• Writer for DDI on Medium

Why Troublesome Clients Exist!

why difficult clients exist
"I've been in business a long time, that's now how it's done"

Troublesome clients: the type of people who seek out your services and use their experience in business as leverage to pick apart your process (and make you wonder if you slept through other clients taking the same route and praising it) are on a mission to prove to themselves that they’re better than you.

Why else would someone abruptly volunteer information about how many businesses they’ve made when it has nothing to do with a project? If it’s not to impress you, then it’s most definitely to upstage you and leave you in a powerless position. Especially when you’re a newbie in business. I totally understand how easy it is to buckle beneath the pressure of a more experienced person's words looming over your every move when you’re without perspective on their actions. So here’s the ‘tuff’ truth about troublesome clients (whether they’ll admit it or not). They can’t get past their ego long enough to understand that you’re here to help and you’re not in competition with them. So naturally, they’ll sit through a 15-minute meeting and miss important information and instructions about a potential project, only to later complain that you never told them something you actually did (luckily, I record each meeting I have with potential clients), or, that the same information you’ve sent to clients before is now suddenly confusing because “they don’t usually work like that”.

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

I don’t give details on a project before I’ve had a chance to understand the full scope of the project. I think that’s dangerous and screams inexperience and I’ve been designing professionally way too long not to know my ABCs. Moreover, in order to do all that, there first needs to be a project, but at the 15-minute call point all that’s shared is a mutual interest in working together. Outside payment for The BrandConductor design interview, it means nothing.

Now, while I understand my approach is foregin to many in the local small business space, my ideal clients get it and fall in line without hesitation because their ego’s aren’t in the way of understanding why things are set up the way they are.

We’re all dealing with the same problem: clients who give us the runaround on or for a project because in some shape or form, we allow them to.

So, during the execution of a project, a client will often tell me “I’m taking notes on how you did that”; and it’s always about my process.

That taught me to appreciate it more, because I built it from scratch, closely observing my projects that went well and why. But the experience also came with a master class on how to recognize troublesome clients. And they’re usually always uncomfortable with boundaries.

Trust Your Instincts

Popularity alone doesn’t qualify an approach as successful anymore than being in business for a very long time makes you ethical. If it did, we wouldn’t need reviews, and ghosting wouldn’t be a real term.

I’ve heard so many horror stories from local founders about

  • Taking the time to create invoices upon request from people they thought would become clients, who never responded to emails that were delivered and opened, only to show up later requesting another invoice.

  • Founders waiving protocol on a project because they are friendly with the client, who (to their surprise) walked all over their terms and conditions.

  • Delivering work for a client who went against the agreed method of payment to reward the person providing the service with a receipt which reflects that their internet bill was paid, as settlement for their labour.

Two out of these three case-studies came from veterans in business, and two out of the three grievances were experienced at the hands of founders in business a long time. Now, why would I observe these occurrences and give this approach credibility? Because “that’s how it’s done”? That’s stupid!

And while we’re on the topic of what’s considered “normal”, I’m willing to bet that if you traced the origin of these cock n’ bull beliefs you’ll find that they came from the corporate world.

Being a part of the in-house design team for big local reputable companies, I’ve watched invoices/quotes go out (even sent some myself), done designs upon request by potential customers promising to pay, only to be ghosted by them all.

When The Shoe Is On The Other Foot

Small service businesses can’t be held to the same operational standards as big companies. It will destroy us, so in an effort to circumvent anything that can potentially threaten how much of our time we’re able to maintain and the profitability of our efforts, we seek to immediately eliminate it.

So when someone is …

  • Having conversations with me through Facebook messenger despite being told how I prefer to have business related conversations

  • Or, complaining about my grace periods on anything related to a possible project, and

  • Ignoring my emails, advice or instructions before the contract is even signed

...these are red flags that suggest this person is troublesome, and isn’t the type of client for me.

Sometimes lack of a fit is a genuine thing, like me working with Digicel: too many opinions in the room can deform the creative authenticity of a project and make it unprofitable for me in the long run. But other times, lack of a fit is more contrived. I once did a logo for a very high-profile customer and their ego got in the way of listening to my advice, but, for the sake of money I overlooked it and followed their instructions.

The end result was beautiful, all board members approved the design. But then the blowback of my desperation came back to bite me in the form of a redesign minus payment for the current design. It was determined that reproduction of the logo was too expensive, something I knew would happen but never got the opportunity to express because the ego of the CEO got in the way.

This is why I own how I feel about founders who really understand their strengths and purpose on my website. Someone truly in possession of these insights doesn’t get a complex when I am doing what they know I am good at. But my methods make you uncomfortable!? Hmm.

I am the Founder and Visual Brand Strategist at The BrandTUB **Avoid troublesome clients with The One-Pagewhile you attract good one's **Figure out their differences on your own with The One-Page Workbook**Sign up to receive these weekly articles in your inbox if you’re not quite ready to work with me yet.

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