Have you ever had the client from hell? The one who has been with you for some time, maybe from the beginning, that every time you do a project for them they put you through so much grief that you feel like taking a flying leap from the top of a freeway overpass?
Well my friend, DON'T JUMP - FIRE THAT CLIENT!
It may sound like an unusual bit of advice, fire a client, but let's take a look at what a very difficult client does to our business.
I know you are saying, but I make a lot of money from that guy - hang on there is an alternative.
Yesterday I was working with a guy who was working on a project for a client. During the time I was there he received at least four calls with the client asking him to change this and tweak that. Each time he got off of the phone, he let fly with a tirade of reasons why this client was a pain in the neck.
So I asked him. "Well, why not fire that client?" He looked at me as if I were crazy. He began to say that he had been with this guy for three years and blah, blah, blah. So I told him the following:
Look, you said that each project you work on with this client is a three hour project that turns into a three day project because of changes and follow up and approvals and the like. In three days I am guessing that you could complete nine projects of the same size and value. Not only that, each time that phone rings, your stress level goes through the roof, so you have to re-adjust after each call before you can even make the changes.
To which he replied:
Well, I know that this guy is a sure thing and will give me business every month. There have been times when that business was there when I did not have any other stuff going on.
So I said:
OK then, if you do not want to fire the client, it is time to change the terms of the working relationship. You could instead write or re-write a contract that states that after a specified amount of change that each additional change will incur an additional charge. At least then you would be compensated for the extra stress to a degree.
He agreed that he might need to do that. He said however, to present this client with a contract after three years would not be acceptable. They had worked all of this time without one.
So my final answer was this:
You are faced with a decision of three items.
Item One: Fire the Client or continue to go through the stress that it brings to continue to work with him.
Item Two: Re-define the relationship through contractual agreement that at least compensates you for the extra time and grief
Item Three: Adjust your attitude to accept this client for the evil person that he is. Realize that no matter how stressed you get, he will not change. Feel pity for him and each time the phone rings with yet another change, say to yourself " I am smart, I am good-looking, and people like me for who I am."
So I ask you, informed reader, which of those options would you choose?
In our world today, opportunity is everywhere. It is true that there will always be difficult clients, the question remains - if they become too difficult is it cost effective to keep working with them? I suggest that you look at your client list and ask youself is there someone on it whose time has come? If the answer to those questions is yes, then do the right thing and let them go.
I guarantee that your competitor is out there waiting to call on them and do some work for them, and while they are dealing with all of the stress and issues, you have an opportunity to pitch the clients that they no longer are able to serve while they deal with their new client from hell.