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How to tame a difficult client

12 January, 2015

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Date of Publication: 12 January, 2015
First and foremost: brace yourself.

As much as you meet good clients, pleasant and funny to work with, there will always be the impossible ones.

Those who exhibit bad behaviours, bound to strain the relationship and frustrating your ability to deliver a good project.

Here are some bad behaviours and the counteractions you could respond with.

But remember: it won’t be easy.

1.  The barker aka the client who wants to micromanage it all.

They say that you cannot hire a dog and bark yourself, but this is exactly what some clients do, inserting themselves into your work, not fully understanding it, commenting it in a way that can alter the results for worse. They can even end up doing the work they have hired you for. Typically, they are juniors and feel compelled to control everything, without having developed the skills to do it right.

You have to: If you are really facing a junior, you should try and involve his boss, without making a fuss of it. At the same time, try and make your client understand that you are his or her partner and that you are good at what you are doing. Don’t be bother to start a competence competition: you don’t have to win, you already are better at your job than your client.

2.  When deadline sounds deathline. Aka “I want it for yesterday”.

Careless of the timeline you shared with him, the impossible clients tend to retain materials they agreed to give you on a given date, disrupting the whole work process without changing the deadline. And, why not, they add new tasks for you to perform.

You have to: start with a realistic timeline. Then overestimate how long it will take you to perform all the tasks that actually involve the client: this will be the timeline you’ll share with the client.

If your client is not organized and your company cannot lose it, you’ll probably end up working late anyway.

3. There is an I in client. Aka, if the work is good, the client gets all the credit.

Impossible clients downplay your role in a successful project, while your company and possibly yourself are blamed if the project falls short.

You have to: compose a written agreement to specify exactly how your company’s work will be acknowledged in public matters. This, if you work in a company which needs it (for awards, or to develop the word of mouth). If you don’t, remember: as much as everyone looks for recognition, your main task is to fulfil your promise. Do that, and chances are that the client will eventually speak well of your work and of you.

A last thought: often, your client is as bad as they let him or her be. If he or she is not the final decision maker and is somewhat not confident enough to take risks, well: there is not much you can do. The client is bound to be terrible. You have to weight out how much time you can dedicate on helping the client into develop confidence and a new kind of seniority: the one they don’t teach anymore.

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