Last week, we talked about reasons to emancipate yourself from toxic clients: y’know, the clients you dread working for/calling/meeting with but think you have to tolerate because of the money.
We discovered staying with these crappy clients just for the money defeats the purpose of working for yourself (i.e. control) and often drags your business away from its true brand and goals.
1. The “I’ll pay when it’s convenient for me” client: Net 14 means nothing to this client. They wait until all their bills are paid to see if they have extra for your invoice. Or worse yet, they pay only after they’ve been paid by their clients, and who knows whether they’re crappy or not?! Unacceptable.
Pull a Donald by: Send this client a notice that you’re turning their unpaid invoices over to collections. That should send a pretty strong message. If they still don’t pay, actually send their unpaid invoices over to collections. Most importantly, refuse to take on more projects until you’re caught up. Either set up a strict payment schedule in the future or inform this client that you’re unavailable for more.
2. The “You’re a freelancer so you have to take my shit” client: This client wants you to offer all the bells and whistles of a large firm but still wants to pay you peanuts. This client enjoys your ability to come in under-budget and before deadline, but thinks that it gives license to nickle and dime you on rate, and expect things to be completed over night (you don’t need to sleep, do you?!) Worse yet, this client rarely has their shit together, meaning your schedule is thrown off and other projects suffer because of it.
How to pull a Donald: Let this client see what it’s like to return to the impersonal world of larger companies. Inform them (politely) that you think their needs would be better served by another company. You might even suggest one. You can also let them know that you’re taking your company in another direction, and not renewing any contracts at this time. The key here is to be clear without jeopardizing that unpaid invoice.
3. The “I know better than you” client: This client understands how to do your job because last weekend, his cousin showed him the basics of the computer program you use. Of course, he doesn’t realize that he needs your expert skills to use this tool to do the things he really wants to do. He’ll tell you exactly what to do and how to do it, turning you into a production house instead of letting you do what you do best.
How to pull a Donald: First of all, do your best to remove any references to your name or company on work you’ve done for this client. Why? Because he’ll probably try to tinker around on his own and completely mess up your work in the process. Then, stop the project, get caught up on invoices and give him whatever you’ve done so far. He’ll probably hand it off to his cousin to see if he can finish it.
4. The “keep this on the down-low” client: Reputation is everything when you’re a freelancer. Bending your integrity, even on something small, even for just one client, makes you feel icky and lowers the bar for the next guy. Avoid this slippery slope altogether.
How to pull a Donald: To reason with this client, you can explain why you prefer to do things the way you do. If she simply doesn’t understand or refuses to accept your methods, it’s time to cut ties. Explain the problems that her requests create for you and let her down easy. If you haven’t already, provide your alternative ideas for how to complete the job in a more ethical manner. Then, the ball’s in her court and either way, you win.
5. The “I know this isn’t your passion, but can’t you do it anyway?” client: People enter the uncertain life of a business owner for one simple reason: they love doing something and they want to do it 24 hours a day. There are very few things a person can be this passionate about. Money is nice, but accepting the wrong client means that you’ll be tied to a project that you probably hate. And with that kind of imprisonment, you might as well be back at the office.
How to pull a Donald: Use the age-old “it’s not you, it’s me.” Inform them that your core competencies just don’t jive with their strategic vision. Don’t feel pressured if this client starts to whine about all the other projects he had lined up for you. If you can, refer him to a colleague or competitor that you know can deliver what he wants. A referral is key, because you don’t want him to be unsatisfied and claim that you can’t do your job. You could do it, you just don’t want to :)