Most people in business will attest to having some clients that are completely awesome, and some clients that just plain stink. With the wide variety of people out there, it seems like this is a fact of life.
But is it?
The way that you talk with your clients can heavily influence their attitude and respect towards you. If you use the right language, and avoid talking yourself into a trap, it’s not too difficult to rid yourself of bad clients forever.
With that lofty goal in mind, here are 12 things you should never say to a client:
1. “We offer everything you could possibly need”
It’s tempting to try to please potential clients by offering everything under the sun, but this rarely works out well. Chances are that your client will see right through the charade and loose trust in you. Or worse, they’ll buy something you never actually wanted to sell.
It’s much better to offer a specific selection of services related to your expertise. You can expand that selection by outsourcing to other freelancers, but you should aim to be very confident in every product you offer.
2. “Okay, I’ll lower my price to $xx.xx”
Many of the people you come across will try to negotiate a lower price. In some rare instances, this can be okay, but for the most part it is better to offer a fixed price and stick with it. When you lower your price you are almost acknowledging that you aren’t worth what you originally asked for — and that’s not good.
Sticking to your original price shows clients that you are confident in what you offer — and typically you’ll be more respected because of it. Not to mention, you’ll be happier with the project and probably do better work too.
3. “Sure, take as long as you need with payment”
Almost every one of us has been in a position of financial difficulty at some point, so it is very difficult not to empathize with people in the same situation. That being said, you still shouldn’t slide on your payment dates.
If a client hires you for something, they should be prepared to pay you on time. It’s not fair to you if they don’t, and it shows them that it is an acceptable practice, which it isn’t. Of course, you should evaluate your specific situation before deciding exactly what to do.
4. “Yea, we can include that in the project”
One of the most popular past-times of bad clients is the “feature creep” or “expanding scope” game. The object of the game is to get the best deal by slowly adding in little requests and new features to an existing project. If you play along, even a little, chances are you’re going to be ripped off by a client who probably got a bargain in the first place.
The key to winning this game (well, being fair, actually) is to expand on the above line and say “Okay, we can include that in the project. The additional cost will be $xx.xx” This way you are offering to help the client, while at the same time being fair to yourself.
5. “That won’t take long, I’ll do it for free”
The situation behind this line is similar to the one above. A client is basically looking to take advantage of you by asking for a small little favor.
Sometimes you’ll want to do little favors for your clients, but in most cases you should offer to do it in return for payment. The hassle of sending out a tiny bill is well worth the peace of mind you’ll get by having a client who actually thinks before sending ‘favors’ your way.
6. “Sorry, we don’t do that”
While you should never tell a client you can do everything, you should also never flatly tell them you can’t do something. Instead, make a recommendation for another firm, or tell them you’ll see if you can find someone who can do it.
This practice helps out everyone. Other freelancers get more business, your client gets the services they need, and it also makes you more helpful to your client. It’s a win-win-win situation :-)
7. “One time, I had this client who…”
Believe it or not, there are a lot of business people who tell stories about their crappy clients — to their current clients. If this is something you have the tendency to do, you should work hard to stop quickly.
Telling horror stories about old clients only serves to make other people nervous and you look bad. Your clients will wonder why they are working with you, and it is possible they will even get offended at something you say (if they agree with your old client).
8. “Of course, you can call me any time”
Always specify your business hours! One of the worst situations is when a client starts calling you at night or during the weekend — it can drain your time and rapidly accelerate burnout or frustration.
Luckily, there is an easy fix. Always specify exactly when clients can call you, and never answer client calls outside of that window. Your clients will quickly learn your hours and probably even respect you more because of them.
9. “I really need this project”
It’s something about human nature — everyone wants to get the best deal. If you tell a client that you really need more work from them, they are probably going to exploit that fact and you’ll end up at the wrong end of a bad project.
Even if you’re really desperate for work, it’s usually better not to show your clients and prospects. What you can do instead is lower your prices a carefully determined amount before hand and then go out and sell to clients/prospects.
10. “You should do it my way, I’m the expert”
As tempting as it is to remind people that they hired you, and you know best, it simply isn’t good business practice. Instead of telling them they can’t have it their way, try offer a new suggestion along with a reason why you think it is better.
If the client still doesn’t agree, do it there way. If it is something you just can’t do, give them an exact reason why and do it as politely as possible.
11. “It’s not my fault, you didn’t _______”
Even if a client is at fault for a project getting derailed, don’t throw blame around. It’s much better to simply inform them that what’s done is done and on the next project you can both move things along faster.
If a client starts getting angry, calmly remind them that you explained the process before starting (you did explain it to them, didn’t you?), and that you stayed within your allotted time. Unfortunately, there’s not much else you can do.
12. “I can finish that as soon as you want”
Never set yourself up for this trap. As soon as you say you can do something as fast as the client needs it, they will not only set a ridiculously aggressive schedule, but they’ll also expect you to work at that pace 100% of the time.
It’s much better to give them a realistic time frame, even if it seems way too long. Not only will it help you stay sane, but you then have the opportunity to finish ahead of schedule and exceed their expectations.
In the end, it comes down to standing your ground and being fair to both you and your client. Even though some may not like it at first, sticking to your principles will ensure a much better client relationship over the long run.
So, have you used any of these lines before? What was the result?