You’ve probably had your fair share of nasty clients, everyone has. The problem comes when you can’t figure out how to recognize and categorize these terrifying beasts in order to avoid them as needed. Thankfully, the majority of monster clients can be broken down into a handful of unique species with their own unique habits, making it easy to steer clear of the ones that you personally can’t handle.
Have you ever had a client who just seems to drain away your energy? Time and energy are the two most necessary supplies in any business, meaning clients that don’t respect your time suck the energy right out of you. These clients can be recognized early on by overall negativity, along with a refusal to communicate—cited by Creative Bloq as being worthy of “nightmare” status—cooperate or compromise. Keep your eyes peeled for passive-aggressive behavior, as this is usually the first warning sign, and be prepared to leave them high and dry if they bite too deep. (Unfortunately, the threat of sunlight isn’t usually enough to make them leave.)
These are the ones who want you to work all day without complaint, then send you to bed with a cup of water and a crust of bread at the end of it. Any client who tries to convince you to lower your fees is devaluing your work and doesn’t deserve your expertise; while there are some causes worth offering discounts for, don’t make a habit of it or you may find yourself holed up in the dungeon of unpaid entrepreneurs for life.
Have you ever had a client who loved your work, but never seemed to be around when it came time to make a commitment? If so, you’ve run into a ghost. These are clients who drift from one option to the next, which either means they’re committed to quality work or they’re afraid to make a decision. A client who is too indecisive is a terror to get on a contract and even harder to deal with once you’re working with them—they could barely decide on you, what makes you think they’re ever going to settle on a single design, campaign or technique? Avoid clients who don’t know how to let go of finished business.
When it comes to monster clients the pirate is the worst of them all. No, not the people who steal software and illegally downloaded the last Mystery Skulls album, this is the client who takes what they want and never makes good on their promises: in other words, the ones who don’t pay. The easiest way to pick up on these before you get shoved overboard in the name of their business is by taking note if they disagree with a required pay-by date on your contract, or don’t want a contract at all. Clients who don’t pay get away with it because of a lack of paper trail, so if you bind them in legalese you should be safe. Eventually.
While it’s impossible to avoid all monster clients, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault that they can’t behave professionally. As Entrepreneur.com points out, this is all too common when an independent contractor runs into one of these beasts in the wild. Take heart and forge onward—you’ll make it through this dark and stormy night!