Thoughts From The Cloud: 5 Clients to Keep, 5 Clients to Dump
As I sit here wondering how I’m on the fourth iteration of this week’s blog and eating all the Halloween candy that was probably supposed to be for Trick O’ Treaters, I have only just realized that this month has been a really busy one with a lot of really vital decisions having to be made. As the boss with the applesauce, it’s on me to find a way through these weird waters. For example, right now I’m trying to decide if the Fun Sized Reese’s Outrageous bars are better or worse than the same-sized Reese’s Nutrageous bars. I mean, they’re both pretty -rageous.
Then there are the decisions that probably actually matter to the success of my business and my team. I officially ended a relationship with a client that was getting beyond toxic for us. I had been contemplating this since the summer or so, but when our handler asked me if I could just replace my team with cheaper workers (more or less, not word for word), I knew it was time to wave goodbye before I did or said something I’d regret. Like talking about this in a blog post.
It was a shame because I actually like her as a human, but now I’m starting to wonder about her as a business associate. It doesn’t matter because that bridge is torched all up and down. I hate it when they go that way. I’d rather part before I lose respect for someone, truly.
I’ve Had Too Much Candy to Stop Now
I’m still deliberating the whole Reese’s debacle. Don’t be confused. But there are other things on my mind today, too.
Decision making for a team is much harder than when you’re just in it for yourself. When it’s just you and you screw it up, well, you might have a belly ache, but you didn’t give the whole town the bubonic plague. When you’re making calls for the team, you always (hopefully) assume you’re doing what’s best for them… but sometimes you’re wrong. And then it’s ugly and weird and uncomfortable and you feel like a total failure.
I haven’t done that in a while, so there’s that.
But there are days when I sit in this chair and I remember that I’m no longer a Lone Wolf freelancer. I am now a business owner who is responsible for keeping a marketing team busy and in grocery money. It’s kind of a terrifying, I won’t lie. I often wonder if I’m making the right call or if I could have done something differently or if I priced something far more cheaply than I should have… but I think all of that has to come with the territory.
At this point, I’ve eaten most of the -rageous bars and I’m almost certain the Nutrageous is the superior candy. Except for the nuts, which I could do without. Basically, I just learned that I want caramel-coated peanut butter more than anything I have ever wanted before. Until the next big caramel-coated thing comes along, you understand.
The Apocalypse Approaches: Clients to Keep, Clients to Dump
Most of what I’ve learned in my time as a gun for hire is that there are good clients, there are really awesome clients and there are clients that you tell other writers horror stories about because if you don’t, you’ll cry on your keyboard. But this isn’t a situation that’s unique to freelance writers. It’s a problem for pretty much every B2B out there. How can you tell if you’ve just had a bumpy start or if a client is really going to be a nightmare? Lemme give you some examples.
Clients to Dump
- The Overthinker. This client will constantly ping you with ideas, questions and changes of direction. If you let this client stay around, make sure you get paid enough to cover all the extra handling they’re going to need. There’s nothing more frustrating than having just completed an ask only to be asked to make it something else entirely.
- The Slow Payer. They’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. They want their order. In fact, they’re not-so-tactfully demanding it. But they haven’t so much as put a deposit down and even when you relinquish said order, it could be weeks before you see any cash. You may even have to hire a lawyer to get your money. Nothing good comes of it.
- The Know-It-All. Dude, if you already know how to write the blog, build the thing or whatever, then do it and get out of my hair. You came to me for my expertise and skill, let me use it.
- The Slow Emailer. When I send you an email asking about something specific I need before i can move forward, I really need you to respond in a reasonable time frame. You don’t have to email me back today, but it would be nice. Waiting a week to get back to me on a consistent basis? Move along.
- The Directionless Client. Now, this comes with a special caveat. A lot of my clients don’t know exactly how to get where they’re going, but they at least know they want to get going. I literally had a client once who told me to “just write stuff.” It was very weird. I will never do that again. Your clients need to know what they want to accomplish, otherwise how will you?
Clients to Keep
- The Instant Payer. This client is a gift from the Business Gods. You never have to worry about their invoices getting covered, they seem to pay them the second they see these things cross their desks. These are the best clients ever and you should cherish them. In fact, if they don’t pay within about three hours, you should call their family to make sure everything is ok.
- The Collaborator. This client is kind of a mixed bag. On one hand, they actively solicit your opinion, but on the other, they don’t generally pay quite enough to cover the time they use up. Still, they are valuable for the ideas they stimulate that you can use elsewhere, so keep them nearby, just remember to raise your rates to cover the extra time.
- The Truster. Ok, that’s a horrible title for this person, but that’s what they do. They sit down and discuss their needs with you, maybe give you a little color to keep their content interesting and then they leave you be. They trust that you will do a good job. They check in once in a while, but they don’t eat up your time. Sometimes you wonder if you’re actually dreaming because you never hear from these guys. They’re A+, though, considering their counterpart, The Know-It-All.
- The Referrer. Oh, man, this client is the best. They really love you and they want the world to know it. When The Referrer is referring everyone to you, it can be a bit overwhelming but some really decent work will come out of it. Hold on tight!
- The Map-Maker. This client can be a little uptight at first, but it’s only because they know exactly what they want. That can be terrifying because you feel like you might not live up to expectations, but trust me, in the long-run, this client is gold. Just follow their map and you’ll be fine.
Sometimes it’s vital to re-evaluate your relationships, especially if you’ve been feeling particularly unmotivated to deal with particular projects. There may be something else stewing below the surface that you’re just barely picking up in an “in my gut” sort of way. You’ll never know for sure until you sit down and look at the facts.
You could just be really bored. Or you could have a client that you need to drop in order to free yourself from whatever it is about that job that makes you feel bad every time you have to deal with them. They don’t have to be bad people to be bad clients. Sometimes an anchor around your neck is the result of an incompatible working relationship.
What I’m saying is that it’s not usually necessary to set the bridge on fire, but you don’t have to settle for a bridge that just kind of does the job, either. Just.. you know, work with people that make it easy to want to put in those extra hours.