Not long ago we looked at five of the nightmare clients you often come across as a web designer or developer. Sadly, that doesn’t even start to cover the tough customers you need to deal with when you work with the web and we’re back with another five today.
If you’re a freelancer you will know all about this bunch – although knowing how to deal with them is a different story altogether. There’s an art to handling clients from hell in a way that ensures the project is a success and you get paid – without pulling your own hair out. And don’t get too cosy if you ply your trade for a design company, because you will still come across many of these clients – and often the worst of them! So let’s take a look at how to deal with another five of your typical nightmare clients.
A particular favourite of mine, the know-it-all probably took art at high school or has a friend that knows a web designer. They might have attended a few design seminars back in the early Web 2.0 days or recently read an article on design best practices – from 2010.
One thing is for sure, the know-it-all soon forgets who the designer is in this relationship and your work starts landing back in your lap with their expert feedback and a list of suggestions. This often ends up with a meeting, a sketchbook and a client running you through a bunch of scribbles to illustrate what they think a website really needs.
How To Deal With The Know-It-All
Be authoritative from the start when it comes to the know-it-all and make it clear you’re the expert here – hence why they have hired you in the first place. This doesn’t mean being rude or aggressive, but it does mean you need to know your stuff and be able to communicate your knowledge with clarity and confidence.
The Control Freak
The control freak is passionate about your design project and always there to give you more information, feedback or anything else you need to keep things running smoothly. Things get off to a great start and at first the control freak seems like the perfect client. But you realise there us something wrong when they can’t leave you alone to get on with your job. Constant emails and phone calls soon kill your workflow and you can’t afford to spend half your time making never-ending tweaks.
How To Deal With The Control Freak
As with any client that starts taking up too much of your time, you have to establish some authority over your schedule. At this point I give clients two options: either we arrange appointments at an hourly rate or I add up my time spent answering emails, phone calls and other time consumers – which soon does the trick.
The Big Cheese
The big cheese has been in this game for decades, has seen the internet grow into a power tool for businesses and worked with a string of designers, developers and techie folk. They know business like the back of their hand and understand exactly what their company needs from a website. They’re bigger than you, better than you and they have years of experience that make them smarter than you too.
The trouble is they believe all this and when it comes to explaining why they might need to change their stance on something this translates as questioning their competence, authority or whatever else their ego feeds on.
How To Deal With The Big Cheese
The big cheese is about as tough as it gets when it comes to nightmare clients. You quite often need to impress this client if they represent or own a big name with a wealth of contact that you would love to work with – approach with care. Make it clear you take on board everything they say and if you have to take an alternative route, very politely explain that things change very quickly in web design and you want to take a more up-to-date, effective approach.
There are generally two types of copycat you come across: the first shows you a website they like and basically asks you to recreate it and put their logo on it. It gets worse when the website they like is one they found in your portfolio and they expect you to do the exact same website you have created for one of your previous clients.
The other type of copycat carries a collage book of headers, sidebars, footers and layouts to show you. It’s another case where you might think you’ve landed the dream client who has done all the necessary research and come to you with a clear idea of what they need. Except you find out they literally want header A, sidebar C and footer X mashed into a single website, leaving you with a collage of other designers’ work.
How To Deal With The Copycat
The copycat has trouble understanding the difference between inspiration and stealing someone else’s hard work. You might be able to educate them on design ethics, but if that’s not the case you can simply explain that an effective website needs a unique identity and they’re only shooting themselves in the foot if they mimic existing designs.
The Disappearing Act
When it comes to tough clients you normally end up wishing they would disappear from your life and never return. That’s until you come across a genuine disappearing act, who you can never seem to get hold of when it really counts.
Often you’ll find the disappearing act is incredibly enthusiastic to start with, even creating the illusion of a reliable, approachable client. First roughs get received and approved in no time and the light hits green for go. But just like David Copperfield, the disappearing act is nowhere to be found when it comes to approving the initial proofs and paying that all-important deposit.
How To Deal With The Disappearing Act
First of all you need to try everything you can to get in touch with your client and find out what the hold-up is. Things might just be very busy for them right now or there could be an understandable reason – like illness or a family bereavement. Be reasonable and make it obvious you have tried everything you can to get hold of the client and all you can do next is make it clear that the project is on stop until you hear otherwise.