It doesn't really matter whether you're a freelancer or a design agency - nightmare clients unfortunately come with the territory. Sure, they are the minority (at least I hope they are!) but it only takes one to put your whole schedule up in the air and interfere with your other clients.
So it quite literally pays to have a strategy in place to deal with difficult clients, which is precisely what we're looking at today. Every client is different, so we probably shouldn't generalise - but we're going to anyway. Because you often come across the same types of problem client, the more you have to deal with them, the better you get at damage limitation.
So let's look at our first five nightmare clients for web designers and developers. And just in case you're new to the whole freelancing gig - or you have been very lucky so far - a few tips on how to deal with them. All the graphics have been put together by Jonathan Quintin which were inspired by 'small handful' of his previous clients.
Perhaps the worst of the bunch, the tightwad wants everything for nothing. You can expect arguments over the price of every little detail, how long it takes and attempts to haggle the fee when you have finished. Good luck getting a decent budget for fonts or stock images from the tightwad and be prepared to hear "can you just" on a regular basis (which means do for free btw).
How To Handle The Tightwad
Set out a strict routine of how many hours you are going to put in and come up with a set of prices to match your workload. If the tightwad wants extra, make it clear they have to pay for it and they'll soon think twice. Alternatively, you could take the approach of David Thorne who kindly made this hilarious email exchange he had with his tightwad client public, or professional graphic designer Dan Cassaro, who sent this cutting response when Showtime asked him to work for free for the Mayweather fight in Las Vegas.
Like all true technophobes, these clients will do everything they can to avoid sending a simple email, which means a mountain of phone calls and face to face meetings for things that could be resolved with a quick message. Your usual routine for a time-effective workflow goes out the window and, even after you have finished the project, you can expect further phone calls asking why their website doesn't work.
How To Handle The Technophobe
Explain to clients that your time isn't free and that meetings will have to be reflected in your overall fee. Keep things as simple as you can during the project to avoid an angry technophobe because they can't attach a file to their email. Consider keeping your design simple too - so you can avoid those phone calls later when they don't understand how their website operates.
The Middleman (or woman)
The middle-person generally represents a company or has some sort of business partner to consider. Basically, they can't make a single decision on their own and they have to run every small detail by at least one other person before they can give you the go-ahead.
How To Handle The Middleman (or woman)
All you can really do is explain that time is money and the longer it takes to get clear instruction, the longer and more expensive projects will become. When it comes to decision time try to offer some alternative and explain the benefits of each to help speed up the process.
Another favourite, the need-it-yesterday client doesn't care that you have other work to get on with, or that it's Friday afternoon. All the need-it-yesterday knows is that every job is urgent and that they're your sole priority in life. Unfortunately, you might find this happens with some of your regular clients who feel like they should get specialist treatment. This is when it gets really difficult, because regular clients are gold - but not when they start eating into your weekends.
How To Handle The Need-It-Yesterday Client
Handle these clients with care. Even one need-it-yesterday client can be a bundle of stress and you don't want to end up with two or more at the same time. Disaster. Never forget how valuable your own time is make it clear to new clients that you have people already booked in. When it comes to repeat offenders, all you can do is politely explain that you have a tight schedule in place to avoid ending up with last-minute rush jobs (hint hint).
Ignorance is never bliss when it comes to clients and the worst kind of clueless is the type that doesn't know what they want and wouldn't know a good design if it slapped them in the face. You can't expect clients to be web design experts - that's why they hire you, of course - but you need to know what they want to achieve with their website if you hope to come up with an effective design. Chances are the clueless has no idea what they want and, even if they do, it normally changes a handful of times throughout the project and ends up looking like something from 1995.
How To Deal With The Clueless
Create a small info package that explains the basics of web design and the purposes of a website. Give it to all clients and get them to read it before they make any concrete decisions on what they expect you to do for them.
More to Come
Sadly that doesn't cover all the nightmare clients you can expect to come across as a freelance designer and we'll be back with more shortly. In the meantime, get in touch with nightmare clients you come across and the best way you find to deal with them...