It has happened to me one too many times:
A potential clients calls me, we talk about their project, we meet and discuss the details of the project and sign the contract.
And then the client turns rotten.
Of course, they don’t violate any terms of their contract, but every time I communicate with them, they seem to get offended, ignore my advice, or demand I add something to the project (increasing my scope without offering more pay).
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And, of course, in retrospect, I never would have signed on with a client like that if I would have known how our relationship would turn out. So today, I want to try to rescue you from potentially rotten clients before you sign the contract. I’ve done a little brainstorming and come up with a few traits of a potentially rotten client. Add your opinion by leaving a comment.
Traits of potentially rotten clients
They hired you because you’re the “cheapest option”
Watch out for clients who hired you because you’re a “cheap freelancer”. I have had clients who think they have have an entire web site with full CMS capability for about 1/5 or less of what I usually charge for something like that.
If phrases like “We wanted to hire a design firm, but we didn’t have the money for it” creep up too often, reconsider the option. Make sure they have money to pay you before jumping into a relationship together.
They seem to talk down to you
This might seem obvious, but I am surprised when designers decide to work for clients who talk down to them. If you’re freelancing especially, don’t waste your time with clients like that.
If they think you are less important than they are, your opinion will never matter to them, you’ll never be able to request prompt payment, etc.
They keep using phrases like “This shouldn’t be too hard”
One of the most common traits of potentially rotten clients is when they use phrases that demonstrate a complete lack of understanding what a design project entails.
Most people take design for granted.
We see it all around us every day, we all have a cousin or an uncle who used Photoshop 7 in 1995 or whatever, and many potential clients think design is mostly a matter of having the right software. If a potential client is assuming a project won’t cost as much or take as much time as you know it will, you may not want to team up with them.
They are reluctant to sign your contract
Here’s an easy sign of a rotten client: they won’t sign your contract. If they aren’t willing to agree to your terms, then they are most likely planning on not following them. Steer clear of these kinds of clients.
They have a family member who “could do it, but they don’t have time”
Have you ever had a potential client say “Yeah, my uncle is a web designer guy, but he’s so busy at work that he can’t do it right now.”?
I’ve heard it to.
And more often than not, clients with this mentality undervalue your skills as a designer. They see you as the next-best option and as someone who, like their uncle, is probably kind of good at design but works as a financial clerk at his day job. Either help them understand what you bring to the table, or ditch them before they go rotten.
What other warning signs of rotten clients have you seen?
These are a few examples of potential rotten clients I can recall. What else would you add? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment on this post.
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