We all have them; those difficult clients who seem to take up most of our time. It’d be nice not to work with them, but turning away work isn’t the best way to make money, right?
Well, not necessarily…
We are website designers, and pride ourselves in getting to know our clients, their business, and importantly their customers. This means that we were able to tailor their website specifically to their clients’ needs, and the direct result of this should mean more business for them. This means that we need to get very close to our clients and work with them rather than for them.
Now consider this, a potential client phones up for a website build and from the outset seems difficult to get along with. They ask for suggestions, but everything we suggest is a bad idea, they don’t let us finish sentences, and in some cases they even tell us they don’t care about their website, don’t trust web designers in general, or are just rude. It’s often apparent, sometimes straight away, that we are not going to get on.
It’s not always the client’s fault of course, it could be a case of a clash or personalities or ideas, but the outcome is typically the same; we aren’t a good match, and this will be a slow and painful project. If a client is this hard to please before we start work, what are they going to be like during a build, or if we make a mistake (we’re only human after all)?
There’s an old cliché that says that 20% of your clients occupy 80% of your time (and vice versa), whether this is true I don’t know but the principle certainly is. Without going in to the maths (it does work, honest), this means that a ‘tricky client’ is likely to take much more as they should, meaning staff costs will rise, and as such it means we wouldn’t make a profit.
So why would I want to take on a client who will be difficult to work with, take up most of my employees’ time, and at the end of it not make me a profit?
The quick answer is it’s not. Why not politely turn them down, make the same profit, have happy staff, and make my life so much easier?
Looking at the other side, it’s entirely possible that they may find you hard to work with, in which case them moving to a competitor may be mutually beneficial.
It’s with noting that this obviously varies from business to business and it (probably) more true with businesses, such as ours, that offer a service rather than a product. With us it’s particularly important as we need to forge personal and long-term relationships. We even have clients spanning back to when we started back in 2001, and only last week did a client pop over with a couple of crates of beer to say "thank you"... we like this.
With existing clients the same is true, but it’s obviously harder to politely turn them away, especially if you have any commitments to them. Here you’re better to turn a bad client in to a good one.
This requires some thought, but the principle is to think about why they are a bad client, and try and change this trend. A good example would be a client who never pays their bill; rather than chase them time after time for a small invoice, just make them pay up front. It may not be that they are a deliberately not paying, they just may be busy and would rather pay off larger invoices, so if this is the case get them to purchase a larger block of time in advance. This means less paper work for them and less time chasing payment for you. Suddenly a ‘bad’ client has become a good one, and the solution has made everyone happier.
The idea of course isn’t to turn everyone away, otherwise you’ll not have any clients and your business will suffer, but to subtly turn away or change your relationship with the handful of ‘tricky clients’ that you have.
By doing this it’s possible to make a business where your clients like you, you like your clients, your staff are happy, and hopefully everything else should hopefully fall in to place.
There’s enough work out there for everyone, so why not fill your time with people who make you happy?
We are Webbed Feet UK, we make websites by forging a close relationship with our clients.