June 11, 2015
I love my jobs. My projects. My gigs. But as one colleague once so eloquently put it, "The one thing that sucks about this business? The clients."
Personally, I'd add a word in there, in front of clients: "BAD." Okay, okay, maybe "bad" is overstating it. Let's say "difficult." You know, the clients who, for a number of reasons, make your life as an independent contractor problematic. I can get into all those things, and why they're all reasons to turn down a project, but that's a whole other blog.
My point in this entry is that no matter how bad it gets, there's a lesson to be learned. And that lesson will ultimately make you better at what you do. For example:
- Put it in writing: All of it. What you're doing, who you're doing it for, when you have to deliver it by, and how much you'll be paid. I've had even the nicest, coolest clients try to wiggle out of things, change the payment terms, or add to the scope. Nickel-and-diming everything I thought we had agreed to. When you have a contract or approved proposal to point to, it's not a fight, it's a very short conversation.
- Set boundaries: So, when that text notification comes in at 7PM on a Saturday as you watch your kid on the baseball diamond, should you respond? One of my favorite phrases in this business is that "unless we're saving lives, there's no reason to call after hours or on weekends." That's my thing, because often, clients think that since they're paying you for a specific task, they've got 24/7 access to you. And I set that boundary early on. What's your thing? Say it out loud, and stick to it.
- Recognize what you've got: Just so we're clear, every project has its challenges, and every client has his or her quirks. And yes, there are plenty of awkward client conversations to be had. If the life of an independent was always sunshine and rainbows, everyone would do it. So don't mistake a bump in the road for a bad client experience. I never realized how good I had it until I truly dealt first-hand with truly difficult clients. Clients who disrespect you, ignore your invoices, overstep boundaries, or simply take your work without giving you anything in return. My point? Ask yourself, how bad is this? So before you label someone, take a deep breath and analyze the situation again.
These are just a few ways my bad clients have made me a better independent contractor. What lessons have you learned from your bad er challenging clients? Tweet us with #MyClientTaughtMe and let us know!