When I started doing graphic + web design work full-time as a freelancer, it never occurred to me that there was such a thing as "client regret."
Avoid bad clients? Nah. There's no such thing, right?!
Money, after all, is money.
(Oh yes, go on. Laugh at my naïveté. I won't be offended.)
Perhaps I can redeem myself by admitting that it didn't take me long to wake me up from my rose-colored world where business owner and client skipped merrily along down the path to glorious pastures of perfectly completed projects, timely payments, and goodwill toward all.
About my third or fourth client in, it was then that I realized: being selective when it comes to clientele is not only perfectly acceptable, it's an act of profound kindness. For yourself and your business, of course, but even for the other person (who deserves to work with somebody fitted toward their unique wants + personality).
We are all pretty good people. I firmly believe that. But not everyone is meant to work together, and not everyone is a fabulous client.
"Sounds reasonable," you say. "But how do I spot a bad client before they BECOME a bad client and I have to see the job through to the bitter, smothering end?"
That's a hard thing to recognize at first, which is why I've compiled the following 9 early warning signs (gleaned from my own experiences in the wild wild west that is solo business ownership). I've also included a couple of word-for-word scripts you can use to say "no" to potential work that exhibits these -- or any other -- red flags.
Before you take on a new client, run through this list first. It helps!
customer scripts Tag
When I was a Journalism major back in college, I did something unspeakable.
I decided I wanted to work in the White House.
(I blame it all on Allison Janney and The West Wing. She made political work look like an irresistible adventure.)
This slight detour in my education landed me a coveted internship for one of the U.S. Senators for my state. Among a collection of rather mundane duties (checking the mail, collecting press clippings, gossiping with the chief of staff's assistant), I was responsible for one extraordinary thing:
Responding to hundreds of constituent letters.
In the Senator's name.
How did I do this? I could put a sentence together as well as anybody (or so I thought), but something as significant as a politician's official correspondence would not be left to chance.
These letters also had to be written quickly; there was no time to agonize over tone, massage adjectives, and then recruit a higher-up to edit for accuracy + political correctness.
The trick? A script database. A big one.
I know how it goes down.
You're busting your (sometimes) manicured nails on your blog, staying up until 1 a.m. hustling for business, and trying to convince yourself that:
1. you DO have something worth saying,
2. you ARE capable, and
3. gosh darn it, people like you.
And then, just when you think you've found your groove, what happens?
Someone comes along to tell you just how ridiculous, incompetent, fraudulent, and ignorant you really are.
(Or at least that's how negative online comments feel, yes?)
The experience can be horrifying.
And worse, it can make us want to be horrifying in return.
But I have a better way to deal.
(Because there's only ONE thing more destructive for your biz or blog reputation than critical, complaining, and rude comments, and that's a poor response to them.)
This is how to handle negative comments online, Chief Olyvia style. Ready to roll with me? Let's go!
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Dear fabulous creativepreneur, freelancer, or service-based business owner,
Does the prospect of talking with a client about money give you sweaty palms?
Have you ever ended up losing money -- or not getting paid at all -- because you were too afraid to push for payment?
Does your reasoning for not pushing said payment sound anything like the phrases below?
"I don't want to come off sounding demanding and harm my reputation." // "I'm afraid I'll look money-hungry." // "Well she IS a friend of mine." // "I really want to avoid starting a nasty fight." // "Maybe the check is in the mail and I'll get it next week." // "I have no idea what to even say!"
If so, I love you + let me buy you a latte.
You're not the only one, nor are you the "bad business owner" you fear that you are.
What you might be?
Even "sensitive." (And by the way? I'm claiming that word for all positive things, NOT the "ohhh you're just too sensitive, get over it" remarks that
not-nice non-sensitive people like to say.)
But lousy, incompetent, and all those other awful things?
No. Those words will not be uttered on my blog.
So let's talk, generous woman. How do people like you and I get clients to pay up without coming off as greedy + cold?
I just happen to have a few tips (plus 4 fill-in-the-blank client scripts!) for you: