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I’m one of those glass-half-full kind of people. I believe a vast majority of people are good eggs. They are givers. They want to help, and they’re happy to share their knowledge, hard-won wisdom, and advice.
I also believe in karma, that positive energy begets positive energy, that givers gain, that you reap what you sow.
But I’m not naïve. I know there are plenty of takers out there, too. Some of my clients are takers, and though they have ridden roughshod over me in the past, no more! I have learned to manage them over the years, which isn’t hard. It comes down to three things:
- Value your own time and talents
- Learn how to spot them (many initially look like givers).
- Put boundaries – FIRM boundaries – in place.
Here’s how to spot and manage taker clients:
Taker Client #1
The dead giveaway: They say, “We want to work with you long-term as we grow!”
“Well, isn’t that dandy!” you might think. I hate to break it to you, but it’s usually complete and total bullshit. This is positive spin for, “We are brand new, we got no money, and maybe we know what we’re doing and will actually be around in a few years, but you’ll end up being too expensive for us, so it’s not really long-term. It’s short term 'til we have to cut expenses in, oh, two months.”
How to manage Taker Client #1: Listen to “We want to work with you,” ignore the rest, and ask for money up front.
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Taker Client #2
The dead giveaway: One of the first things they say is, “Can we have a discount?”
You can’t blame a guy for trying, can you? (It’s almost always a guy – no offense to the dudes reading this.) If you already offer discounts for, say, non-profits, and this is a non-profit asking for a discount, fine. But no discounts. NO DISCOUNTS. Do not devalue your worth!
How to manage Taker Client #2: You have two options. Stick to your price (do not explain it), or ask what their budget is and let them know what you can do within that price.
Taker Client #3
The dead giveaway: They send three emails within five minutes.
These people are the high-maintenance ones, so they’re automatically relegated to the taker group. Do not respond immediately, or they’ll consider you available 24/7 and then the floodgates will really open.
How to manage Taker Client #3: As long as you set aside time for checking and returning emails each day, it is easy to manage their incessant messages. Also, I put them on the bottom of the priority pile. There’s also a little something called PITA (pain in the ass) fees if you’re really feeling annoyed.
Taker Client #4
The dead giveaway: They lie or obfuscate in order to get a meeting.
These takers are the worst ones, so I’d honestly think twice about taking (or keeping) them as clients. They don’t understand boundaries and they will do anything under the sun to get your attention. Kind of like kindergarteners.
How to manage Taker Client #4: VERY firm boundaries. All meetings must have a set agenda before they take place. No agenda? No meeting. During the meeting, stick to the agenda. If something new is brought up, be very firm that it will be discussed today IF you have time.
Taker Client #5
The dead giveaway: They disregard the clock.
Even though time is money, some people think your time is free. Nuh-uh. Watch the clock and keep the conversation on track. When time is up, it’s up.
How to manage Taker Client #5: Feel free to use an excuse (like another meeting) to end the meeting on time if you need to. And put the onus on the client to send you whatever additional information you still need, making it clear that you cannot begin or continue the project unless you have it in hand.
We all love to give. It feels good! But don't let it drain you or your business. Take care of taker clients with these 3 strategies and save your generosity for more worthy causes.
Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be freelancers, tech companies and small business owners. She is also a blogger for Groupon and Web.com. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.