Experience is needed to avoid dealing with difficult clients, something that not many freelancers have. How would you deal with impossible clients, or con artists or scammers?
What would Homer do?
For every article about how fun it would be to be a freelance web designer or developer, there is about ten more articles saying the exact same thing. This creates a bubble that easily attracts new freelancers, and will have them crying in despair after realizing how much they let the ideas inside the bubble control their outlook on the industry. It’s time to break that!
So in this article we’re going to go over some of the things the less friendly side of freelancing has to offer newcomers.
After spending some well spent hours in the comments of my articles, I find that a lot of our readers here view sites like Elance and Odesk as good client sources. That leaves me with one question, what are you guys thinking? For you to understand why I’m discrediting sites like these two, I’m going to use a term I like to use to describe the types of difficult clients on these site. This term being the Client Fisher.
A Client Fisher is a person who has a project and could care less about building a lasting relationship. In their minds it’s better to blast out to the web that they are looking for someone to work on their project, but will only choose the least expensive options that come their way.
Recognizing a Client Fisher
This is actually quite easy. To recognize a Client Fisher all you have to do is study how they approach you with their project. In my experience, the clients that actually want to work with me send me a message asking if I’m available to work on their project and if we could set some time to talk about this in further detail. Now a Client Fisher would ask for all the necessary information they need to make a decision on you within the first contact. This includes a projects background, asking for a quote, estimation of how long and when the project can be completed, and on average won’t reply back to you.
I’m going to get straight to the point here, a lot of clients don’t like paying. There are a lot of reasons that could be brought up as to why some are like this, perhaps prior bad experiences with freelancers, but all that matters is they don’t want to pay and will try every seemingly way possible to avoid it.
How to Ensure All Clients Pay
It’s easy for new freelancers to not get paid fully for their work because the agreement between them and the client is a verbal/email agreement. Agreements like this are built on trust, rather than any real binding documentation on terms and conditions for the collaboration on the project.
So with that being said, make sure EVERY project you take on has terms and conditions to it that are stated in a document and agreed upon by all parties involved. Here are a few things to make sure you always include:
- upfront payment of a percentage of the quoted price, typically no more than 50%, used as a retainer
- don’t turn over the project until final payment is made
- a section going over consequences and possible legal actions that will be taken if payment is not received
A great online tool to handle these is Echosign, I’ve had my best experience with online signature tools with Echosign.
Introducing the Difficult Client, or Flaky Client
On the heels of going over a type of client that should make the use of legal documents with your clients a de facto move, let me introduce you to the flaky client. As you’ve probably from the many bad experiences from other freelancers on Twitter, FaceBook, or blog articles, there are clients out there that don’t know what they want. Can you guess what the real kicker is with them not knowing what they want? It’s that they expect you to know for them. Amazing right!?!
There isn’t a freelancer around that couldn’t tell you about a client that asked for a revision or restart in the middle of a project, complained about the final result even though it complies with everything they asked for and agreed upon during the process, blame you for their SEO ranking and traffic being low, and a whole lot of other similar things.
Dealing with Difficult Clients that are Flakes
Just like with the client that will try to weasel their way out of paying, the best way to handle flaky clients is with legal documents for the project. Here are some quick tips of things to make sure to include in your legal documents.
- set the number of revisions and/or complete project changes
- set a point in the project, ideally after the initial go ahead, where revisions or major code edits will not be done
- make sure all agreed upon desired goals for project are listed
Doesn’t it seem like everyone in the web industry is so nice and friendly? Everyone is eager to lend a helping hand with an issue when you ask, when someone goes through a tough project they share it in a blog post, and if someone created something cool for a project they turn it into a plugin. Sadly, though, because of the friendly nature of the web industry, it makes it a perfect target for Con Artists.
Why you ask? Well, Con Artists are people who prey on the false sense of security that people blindly have in others. Now what could be a better industry to take advantage of than one where people do business with others millions of miles away all the time? I honestly can’t think of one.
How to Spot a Con Artist
Con artists are very smart and tricky people, they’re impossible clients — and they only think of themselves. It can be very hard to figure out exactly if someone is a Con Artist if they are good. However, there are always tells that can show a person’s hand. Here are a few ways to tell if someone who comes to you may actually be trying to con you.
- Their names don’t match up through different contact platforms (Skype, email, etc.).
- They ask for your personal info by offering you gifts or trips.
- They are moving with their project introduction to you too fast.
- They use terms like “once in a lifetime”, “game changing opportunity”, and anything else to get you feeling like their project is going to change your life.
How I Almost Got Conned
Awhile back I got an email about a project, it was to build the front-end of the web interface of an app. Everything seemed pretty legit. The guy had the standard coming soon page, mockups of how everything should look and function and was a nice person to talk to. I started to think that he’s not a difficult client to deal with. Then things started becoming questionable, when he said he would fly me out to the conference that would be used to showcase their product. Hmmmmm…
So the project was on a tight deadline, and needed me to be done with my share in about a week or two. The conference was like a few days before his desired deadline, and this just didn’t sit right with me. I mean, yeah, rush projects happen all the time, but how often do you get a rush project from a guy who is willing to fly you out at the end of it to the conference?
My odd feelings about this made me question who this person said they were, and prompted me to do a background check on him. So I headed to Google and started searching around, nothing was found. It didn’t help either that his Skype name was completely different from the name he gave me.
Long story short, I turned down the project. Now I never made the decision to remove him from my Skype contacts, honestly I’m just too lazy to do it. So not too long after that, a year or so, he contacts me on Skype. In his IM he comes clean about being a con man whose only objective was to swindle me out of my money, and possibly steal my identity. WOW right?
So whatever you do, make sure that every project you take on is on the up and up, even though we are really nice in the industry, it doesn’t mean that person you think is nice isn’t just plotting to take advantage of you.
Well, it’s been a rough road and I’m pretty sure that many of you will experience the same thing every once in a while, this is why you need to be picky in order to find the best client.
What about you? What are your tips on dealing with a difficult client?
So, what would Homer do? Of course, Homer being Homer, he’ll work harder!
Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.