Some Clients are Bad News
You do not want to work with every client who wants to work with you. Some clients are belligerent with you, others want to nitpick every little thing, and some don’t even feel like paying their bills. How do you know who is safe to work with?
After years of dealing with clients, I’ve come up with a system. It’s by no means perfect, but it does cut down on some of the baddies out there, as well as protecting yourself from indigent people who cannot afford you, but want your work.
Keep in mind that this is the process I use for clients who look to me for contracting services. If you’re working on a different type of software company, you’ll need to adapt it to your own line of work.
Step 1: If you’re doing contract work on a marketplace, bid a high enough amount as a placeholder bid so that anyone who isn’t serious will not respond to the bid. Don’t use $1, as that doesn’t give them a feeling that you’re going to be expensive.
Step 2: Meet with the client on a phone call. If they won’t meet you over the phone, they’re not serious about working with you. (However, obviously if they’re deaf or mute, they get a pass on this part of the process for obvious reasons.) Check out Calendly for scheduling.
Step 3: Right after you say “Hello” on the phone, IMMEDIATELY ask them to tell you about their project. If you don’t do that, they’ll start trying to control the conversation, and in sales, YOU need to control that dynamic. From there all you need to do is listen, and occasionally respond to what they ask. If they cut you off, for the most part let them. The goal is to make them sell themselves.
During the conversation, you need to ask yourself some things. Is the person easy to understand? Do they know what they’re looking for? Are they rude to you? What vibe does this person give me?
Funny story: recently I had a call with one client whom I could have sworn was a classical gangster. He has the name, the accent, the type of business, he even had a partner who was like his #2 man. Whenever I’d make his day, he’d say, “You’re the man!” It was all reminiscent of Robert De Niro in “Analyze This.” At first it was unsettling, but then I got a kick out of it. He turned out to be one of our best clients!
Step 4: After the call, get them a written quote for fixed-price contracts. For hourly-rate contracts, only give them a quote if they ask for one. That way you can close the sale on the phone. Clients you’ll want to service are the ones who don’t have money issues, so closing without a quote, and just a ballpark figure often won’t be an issue.
Step 5: Start the contract. If they’ve gone through your filters so far, you’re good to go.
There are a few important things to keep in mind while seeking clients.
- Never take a contract out of desperation. Contracts you have to force into place will almost always end badly.I once serviced a guy who nitpicked on everything after spending months writing up and rewriting what he wanted done, and then finally when I approached him and got him to contract with us, he all of a sudden didn’t want to pay the bills, and we spent weeks trying to figure out payment methods.I toyed with the idea of creating a payment plan program, but when I tried to get him to use it, he said his religion doesn’t allow him to pay interest. (I looked it up, and that’s true about his religion.) So, I calculated the interest, added it to the principal, and asked him to pay the principal only. His response? No, because it increases my bill! I kid you not… He wanted to pay $500 per week on a contract worth over $10k, and not pay any interest because it increased his bill.When I ended this contract after giving him over $3,000 in services, and only receiving $500, he had the audacity to verbally attack me and threaten litigation against our company for $900! Yep. I didn’t even ask him to pay for the rest of the services as I just wanted out, and he tried to get more money from us. Needless to say, our insurance claim was accepted, and the client luckily didn’t follow through with the threat. We don’t negotiate with terrorists.
In all honesty, I have a hunch that the guy has a mental disability, and that’s not something I’m saying out of spite.
- Never work with a client who is mean to YOU. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t service someone upset about a past experience with a third-party. As long as the client is polite with you, you should be safe enough to work with them.If they later get unreasonably upset with you, then tell them you must end the contract. Keep in mind that you might get hit with chargebacks, or you might find you’ll need to send their account to collections, or even litigate if it comes to that. However, being verbally abused is a sign that there’s nothing you can do to please that person, and you’ll just waste your time and effort trying.
- Don’t negotiate with terrorists. When someone threatens you, take a stand. Have a chargeback threat? Hire Chargebacks360 to avoid losing your reputation with a payment processor. Have a client who won’t pay? Hire RocketRecievables to collect it for you. Have a threat of litigation? Protect yourself with E&O insurance and a Business Owner’s Policy.Keep in mind that these things should be in place before the SHTF, especially insurance. However, never negotiate with terrorists. That puts them in a strong position, and you in a week one. (Note: We don’t get any kickbacks from these companies if you decide to use them. There are plenty of others to choose from.)