The Four P’s of Dealing with “Clients from Hell”

Money making ideas without proper implementation are like cars without an engine; they look good on paper, but won’t get you anywhere. Just like any good engine, implementing an idea requires that you deal with many different moving parts. One of the most complicated parts of this engine, one that you absolutely cannot do without, is your clients.

The problem with clients though, is that they come in all shapes and sizes. No matter what breed they are, they hold in their palms the power to make or break your aspirations to earn some extra money. Literally. After all, they are the ones who will pay you the money. While some of them can be great and a joy to work with, some of them are bound to be “clients from hell”. They may be rude, uncommunicative, unwilling to give detailed information, impatient, hard to contact, or in the worst case, fail to pay for your services. No matter how difficult clients get, you can stay one step ahead and deal with them to achieve your end goal – make some money. Just remember these Four P’s of dealing with the difficult clients from Hell, and you should be good to go.

Patience: Wait it Out

Sometime all it takes when dealing with difficult clients is taking a deep breath and waiting it out. When it comes to clients who are rude, maybe they are just having a bad day and just need some space. Clients are people too, you know. Constantly emailing them, calling them, or sending chat messages will only aggravate the situation. If a client is responding to you in a rude way, give it a day.

Money Making Ideas: Clients from HellIf your client isn’t calling you back, emailing you back, and generally being non-communicative, give them some time to contact you. Bugging them right off the bat may seem like a good move on your part, but to them you may seem like a pest. Email them every two days, or call and leave a message every two days. Let them know that you’re hoping to hear back from them soon.

If your client fails to pay you on the predetermined pay date, send them an email the following day reminding them that payment is due. Always be polite. It may be something that has just slipped their mind and they may not be intentionally trying to jilt you.

Remember that patience is a virtue, and most of the times it pays off. But if it doesn’t.…

Professionalism: Be the Bigger Person

When your patience begins to wear thin and your client is still being rude, isn’t contacting you, and isn’t paying you, the difficulty rating rises from yellow to orange, and it’s time to take the next steps.

When you’ve given your client time to cool off, and they are still snapping at your, saying rude or inappropriate things, or just generally being jerks, you can continue being the bigger person by biting your tongue. No, you don’t have to be doormat, just be professional. Professionalism means that you don’t always say what you want to say, but you say what needs to be said in order to keep the situation from getting out of hand. Be polite—it might take a lot of tongue biting, but you would hate it if you told your client off, and they tell their friends all about it. You not only lose one rude client, but stand to lose some potential decent clients in the process as well.

If your client isn’t calling you back, continue being patient and calling them every other day, but now include warnings in your messages. For instance, “Hello, Bob, this is Tom again. I understand that you may be busy, but I need your input to proceed on the project. Please call me back at your earliest convenience or I will be forced to <move ahead without your input>/<set aside your project>/<cancel your project>/<fill my schedule with other projects>…” Always keep your tone polite, but also inject a bit of urgency and warning.

If your client isn’t paying, wait a few days and send another reminder email. They might have been out on a vacation when you sent your first reminder, or they may not have the funds available immediately but are embarrassed to admit it. If they continue to dodge your payment inquiries, remind them about the payment clause in the contract they signed.

When patience and professionalism fail miserably…

Persistence: Try to Work it Out

Before you take it to the mattresses (seen Godfather, anyone?), kick up your methods a notch. If, despite your patience and kind words, your client still calls you an idiot or makes you feel like a pile of scum, confront them on their behavior towards you. Sure, freelancing is the best of the money making ideas, but that doesn’t mean you should enjoy every aspect of it—especially the part where you’re humiliated. Sit them down (metaphorically) on the phone, in an email, in person, or on a Skype chat, and share your annoyance and frustrations with them. Explain to them that their words/actions are detrimental to your working relationship and that you cannot continue working with them if they cannot improve their attitude towards you.

Sometimes a person may not even realize that his/her attitude toward you was rude. Or it may all be a huge misunderstanding. A lot can be lost in translation when most of the communication is handled just through emails. When you sit them down and bring things out in the open, you may stand a good chance of clearing things up. Keep an open mind. Don’t expect hugs and tears and heartfelt apologies. Remember what you have with them is strictly professional relationship. As long as you can work out a reasonable understanding of how things need to be for you to proceed, you are good to go. Continue to do your work, and make sure that despite your reservations, you offer them the same level of service (which better be the best you have to offer) as your other clients and complete the project on time. Once you have received your payment, you can make the decision of whether you want to continue working with this client again or to never ever deal with that person until the day you die.

If the client has fallen off the face of the earth and just isn’t communicating with you – you have a choice. If you have not done much work yet, and they owe you nothing, just write it off and call it a day. On the other hand, if you have already spent some time on the project, then you deserve to be compensated for your time and effort. Hop on their backs like a monkey on an organ grinder. Email them daily. Call them once or twice a day. Send them messages three times a day…escalate your attempts. If you landed the project through one of the freelance sites, let them know that you will not hesitate to write a detailed negative report of their behavior. You need to do what it takes, because now its crunch time.

That client that refuses to pay, or disappears on payday should be hunted down like a rabid dog in a day care center! If you’ve provided finished work, or have worked a certain amount of hours on a project, you are entitled to payment! That’s basic economics! And basic decency!

The time to be patient and suck it up is long gone. Now is the time to show them that they cross you and they better be ready to deal with the inner-bitch in you. Call them, email them, message them, send them payment reminders through PayPal, and always remind them of the contract they signed and the legal actions you can take if they continue to refuse payment. Mind you, this is a step you take after some time has gone by and you still haven’t received payment.

Finally, if none of the steps you’ve taken so far have achieved the desired results…

Part Ways: Cut Your Losses and Move on

If you’ve been patient, been a professional, and have pestered them and still the client continues to be difficult…take a chill pill, bite down on a leather strap, cut away the infected flesh, and walk away.

Just like a vintner does with grape vines infected with fungus, you need to cut away that which is ruined in order to save that which is still good. If your difficult clients are still being difficult after you’ve taken all the above steps, you are probably experiencing levels of stress that are unhealthy, and probably starting to effect your interaction with your other (more decent) clients, or your abilities to find other (more decent) clients. If it’s cancerous cut it off and don’t look back.

You can’t imagine how deflating and aggravating it can be dealing with an increasingly difficult client—no one should have to deal with that, but with so many people getting into freelancing and the other viable money making ideas, you are bound to run into clients from Hell who are cheapskate jerks who don’t know how to return a phone call.

If you have other clients you could be focusing on, just drop the difficult client and put your efforts into pleasing the clients that don’t make you pull your hair out. If you only have the one client (yes, the difficult one), focus your energy on finding new clients instead of trying to deal with this one. You are a professional with incredible skills and you deserve clients who will treat you like a skilled professional!

When dealing with difficult clients, these steps can be helpful in preventing disasters or they can give you the strength you need to pull the plug.

Working for yourself is a great way to make an income, and there are many wonderful benefits. But the downside is that, even though you don’t have a boss to harass you, you still may need deal with some difficult clients. Master the 4 P’s and soon you will find that if you do end up with clients from hell, handling them will becomes second nature to you.

Good luck out there in the freelancing forests…may the prey you hunt provide you with meat to last you a lifetime…and as always; beware of buckshot 🙂

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