Why Top of the Line Toasters Aren’t Always Worth the Money

Article : Why Top of the Line Toasters Aren’t Always Worth the Money

Client’s Aren’t Always Nice – The Solo Professionals Dilemma

While we all hope to have stellar clients, in reality you probably are going to stumble across a few that simply don’t measure up.  Yet, you face that a dilemma about what to do because you may need the money and/or you love the actual work this client gives you.

When I first started my writing business, I hired a business manager to help me with just such situations.  His first rule was this: The client may not always be right, but they are still the client. 

This was really put to the test with my largest client project.  This man, as nice as he could be, was all about image.  His kids worked for him and be was always on their case about this, that or the other thing.  While that was really none of my business, it was my business when this man would send me emails or call me on Saturday evenings and rant and rave about something with the project.

I had to learn very quickly in order to keep this huge piece of business that I had to be the voice of reason.  Honestly, the man didn’t call me names or use bad language.  He was really just venting frustration.  So, I let him.  Then I calmly explained to him what the facts were, reminded him of the goals, and even offered to appease the client who had got him all hot under the collar.  99.9% of the time, this calmed him down.  In addition, as time went on, he trusted me more and more.

How you take this approach is not an easy lesson to learn.  You really one have two choices:

Don’t take it.  Fire the client.  Yes: you can do this.  Simply tell him/her that the behavior is unacceptable and that you will no longer do business together.  I’ve done this three times with my business and in all three instances, the clients had no idea what they were doing, profusely apologized, and offered me more money to stay on board.

Learn to be a hostage negotiator.  There are five basic things a hostage negotiator does.

Drag it out.  If you try to cut the client off before he/she has had her say, you’re asking for trouble.  Listen as long as necessary.
Avoid yes/no questions.  Instead of saying, “do you want me to fix the problem” (which will result in a “yes” answer), ask “how do you want me to fix the problem.”  This causes the client to have to identify exactly what he/she wants done.  Plus it give you the assurance that the direction you’re taking is spot on.
Be nice, but firm.  Don’t get emotional.  Let the client know that you care, but don’t allow him/her to trample on you.  The minute that happens, be firm and explain that the conversation is not being productive.
Protect yourself.  You’re the hostage in this situation because the client is holding the project over your head – maybe with comments like, “I’m not going to pay you until you fix this” or “I want a discount because you screwed this up.”  Don’t buy into any of those lines.  Be sure you have a contract and know that if he/she bails, you have recourse.
Keep your promise.  If you promise to do something by a certain date/time, do it – even if you have to die trying.  You worked hard to retain the clients trust that you are the right person for the job.  Breaking any promises is like sinking your own ship.

There’s always another job out there for you – waiting in the wings – with a client who values and appreciates what you do.  Unless you’re desperate for money (and, if that’s the case, you probably should not be a full-time solo professional or entrepreneur), always be prepared to put yourself first and walk away.  After all, this is supposed to be fun, right?


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