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Most of the time, the type of clients that I come across are upstanding, quality companies that are looking to grow and expand via my services. They want to get their name out that and stand out amongst their competitors. They contribute to the community and create good local jobs for my area and I feel great that I am able to work with them. You don’t always end up with nightmare clients, but when you do, it can be very frustrating.
Sometimes as a designer, however, we have been approached by a client that we feel uneasy working with. Maybe they are a fighting entertainment company and you disagree with violence. Maybe there is a company that has approached you that showed a blatant disregard for the environment. Maybe they are a sexual product or movie company looking for web development and are seeking your services. These may not necessarily be nightmare clients, but they could be bad for your business’s reputation. How do you handle the situation? As in the latter case, who we design for directly reflects on us as designers. Do you take the job and leave that project out of your portfolio? I wouldn’t. Someone will eventually find out, or word will get around and more of those clients will approach you and the situation gets tougher to control. Do you send them out the door with a stern snap of the fingers? Or do you deal with them in a polite and cordial manner?
There are other clients that seem reputable, but once you deal with them, they try to bend the contract and your nerves to the point where you want to tear up your agreement. Other times there are nightmare clients that spend what seems like forever on the phone with you on a daily basis mulling over a seemingly simple project, beating the details into you over and over again. What do you do in these types of situations?
When you are approached by a potential client that makes you feel uncomfortable to work with, it is best to be honest. A good way of putting it is that you are not the designer with the skills set that they are looking for. I have also told some clients that I couldn’t possibly handle any more projects at this time, in order to send them elsewhere. None of that is a lie; I am usually busy with 3-4 decent sized projects at once.
The Money Isn’t Always Worth It
When you own your own business, you can choose who your clients are. Sometimes it hurts to let a good paying project go, but it is better to keep your reputation intact, because that is a little harder to repair than your wallet. Also, when you take on certain projects and do a good job, you are more likely to see that client again, and they will tell their colleagues and you will get more clients just like them. Sometimes the agony of dealing with nightmare clients that constantly harass you, have no boundaries, and send you a ton of emails just isn’t worth it.
Always Get That Contract
A good idea for non-paying nightmare clients is to make sure you always have a solid contract, or working agreement. This gives you insurance that if they do not pay you, that you can take them to court for what they owe you. This is the not so fun side of owning your own business, but it happens. I also have a section in my contract that states that their payment is due no later than 30 days after the completion of the project. If they have any mid-project payments due, those due dates have to be met, or work of their project ceases until payment is received. You have to be sure to protect yourself financially, along with your reputation.
I want to hear about your nightmare clients and difficult situations. We have all had them. Sharing horror stories helps others and newer designers to watch out for some of these pitfalls.