Every freelancer or business owner has encountered “nightmare clients.” They are those who try to negotiate a lower rate while still expecting top-quality work, who don’t pay on time (or at all), who expect their project will be finished within an unreasonable time frame while balking at having to pay a rush fee, or who ask for revision after revision after revision without having been clear about their expectations in the first place.
I was recently alerted to this website. While I agree with the assertion that all freelancers can use a resource to guide them through the process of dealing with difficult clients and asserting their right to be paid what they’re worth, this site reads more like a venting ground for a freelancer who feels it’s now his mission to take out his past guilt and frustration at having bent over backward and having sold himself short on clients who now approach him with unreasonable requests.
The blind vendor leading the blind?
I’ll admit that I haven’t yet read the book, Verbal Kung Fu for Freelancers, so my initial reaction may be somewhat unwarranted. However, based on his recent blog entry, it seems to me that if the author of the book is crafting condescending emails to his clients, he either doesn’t follow his own advice or he gives terrible advice. Either scenario is unfortunate.
Although I do believe that the client was being unfair when he suggested that Jeremy lower his prices to suit his modest, startup business’s budget, Jeremy’s response was anything but professional. While he sympathizes with the client’s waste of money on a cheap but shoddy logo design, he immediately flips to “mom mode,” telling the client that perhaps this will be an important lesson on the dangers of paying for inexpensive design. But it gets worse. As a final jab, he rhetorically asks the client whether it would be fair to lower his price while still putting in the same amount of time and effort to compensate for a mistake that ultimately falls squarely on the client’s shoulders.
It is my view that we cannot expect clients to be aware of the etiquette that should come along with hiring a freelancer or small business. It’s easy for business owners to see that it’s rude of clients to ask for a lower rate because they can’t afford what even they admit the service is worth, for the business to put all other contracts on hold to place theirs at the top of the pile while still wanting to pay the same rate, or to gradually add to their list of demands until you wouldn’t know the final product from the one initially outlined in the contract. And although freelancers and business owners sometimes need to delicately teach their clients, many of whom are new to this type of working relationship, how working with freelancers and business-to-business operations works, we don’t need to do so by placing ourselves in the proverbial fighting ring as this book title suggests we should. The minute we step foot into that ring, we’ve already failed. It may not be our clients’ business to issue well-thought-out and professional requests, but as freelancers or self-employed business owners, we’ve automatically made it our business to respond with grace. That means thanking the potential client for considering us, wishing them well in finding someone who better suits their budget, and keeping the lines open for future business once they start to draw a better income.
I also take issue with any freelancer using his or her blog to complain openly about real-life clients. And when I say “complain,” I don’t mean offer constructive feedback. Hopefully, this man took some liberties to fictionalize this encounter and change enough details to avoid the possibility that this client will recognize himself (or worse, be recognized by someone else). If so, he should let us know that. If not, he’s committed one of the cardinal sins of responsible business ownership: Ranting about your clients in print. Complaining about a particularly difficult client while you have a few stress-relieving pints in the company of good, trustworthy friends? We’re only human. Posting a blog for the world to see in which you publish a client’s email (which that client never expected to be laid out for public consumption) and your insulting response in the hopes that your readership will cheer for you and thirst for more blood? The telltale sign of everyone’s nightmare freelancer.