This time last year leading up to the holidays I had a client that ran me ragged. Several times I felt like dropping this client, but I didn’t. Now a year later, looking at an unpaid invoice that languishes in my quickbooks I know that the client was actually a lesson in disguise.
Lesson #1: Go with Your Gut – Don’t ignore those red flags. They almost never prove themselves to be wrong. Pay attention. If someone seems like they are taking advantage of your good will, they probably are.
Lesson #2: Stick to Your Scope of Work – No matter how much someone is pushing you outside the scope of work, even if they pretend not to understand every time you talk to them, don’t budge. Don’t compromise. Some people will suck you dry and then kick the carcass aside and move on.
Lesson #3: Don’t Allow Work to Compromise Your Family – Last year this client took up time during the holidays that was not slated for client time, much less a deadbeat client. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I was sucked into this client’s chaos and ruined time with family that I will never be able to retrieve. And I dragged my graphic designer into it as well. Time she will not be able to recreate. (I’m surprised her husband still lets her work with me!)
Lesson #4: If Someone Draws Out Payments That’s a Red Flag – If a client conveniently forgets to make payments, won’t put a credit card on file, or tells you “You’ll have the money, when I have the money.” (TRUE STORY!!!) there is a good bet you are seeing foreshadowing to all future work to come with that client.
Lesson #5: If a Client Makes You Curse Like A Sailor, Cut Them Lose – When someone tangles you up in knots you are not required to continue working with that person. If you begin to sound like you have Tourette Syndrome, no amount of money is worth it. It does not matter what the contract says. There comes a time when you need to move on. Which moves us to the next lesson.
Lesson #6: It’s Okay to Fire a Client – It feels weird, it feels wrong, but truly it’s okay to say, “This isn’t working out for either of us. It’s time to move on.”
The hardest part about lesson #6 was that we never finished the project because the payments stopped. The client did everything possible to get us to complete the website and hand it over with a promise of payment. No can do… if you can’t pay us, you can’t have the product.
The most important lesson however is to value myself, my time and my efforts (And those of my trusted partners) and not allow someone to make me feel turned around and inside out for months on end. In order to have a professional relationship both parties to the contract need to be professional. Oh wait that must be lesson #7!