won’t put down a deposit, avoid them like the plague!
My final point is that you need to work with clients whose businesses interest you. The business doesn’t have to be mind blowing, but make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy getting to know intimately. Personally, I don’t care what kind of business my client owns as long as they run it in a professional manner. If an owner puts a lot of time and effort into a company, it’s going to be interesting.
The flip side of this is where the “wantrepreneurs” live. These are the people who want a successful business, but aren’t going to invest in making that want a reality. Such people usually have very little focus, and you’ll most likely regret working with them.
I hope some of this information will help you pick clients you’ll enjoy working with. Don’t let problem clients burn out your passion! If you’re lucky enough to work with some really great clients, make sure you treat them like gold and they’ll return the favor.