If you want to get paid, you have to get rid of problem clients.
It can be tough though. Especially if you are just starting out and trying to build a business. You will be tempted to take anyone who walks through the door. But you have to be selective.
And, confession time, I still have issues with problem clients. Maybe my business slowed down and I became crippled with the irrational thought that no one else is going to walk through the door. Or I hit it off with a client in the beginning, but then things went bad.
No matter the reason, everyone has dealt with problem clients. But you have to get rid of them. As quickly as possible.
Heck, I’m a lawyer, and it’s really hard for lawyers to “fire” clients, especially if you’ve appeared in a case for them. But I do get rid of them. And when I do, I find that my income goes up, my stress goes down, and the world is a more beautiful place.
Also, I’m sure that the ability to pick and choose who you work with is one of the reasons that you started your own business. It was for me. So it’s no use working for problem clients.
Problem clients will make demands on your time and not want to compensate you for it. They will call you on holidays or after business hours when you are spending time with your family. You’ll do a great job for them and they’ll still find something to complain about. Usually with the intent to get you to reduce the rate you quoted them. They’ll also take months to pay your invoice, if they pay at all.
And, when you have to chase payment, you’re worse off than if you had never met that client. Sure, they may pay you some money, but you probably spent so much additional time trying to collect, that the money you’ve received isn’t worth the time and effort that you put into the work.
Plus, there are other clients — your ideal clients — that you could have been working with while you were dealing with the client from hell.
So how do you avoid clients like this?
First, trust your gut. Seriously. I’ve found that the clients that are the most hassle are the ones that I had a gut feeling about from the beginning.
But, there will be times when you think that the client is perfect for you, and then they turn out to be the worst. This doesn’t happen as frequently, but it does happen. And that’s where your contract comes in.
You need to have provisions in your contract that allow you to kill it if necessary. That way, if things start to go bad, you have an out.
You also need to have provisions in your contract that will assist you to collect any money that the client owes you. This includes a provision for attorneys’ fees and costs if you are forced to sue to get paid.
And you should never begin work without a Replenishing Retainer. With that retainer, the client can’t stiff you. Which means that you may not have to sue the client if the retainer will cover what they owe you.
So, what have we learned? Trust your gut and don’t get involved with a client in the first place. But if you do get involved with a problem client, make sure that you have provisions in your contract to allow you to kill it and recover attorneys’ fees and costs. And always get a retainer. Always.