Dear Clients From Hell: Thank You
You can learn a lot from troublesome, demanding clients
As a freelance designer, design contractor, or design business owner, it’s inevitable that you will encounter at least one difficult client during the span of your career. These are the clients who are seemingly demanding, disrespectful, unappreciative, unrealistic, deceitful, incompetent, cheap, condescending, lazy, and a bunch of other negative words.
These less than desirable experiences can lead to frustration, anxiety, resentment, and disinterest. I’ve built up quite a few interesting client stories over the last 15 years, and I’ve gained some wisdom along the journey. To those challenging clients, I say thank you. Here’s what I’ve learned:
You get what you accept
“Can you send me a sample of what my idea could look like, so I can decide if I want to work with you?”
Sometimes I laugh when I reflect on how much I complained about the same problems over and over again. In my early days of freelance, I would get so upset about how a client would call me late at night or keep asking me for “one more revision” when we had clearly exceeded the amount we agreed to. I couldn’t understand how some clients just wanted more and more, even though I had already given so much beyond the project parameters.
It’s important to set boundaries. Late-night calls may be okay for some but not acceptable for others. Some designers consider every opportunity fair game, while others are more selective about the projects they pursue. If you’re not happy with your client interactions or the fluidity of your process, first evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Understand how your process (or lack thereof) contributes to the overall client experience. Then change the way you work and set the expectation upfront with those you work with. Making the rules as you go or just going along for the ride is a sure recipe for disaster.
Define your ideal client
“Can you just move the logo over a quarter of an inch to the right? Actually, I meant half an inch to the left…”
You could probably eliminate at least half of your crazy client woes if you actually worked with the…