The unrealistic client
“Hey, I want this to be big and revolutionary. This all has to be done by next month so we need to move quickly.”
This type of client is often a visionary — coming to you with lots of big ideas and expectations. The biggest obstacle is understanding what parts of the vision are reasonable and feasible within the constraints of timeline and budget.
The fix: Start with a road map from the beginning. Set a timeline of goals and projects, and set firm parameters on what can be accomplished within your given parameters. It’s important to validate the big ideas but ask “can we do this?” with our limitations to keep the focus on the attainable.
The “VIP” and its counterpart — “I have other options”
“I decided to hire you for this, but don’t let me down because I can take my business elsewhere. I will pay for everything once the work is done.”
Every client is important, but the VIP wishes to be placed above all others. They tend to position themselves in a manner that demands your sole focus. This is most apparent in the frequent, often repetitive and unnecessary, communications, and typically come with an expectation of an immediate reply. After all, what could be more important? VIP status often goes hand in hand with the “I have other options” attitude. These are the clients who make you feel like you are always on the edge of losing the job if you do not meet their high standards.
The fix: It is possible to demonstrate that your client is a priority while still setting boundaries and space for your other projects. By setting specific touchpoints with the client, you are acknowledging the importance of their project to you. These specific appointments also set the appropriate timeframe for client contacts. You are most effective with a focused objective. At the same time, be prepared to walk away from these types of clients if they continue to make you feel inferior and don’t value your role.
“Hey (just) checking in to make sure everything is going well, I texted you last night and haven’t heard back.”
As experts in the field, we are hired to complete a job that our clients cannot complete themselves. A micromanager has a hard time acknowledging this distinction. They will try to stay on top of you throughout the entire process, often questioning tiny details, checking your work against their own experts, and wanting near-constant updates. This client is notoriously hard to satisfy, even when they hang on every detail from start to finish.
The fix: Much like the VIP, it’s important to set boundaries. Establish early on that you are the expert, and that your purpose is to take their vision and run with it in ways that they cannot. Instill confidence and trust with set checkpoints. While it’s important to hear them out, it’s equally important to remember that you are there for a reason.
The urgent client
“Can we get this all done ASAP? It’s extremely important because I have to submit everything by the end of the week and can’t miss the deadline.”
Some projects genuinely need to get done fast, but the urgent client is a rebel without a cause. They want it done right away — even if there is no justification for the speed. Often, an urgent client’s demands involve sacrificing weekends or evenings and can often disappear after submission. This all results in a compromise of quality for the sake of a manufactured deadline.
The fix: What’s the rush? Find out from the beginning if this is a matter of true urgency or client impatience. If there’s no real fire to put out, assure the client that you can create both quality and efficiency with just a little extra time. From there, create a deadline that meets everyone’s needs.
The “NYCMNYD” (Now you see me, now you don’t) client
“Hey, sorry, I haven’t been on my phone. Let’s jump on a call as soon as we can and I’ll take care of the invoice by today.”
Tricky to detect, The NYCMNYD can often be mistaken for the urgent client at first glance. Instead, this describes a client that appears enthusiastic and ready to work out of the gate, only to disappear when questions arise or reviews are needed. They will often reach out absentmindedly without a clear grasp of where the product is because of their disappearance. Be warned: if not handled properly, Thy NYCMNYD can easily turn into a postponer with delayed calls and meetings turning into confusion and missed deadlines.
The fix: It is important to set expectations clearly and in writing from the beginning. A contract can often be the key to keeping clients and yourself on task and at the table. When the contact is waning, reaffirm that the timeline established is important to their success. It’s also important to keep in mind that, while it’s important to follow up, do not waste your time chasing them down. Your time is equally important.
The “yes, no, maybe” client
“I think this is a good option, but I feel like it can be even better, but I am not sure how I feel. What are your thoughts?”
Decisions, decisions. The “yes, no, maybe” client will struggle with them all. They may try to rely on you to make all decisions, or they may feel the need to get third and fourth opinions, leading to delays and loss of direction. They also struggle with focus and will not offer feedback when needed. This can lead to mid-project directional changes, extending deadlines, or dissatisfaction with the final product.
The fix: Yes, no, maybes need a gentle but firm hand steering them in the right direction. Find a focus quickly, and keep written records to help prevent changes midstream. It’s important to have a clear “why” for decisions to help prevent wavering. Don’t be afraid to say no to last-minute course reversals that don’t make sense. Follow up at clear milestones and interact at the end of each to ensure everyone is on the same page and on task. These clients more than any need you to show your expertise to create a successful working relationship and final product.
The “behind the times” and the “viral sensation” clients
“We’ve done it this way for the last 20 years, can we keep it the same?” or “I have a bunch of ideas to make us go viral!”
These two clients are on polar opposite ends of the spectrum but with very similar results and solutions. The “Behind the times” client wants to stick with what they know. They describe themselves as “traditional” and are resistant to innovation. The “viral sensation” client has the opposite problem. They want to jump on every trend, latching on to a meme or viral video and attempting to stretch their brand to fit in a box where it doesn’t belong. They envision an impossible outcome with a strategy that really doesn’t fit their company or goals.
The fix: While it may be counter-intuitive, both of these clients need the same thing: YOU. Explaining the why behind the channels and techniques that will work for them is important to push the traditionalists out of their comfort zone and to bring the virals back down to reality. Set the direction away from fads with focused content and an expert vision.
“That’s great but have you ever thought about doing this instead….”
The grasshopper is a hard client to pin down. They hop from one idea to the next without structure. You may find yourself struggling to bring them to the table, and dialing in the project to one point of focus can be even more of a challenge. On task is not in this client’s vocabulary.
The fix: This client needs you to provide the structure to reach goals. It’s a good idea to write down all of your questions and points of discussion in advance to avoid missing any crucial points during frequent topic changes.