It is common for most of us creative types who do work in this field for a living to talk about our “clients from hell”. This may scare some of the new creative people who are up and coming. Look…The reason why we only talk about our “clients from hell” is because it is funny. And really, if you don’t laugh at some of these people, you’ll only end up kicking the cat…And it really isn’t the cat’s fault. Some people just don’t have social skills, and you will find that in any career.
So I would like to say that since I have been doing independent design and video for people in the Central Texas Area and beyond since the beginning of this millennium, I have had only FOUR clients from hell…So in the greater scheme of things, I have had a really good run at this business. But, the main reason why I have a really good run in this business is because of the attitude I bring to the table.
Most confrontations can be avoided if you look at the client like a person. I know! In this day and age! But trust me, they are people. Oftentimes, us creative types forget that. Yes, I am saying that WE have a responsibility in this. If all you are dealing with are “clients from hell”, you may want to think about how you are treating the people you are dealing with.
I often say that the reason why most marriages fail in the United States is because more people are looking for the other person to make them happy. They are not thinking what they can BRING to the relationship, they are thinking what the relationship can GIVE to THEM. That is backwards. Always has been. Always will be. Sure, the person makes you happy for a while in the beginning, but everything is shiny and new…That’s why. Eventually, they will just become a person with faults and needs. Since we also live in a disposable nation (disposable razors, disposable this, disposable that), we tend to think that “Well, I am no longer getting what I need from this person, so it is time to end it.” Rubbish. That is when you should be thinking what you can bring to the table.
Clients need to be thought of as a marriage. At the very least, they need to be thought of as “long term partners”, because that is what they really will be if you are doing it right. In the beginning, both of you are excited to be working together. Everything is shiny and new, full of promises and hope. Sound familiar? It should if you have ever dated. Then comes the first mistake, or in our case, the first draft. Suddenly, there is a critique. You are no longer “perfect” in the eyes of the client, and they are no longer “perfect” in your eyes, because they didn’t welcome what you did on the first try with open arms. Do you take this personally? Do you tell them they are wrong? Do you even offer up an explanation as to why you did what you did, and how a compromise might be better? These are important questions you should be asking yourself upon dealing with the people who are going to be paying your rent.
Oh…Did that last part wake you up? It should.
This is nothing personal. This is business. Us creative types are often so caught up in the creative process, that somehow our creations become a part of us. When someone criticizes our work, well, they might as well have just kicked your first born child. It’s not YOUR child. It is THEIRS. You are just the surrogate. Bring this with you upon revealing the first draft. Don’t take the critiques personal. Listen to what the client has to say, and if it is NOT a good idea, don’t just say, “That’s not a good idea.” Tell them something like this, “I hear what you are saying, but what if we tried something like THIS?” And then explain it to them. You need to remember to bring your A-game with you. You need to offer a solution that works. After all, you are the professional. When you offer solutions, you start developing this characteristic known as “credibility”. You also need to remember this is a person you are dealing with. A person who is giving you money for a service. A person who is probably not made of money. Learn to empathize with your clients, and listen to what they have to say, even if it isn’t complimentary. God forbid you might have misunderstood what they project was all about. Admit that you misunderstood, because you did! I guarantee if you do that, if you practice a bit of humility, the client may actually apologize for not making what they wanted clear enough for you to understand. I have had it happen so many times that I know this to be true. If you do this, not only will the project you are working on turn out fabulous, but there might be future projects to work on as well. I have found this to be the case with most of my clients. And even if they do not do any future projects, they are always willing to give a good referral if someone in the future needs similar work done. Word of mouth is the cheapest and most effective advertising technique there is for you. You can have the coolest website, the best social media presence, the coolest ideas for marketing…But if you’re an idiot, no one is going to really care. They won’t want to deal with you. Why should they?
So please don’t take this personal if it pertains to you. It pertained to me a couple of times myself…I realize in hindsight, had I reacted differently to two previous clients, they might not have ended up on the “from hell” list.
Then there are those other two. Ah, what stories of wonder and horror I could share, like watching an avalanche that is about to occur when you just started down the mountain missing one of your skis. Of course, there are going to be people you can’t do a thing to please. They are entitled and they expect you to be God, lick the screen, and make the impossible magically happen for the least amount of money possible. If THAT is the case, then I recommend venting through a forum such as this: Clients From Hell.
But under NO circumstances give them a reason to say that you were the “contractor from hell”.