We’ve all heard some crazy things from clients. Things that can push us to the limits of our patience (not to mention sanity). We pulled some choice quotes from the awesome Clients From Hell site (the greatest place for venting known to freelancekind). How can we respond to the madness without losing our heads, or even worse: the remaining income associated with the project/assignment?
Here are three common types of client responses that can make even the most seasoned freelancer long for a project’s kill fee (you did negotiate an agreement with an exit strategy right?) instead of its completion.
Here are some tips to handle the insanity:
"I don’t like it, but I don’t know why.""I don’t like it, but I don’t know why."
"You can use humor in the new spots. But not humor in the way you think of it”
Designer: "What two colors do you want in the gradient?" Client: "Blue."
"Several of these logos are just too creative for me."
Solution - Focused Questions: Detailed questions can go a long way in getting better feedback from your client. Simplify the work for the other person by giving them an idea of the type of feedback you need to move forward with the deliverable being discussed. Try referring back to the initial objectives or concerns, which gives the other person something to respond to.
"I need it to be colourful and black and white.""I need it to be colourful and black and white."
"I just want it to look more Millennium Falcon, but not with any reference to Star Wars.”
"We’ll do the website. We just want you to do the design of the home and internal pages. Just give us the html and css, and we’ll do the rest."
"Hi! Sorry for all the back and forth on this. Just showed it to the boss, and he signed off, so consider this a final, it’s good to go! They just want a few more changes, so if you could update these things and send it back for us to review, that’d be great."
Solution - Repurpose the Response: When a client’s feedback or direction contradicts itself, break it apart (as politely and respectfully as you can) into either/or options that they must choose between. This gives them an opportunity to provide further details they may have left out, or even just some more time to consider their feelings. Sometimes just hearing their own options repeated to them will help them figure out what they really want.
"BTW, can I pay you in surplus CD cases?""BTW, can I pay you in surplus CD cases?"
"I’m not looking for a website - I was actually hoping to get $500,000 for my domain name. How can you help me with that?"
"You freelancers all hide behind legal smoke and mirrors. What has ‘minimum wage’ got to do with anything?"
"I need all images of my girlfriend taken down online and I need the attached images to be the only thing that shows up when you Google her name. If I overnight you check can you have this done by tomorrow?"
Solution - Be Polite and Respectful: Politeness starts in the mind. Give your client the benefit of the doubt when presented with a response that seems unreasonable, even if what they said offends your sensibilities. They may not have appreciated or assessed the situation correctly, or may have trouble expressing their concerns in an appropriate way due to circumstances you may not be privy to. Even if this isn’t the case and you have to find a diplomatic way to turn down their request or walk away from the project, be optimistic. Even though it didn’t work out with them, your professionalism and great attitude could leave them with such a good impression, they recommend you to a friend or associate who turns out to be the perfect client.