How many times have you had a client that made you want to hide under your desk or plan to be sick that day? I know I’ve had them, but what do you do? Some designers would say terrible clients aren’t worth it, while others would tell you to suck it up and deal with it. While I do agree that terrible clients can be part of our business, there are things to consider before living with them or cutting them loose.
How terrible are they?
Just because they are difficult to deal with, doesn’t mean they’re bad. Maybe they just don’t understand how things work. Maybe they’re not used to the process. It’s definitely your job to lead them, educate them, and steer them in the right direction.
If they are just plain disrespectful, cut them loose. Those are the kind of clients that are parasites to your time, creativity and happiness. Don’t let people jerk you around. Make sure they pay you, pay you well, and that they pay you on time.
You have to consider the revenue
Let’s take a look at your overall revenue. If you have a chunk of retainer clients that total around 7-10 thousand dollars per month in revenue, that’s great. However, if that terrible client you’re considering giving the axe to makes up 50-60% of your revenue, I’d reconsider your decision.
If they are 10-20% of your overall revenue, but they take much more of that of your billable time, I’d say it’s time to let them go. You’re running a business, not a charity. Your time could be spent better elsewhere, eve if you have to pound the pavement for new clients, you’ll still make out better than being stuck letting one client eat up a majority of your time.
Your Time is definitely an important factor
Your time is extremely valuable. I do a lot of value based billing, but I also do work by the hour, for smaller projects. They help fill in the gaps and a handful of small projects can really add up after a short time. If you’d make more money from a couple of short projects than appeasing your terrible client for double that time, give them the boot!
Terrible Clients & Scope Creep
Ugh. Scope creep can kill your business. For example, if someone hires you for a task, you expect to do that task and be done. Some clients, however, will ask you to do another task “real quick” or they’ll say, “Why not? It should take you five minutes!” That’s the type of client you want to avoid. Some one little extra task will become 2, then 4, and then you’ll get an email every day asking for a little something. Shut that down, as quickly as possible. They have to understand that they hired you for a task. Everything you do extra on top of all of that will be an additional cost. Otherwise, just say no.
Conclusion: Do what’s right for you
You don’t want to get roped into doing a bunch of work for free. You also don’t want to deal with conniving or malicious people. Sometimes you have to let clients go, so you can move on to better, more beneficial business relationships. You don’t want to miss out future business success trying to hang on to a business relationship that only hurts your business in the long run. You can’t grow if all of your time is tied up.
I want to hear from you. When have you had to let a client go? Share your story in the comments section below.