We can all relate when someone mentions having a client who is a “nightmare.” Unfortunately, this archetype has become more and more common whether you are in the digital marketing industry or not. To incorporate my love of reading, the feelings attached with these type of clients are definitely not those of revering (as with the wise, old sage) or respect (as with the noble king), but are more commonly associated with hatred and resentment (as with the evil stepmother).
Although the tagline “the customer is always right” is effectively acted upon in many business spaces, I believe everything has a limit. No working professional has infinite time or resources to attribute to never-ending client demands. Because of some less-than-ideal experiences I’ve had with clients over the years, I have become somewhat notorious in the office for politely encouraging co-workers to simply stop putting up with these problems. In my mind, very few (if any) clients are worth spending your entire 40-hour work week on, let alone the headaches, frustration, and overall lack of sanity they tend to cause. Because I enjoy my job, I believe companies should have control over the clientele with whom they choose to engage. In other words, I believe there is a point at which you need to let clients go.
Though in no order of importance, the following reasons should help you to know when is a good time to “bow out” of a negative client relationship.
Reason 1: Client Frequently Requests Out-of-Scope Projects and Side Favors
While there are few people who complain about a client bringing them more work, the difference here is that these clients aren’t willing to pay for the extra work they’re getting. They see these side projects as favors because, “I’m paying you enough already as it is,” or “It probably won’t take you that long anyway.” And maybe both of those statements are true! But, just as I don’t walk into the grocery store and walk out without paying for my milk and bananas, free work is something SMB’s do too much of as it is. In addition, it doesn’t matter if my designer can create an email template for you in 10 minutes–the point is that we are offering a service that the client can’t provide for themselves, so we will charge for our time. Any business knows that improving their efficiencies will improve their margins, given the fact that they don’t do work for free.
If you are constantly hounded for random out-of-the-box projects, set the precedent now that a price will be appended to any work you do that is outside the scope of the contract. Oftentimes, clients believe that they are the exception to the rule, but with every statement like “I know the owner, I’ll just go talk to him,” or “But I did work with you guys a few years ago,” comes a drop in your profitability if you continue to give in to these requests.
Reason 2: Client Takes Up Too Much Time
Again, I am happy to do work for a client as long as my time is accounted for in their budget. Quite frankly (though I hate to admit it), I am not superwoman, and I cannot make my time multiply to fulfill all the extra tasks for each client who thinks they are the center of my universe. This reason is meant to include those clients who, quite disproportional to their spend, call or email every day with menial tasks for you, or just to check in, or just to waste more of your time. While it might be common in many industries to work around the clock, we have had problems with clients trying to communicate at strange times of day, or non-workday times altogether. We’ve had plenty of emails sent at 11:30 p.m. the night before, requesting a call at 8:00 a.m. the next morning. Really? Even better, you might not recognize the number that just rang to your personal cell, so you don’t answer it. Result? A message from your client, who stealthily tracked the number down (enter Twilight Zone music).
All these silly examples aside, the point is that they translate into a blatant disrespect for personal space, as well as normal, working business hours. In addition, these are usually the piddly little clients who are spending too little and expecting too much. And while I understand that the check for their several hundred dollar per month spend might be painful for them to cut every month, it can’t mean that I give them as much attention as I give my clients who spend $10k+ per month. It just can’t.
Reason 3: Client Shows Disrespect for Your Staff, Processes, and Company
This reason gets me particularly frustrated because this is where the relationship becomes less professional and more personal. No longer are emails and calls geared toward goal setting that will lead to success, but rather they become extremely unprofessional hurlings of accusations and personal attacks if something seems to be going wrong. These attacks can be geared toward you as the contact, the team working on the project, or the company as a whole. Regardless of who they’re directed toward, does anyone deserve to put up with this kind of abuse?
Now for an excerpt from a real client email: “This does not take a rocket scientist to do properly… In my opinion,