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Three Warning Signs of a Nightmare Client
and why we sometimes don't heed them
mcjohnson




msg:779562
 1:08 pm on Jun 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

Once upon a time, I received the "three warning signs" from a potential client all in the first sentence: "I don't have much money, I need my site up and running a.s.a.p., and my current web design company won't return my calls".

Hmmmm...why, I ask you, did some benevolent lightbulb go off in my head - the toxic urge to help someone in need, perhaps - and not the glaring warning flares? I don't know. I took the bait. We met, I agreed to slash my rates, get it done in 30 days, and thus began a relationship with a client that, because of their micromanaging and nitpickiness, ended up diluting my hourly rate to about minimum wage.

I learned early on how to spot the warning signs of a nightmare client. It just took me a little while to figure out how to say "no.". Early on, I am sure that the desire to grow my business was at the heart of the acquiesence, even in spite of that feeling of dread you feel when you are about to execute the contract. Now, with plenty of work from corporate clients, many of whom refuse to micromanage because they have jobs to attend to, I can be a lot more picky.

With that, here's my anaysis of the Big Three. Feel free to add your own.

"I need to do this as cheap as possible"

Usually, this comes out in their first inquiry. If I track the nightmare clients' profile, I can definitely trace this comment to usually the very first phone call. In fact, it's interesting how many of the potential clients who made this statement from the outset would ultimately either stand me up, or cancel the first consultation before we ever got off the ground.

"I need your best price" certainly sends up the red flags now. Not because clients who insist on a fair and equitable price are inherently nightmare clients, but, clients who begin with this as their foundation, those who are price-driven, ultimately don't understand value. They ask "what will you do for me?" instead of "what will my website do for me?". And usually, this type of stance is followed by:

"I need it yesterday"

A tight time constraint is not, in and of itself, a problem. In fact, a number of my better clients have been somewhat urgent about a launch date. But taken in concert with bullet point #1, this becomes indicative of a client who has no understanding of or regard for the process. They think you are sitting at home with nothing else to work on other than their $1000 site. Usually, all other aspects of their business, project, etc are equally in disarray. They are close to closing down, and their website is a last ditch effort to generate business, and so on.

This type of frenetic urgency is interesting, in that, usually, these people are the nitpickiest clients of all - critiquing every font, gradient, and crop. Wanting it done over and over until the picture they saw in their head begins to take shape, or, more likely, until it begins to look like their friend's website, which is what they wanted it to look like all along, but were afraid to say so.

Until I began to grasp the concept that "your failure to plan is not my emergency", I was usually being reactive to the timeline wishes of the nightmare client. Now, the launch date is set by when the calendar will allow.

and, finally, but most daunting of all:

"My current web designer won't call me back"

I have seen and heard many varients on this theme. Sometime it's couched in secrecy, i.e. "our last company we just had a...well, it just didn't work out"; sometimes overt, to-wit: "the web design company I hired dropped me" or "says they won't do my site because they don't agree with my content".

Hmmm....

Now, this is much different that the client who breaks with their existing web design company because truly, they are getting bad service, or perhaps they entered into a relationship with a fledgling designer who either got in over their head or evaporated before they ever got off the ground, but you can definitley tell the difference.

This is the client who, by the tone and description of their "falling out" is clearly suspect, and it's very soon apparent that the reason they had a falling out is because they were pouring scope creep into their relationship by the truckload, micromanaging, changing their minds, and diluting the value of the already whittled-down price way past the point of tolerant. I have had a few of these clients and have come close myself to dropping them mid contract (in fact, I did fire one mid-relationship. It's rather liberating)

The fact that there was a break in the relationship with their previous designer should send you running for the hills. When combined with the need for speed and the demand for your rock-bottom dollar, there's almost no need to follow up with questions about why the previous relationship ended - you know why.

Being able to turn away business is a little intimidating at first. It seems counterintuitive to growing your company. But IMHO, it's just the opposite. Turning away BAD business, and there is most definitely bad business in this field, frees up your time to market yourself to and design for quality clients. Clients who get it - who understand that a website is about value, not about price, and that will trust you to do your job in the manner in which they have hired you to begin with.

Just my two cents. Any other red flags?

Best Regards,

Pat

 

aleksl




msg:779592
 11:43 pm on Jun 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is kinda ironic....I've done over 10 years in IT before moving onto my own gigs and hiring outside help to do things...believe me guys, grass is not greener on the other side either. There's so many bad coders out there it is not even funny. And designers - good ones are diamonds in the rough. Please, we should all get out of our "I am da best" bubbles, and lotsa things will get done way quicker and with way less pain for both sides. :)

Also, I have yet to meet a person that charges $75/hour that cannot be outsources (granted, I don't do very cutting edge stuff).

sanity




msg:779593
 11:52 pm on Jun 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

"We are a start-up..."

I steer away from this one too. I've seen too many people think they can just open up shop online and become rich. You end up doing far more than you should for them and more often and not don't end up with a long term relationship cause the business fails.

Alex_Miles




msg:779594
 2:21 am on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

You know, I was reading the original message and it all sounded horribly familiar. Just not in a business context.

because of their micromanaging and nitpickiness

Thats how my last ex became an ex.

your failure to plan is not my emergency.

And thats how his replacement will end up the next one.

old_expat




msg:779595
 2:33 am on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

One or more of the responders seem like "nightmare vendors" to me:

Amen, Bro .. and to be avoided like the plague!

1 - If I did not try to buy something at the best realistic and responsible price, I am doing myself or my company a disservice.

2 - If you can't do it in the time from I'm looking for, just say so. Is that so hard?

3 - There are many reasons why to stop doing business with a previous firm .. maybe they let you down .. maybe they got too busy (legitimately), maybe you found out they were gouging you. Maybe you realized that what they built previously really didn't work the way it was supposed to work .. never happens, right?:0

Happens all the time in the real world of customer vendor relations. Just because you can rub two code snippets together doesn't grant you some special immunity from commercial standards.

ken_b




msg:779596
 2:49 am on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

One or more of the responders seem like "nightmare vendors" to me:

Yes, but the beauty of these client bashing threads is that it gives folks on the other side (somebodies clients) a great idea of what kind of vendors to stay away from.

Just look for the attitudes displayed in threads like this in any future potential vendors and then move on to the next prospect.

old_expat




msg:779597
 2:49 am on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

When a customer communicates "I need your best price", this is called "negotiation".

Yep.

Wonder what the vendors call it when they ask up front, "What is your budget?"

old_expat




msg:779598
 2:57 am on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

It's different than stating a budget; i.e. "I have $1500 in my advertising budget to work with; please get me a proposal that reflects a website that can be built for that amount of money.". That is, I think, defining expectations.

Posted my previous message before reading the above .. then LMFAO for several minutes before I could get my trembling fingers on the keyboard again.

I would say, "That is, I think, the sound of baby chickens walking innocently into the fox's lair."

vincevincevince




msg:779599
 3:39 am on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

An absolutely first-class thread. At the heart of it is the fact that a web-designer is a professional providing a service and not a vendor selling website designs.

If you can produce something that's limited in scope, but will still move your client from here to there, then you may have found a middle way to please them while not reducing your rates.

If you do this, you must be absolutely clear what they are not getting. Give them a full itemised quote for what you think they need/want. If they reject it then tell them that you are sorry but the complexity of the many requirements they have is what determines the price, but if they want less then they can get a lower quote. Clients are willing to do a lot to cut a quote, for example:

  • Having order details sent by email (no order database backend)
  • Preparing and uploading product images themselves via FTP
  • Editing templates themselves (you provide basic layout they do all further changes)
    In general this is about them increasing their management workload in order to reduce the programming and development upfront costs. The concept will certainly not be new to any experienced business owner and they will not need telling that features can be added at a future date when they do have the budget to support it.

    A customer is calling you at 10PM to ask about something. -> Next time he will call you at sunday, 2 AM.

    Absolutely, I couldn't agree more. More than that, even replying to email out-of-hours spawns expectations that you will always do so. In this case it's probably not the client at fault as you are the one who created the expectation of out-of-hours service when the client contacted you and got a reply. He may have only wanted to leave a message on your machine so you'd pick it up in the morning. I have a cheap timer from IKEA which turns off the power on the phone system out-of-hours.

    If you fulfill these (for free) with a smile - be prepared for more favours coming up. Much more.

    Bear in mind the role that the client is playing. If the client is the end user then you must be careful about this. If the client is a middle-man and he is outsourcing or subcontracting to you then minor changes are to be expected, within reason, due to the chinese-whisper effect.

    A quote is not a negotiation. It's a statement of what I believe it will cost for the project in question.

    That is absolutely true. I'm not buying beans from bow and selling them in luton with a 50% markup. My quote isn't profiteering, it's the price for a complex professional service. Unless you have a tiny project or you are a web-professional who knows and can document precisely and exactly what you want then you are probably going to have to pay for extras, even with the initial quote.

    I've never heard a Romanian complain about too many requests from the client.

    I'm not quite sure what the point woop01 is trying to make here is. I'm sure that a Romanian designer or programmer has exactly the same problems with clients as any other designer or programmer.

    believe that work usually going for $30-$80 hr. can be done for $5-$10 hr. without thowing a monkeywrench into the economy

    Not sure about that. Most of this work is 'bottom-feeding' activity and serves both to reduce the entry barrier to being a webmaster (i.e. moving more clients to the level at which they are willing to pay $30-$80 hr.) and to off-load thousands of potential nightmare clients from approaching you for a quote!

    When a customer communicates "I need your best price", this is called "negotiation".

    No, that is called stupidity. The difference between a great site and an okay site is virtually impossible to write in a contract. If you want the great site then don't squeese me to to cut out the only thing which isn't specified in the contract - flair and imagination.

    quote for a job fully completed without specifying the deliverables and exact work to be completed

    Dangerous but workable strategy. It's important that the number of drafts and revisions is clearly specified. i.e. one draft, customer feedback within three days, one revision, customer feedback within three days, final version end of story.

    1 - If I did not try to buy something at the best realistic and responsible price, I am doing myself or my company a disservice.

    That's a foolish way to look at it. You find the best price by getting multiple quotes, not by asking for quotes to be reduced (a.k.a. asking for corners to be cut). The cost of lost business from the poor site and the additional costs for fixing poor work is going to be more than the pittance you saved.

    2 - If you can't do it in the time from I'm looking for, just say so. Is that so hard?

    Nobody here has suggested overrunning deadlines, but there is something seriously wrong if a client always seems to have urgent work!

    the real world of customer vendor relations.

    I am not a vendor. Perhaps that is where you are going wrong. I do not vend products, I sell a professional service. Save your customer vendor relations techniques to use buying fish at the market.

    "What is your budget?"

    I'd like to know a better response to the statement "I want a really nice website to show my company in a good light". Websites run from $50 templates to $50,000+ interactive developments. I cannot think of a better way of finding the right ball-park than asking the budget.

    Of course - if you are asking for something specific and have been able to describe what you want then there is no need to ask for your budget. Treat your web-designer like a professional just as you expect them to treat you as a professional.

  • buckworks




    msg:779600
     3:42 am on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I have a friend who says this can be done in a few hours by someone who knows what they are doing...

    Don't be too quick to assume that this is an unrealistic expectation by the client.

    I have seen unbelievable variations in how quickly and how well different tech guys do all sorts of tasks.

    woop01




    msg:779601
     4:46 am on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I'm not quite sure what the point woop01 is trying to make here is. I'm sure that a Romanian designer or programmer has exactly the same problems with clients as any other designer or programmer.

    I was just saying that the opinions expressed in a thread like this are why I rarely go with Western web designers any longer. To be blunt, the stereotypical "my clients want too much for what they are paying me" attitude in this thread is a huge driving force in outsourcing.

    I know it's just a thread to vent steam but it reinforces what many of us who are clients of web designers already think.

    old_expat




    msg:779602
     5:43 am on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    If I did not try to buy something at the best realistic and responsible price, I am doing myself or my company a disservice.

    That's a foolish way to look at it. You find the best price by getting multiple quotes, not by asking for quotes to be reduced (a.k.a. asking for corners to be cut). The cost of lost business from the poor site and the additional costs for fixing poor work is going to be more than the pittance you saved.

    Foolish? Kind of snide? And where did I say ".. asking for quotes to be reduced .."?

    You seem to have ignored my " .. realistic and responsible .."

    One of the reasons for specifications is so someone doesn't overbuy. Why ask a metal shop to hold =/- .001" tolerances on a power supply box when .020 works just fine.

    Buying beyond your (or your company's) needs is irresponsible and a waste of money.

    I believe the problem is with the term "professionals". Most designers aren't, IMO. They would like to do business under that cloak, but don't have the credentials. Otherwise, the professionals wouldn't be complaining about bottom feeders.

    The problems are in your industry, not in the attitudes of potential clients.

    BeeDeeDubbleU




    msg:779603
     7:22 am on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Great thread!

    This thread is just reinforcing stereotypes.
    I've never heard a Romanian complain about too many requests from the client.

    Isn't that just what you are doing? ;)

    "500? That sounds good. When can we have a meeting?"

    I hate it when people think that I should drive for a couple of hours to have a meeting with them about their little project. They seem to think that taking the best part of a day to visit them for this is quite justifiable. This always a flag to me that the client is being unreasonable.

    "I have applied for a grant from ... "

    This is another indicator that the client may be a TW. But if they say, "I have a grant from ..." :)

    I am in the UK and at the weekend I got an enquiry from a guy in Canada who wanted a database driven website to compare Widget providers in his region. Now I often get enquiries from other countries, mostly "price fishers" in Asia, to which I usually respond by telling them they can get the work done far cheaper in their own country. On this occasion I asked the guy if there was any particular reason why he wanted a UK designer. He said that he had came across my site and that, "He liked my style".

    I told him that we would have to iron out a few things before proceeding but based on the information he had provided it would probably cost him about 1500 to 2000 ($3000 to $4000 Canadian). This morning I got a terse email from him saying that this was much higher than the sample prices quoted on my site (not true). I don't know what he was expecting but I am glad that he won't be back.

    What you MUST do

    I think the most important thing that you must do when pricing work is to clearly define the specification for the client's site and also your terms and conditions. It is better taking an hour or two to do this up front as it can save a day or two later on. I always make it clear to my clients that the site I am providing is detailed in the specification with which they are provided and that any additional work will be billable. (In practice I often waive this but I like to keep myself covered). I also tell them that sending me an advance cheque indicates that they agree to these t and c's.

    markd




    msg:779604
     8:26 am on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    The other cracker is the 'loose brief', which prevents a detailed proposal from being submitted, followed up by 'you didn't get the project because there were too many 'conditions' :)

    Had a good one the other day:

    A 'marketing consultant' who had just started her own business phoned up to ask 'how much' a web site would cost.

    I said it depended on what was contained on it, and would be happy to meet to discuss her own specific requirements and offer some ideas.

    She said that she wanted an idea of cost before she met us.

    As the conversation progressed, and she continually interrupted me before I had finished a sentence, I thought I spotted 'An Apprentice' version of a 'marketing consultant'.

    She asked how much a site we had produced had cost for another client. I replied that I couldn't discuss the cost of another clients' project with her in detail at this stage of her enquiry (and would offer her the same level of confidentiality) and suggested we meet for a brainstorm, or she put some of her ideas on an email to give us something to go on. She used the old chestnut of 'other companies had been able to give her a price straight away'.

    She perisisted in wanting a cost, saying that she had just started her business and need some figures. Finally, (and stupidly on my part) I gave her a very ballpark figure for the site she had seen - actually underestimating on the real figure.

    She then exclaimed 'I wouldn't have thought THAT site would have cost that much'!

    Nearing the end of my patience, I asked how many years experience she had in costing web projects and she replied 'none at all - I am a Marketing Consultant'!

    Finally, I said that I had over 10 years in producing online projects and were confident that our pricing structure was reasonable for the quality of work and service provided, and if she were after a '500.00 for 20 pages' service we may not be the right company for her.

    I also explained that when I graduated with a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing in 2000, a big part of the qualification was managing and budgeting for communications - including online projects. I also said that, as a Marketing Consultant herself, I was sure she would also want to work with a client to determine the extent of work involved in the project (particularly when somebody had just phoned out of the blue) before she gave a costing. Working in this way ensures that all costs are accurate and there isn't the need to overestimate to cover all eventualities, or underestimate and have to revise a price whilst the project in underway.

    I thanked her for her enquiry and suggested she send an email with her thoughts for her web site - again saying I would be happy to work with her to scope out some ideas.

    Funnily enough, the email never arrived....:)

    andye




    msg:779605
     12:14 pm on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I am not a vendor. Perhaps that is where you are going wrong. I do not vend products, I sell a professional service. Save your customer vendor relations techniques to use buying fish at the market.

    Try a search for 'ibm vendor', 'accenture vendor' or 'oracle vendor' - it's not a term that the big professional service firms think is demeaning, or an insult to their professional pride.

    One or more of the responders seem like "nightmare vendors" to me

    Amen.

    a.

    bunltd




    msg:779606
     3:33 pm on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I have learned and am still learning about this subject. It's a hard part of running a business.

    The Great Unprepared

    A few weeks ago one of the "I don't have much money" flavor of client called me. He couldn't answer the most basic of questions, and began insisting on a meeting and a price before we even spoke for 5 minutes. You know, the "we should get together and talk about my project" which will be the next Amazon/Ebay/Monster...

    I explained that I can't provide a quote without knowing more about his requirements for the site. It was to be an e-commerce site and he couldn't even tell me how many products he'd like to include initially or even if he could obtain a list of said products in some digital format like a spreadsheet or database.

    I suggested that we shouldn't meet until he outlined some of the basic items about his site and provided him a list of simple questions for him to consider and return to me. He called 15 minutes after we got off the phone to see if I'd sent it. (I sent it shortly thereafter) Can you guess the result? Bingo - I've never heard back from this fellow, even after following up.

    I'm sorry, but if you can't be bothered to answer basic questions about your business, marketing plans, give an idea of what you want your website to do, you are unprepared, I won't schedule a meeting for what will probably amount to a free brain picking session for you and a wasted afternoon and no business for me.

    Masters of Scope Creep

    Another thing to watch out for is scope creep. We had a client, who upon being billed for the remainder of the project plus the additional items/changes/features that were outside the scope of work (and were documented and they agreed that they were outside the scope)- promptly moved stole the site, and are now working with another company - and they haven't paid us. Funny how they did this after receiving invoices. Yes, we're considering legal action.

    Unrealistic Expectations

    Check out the client's expectations. If they are of the "build it they will come" variety, you will have to educate them to the reality of marketing on the web today. It isn't a magic lead/sale generating machine, you can't just throw a site up and see instant riches, it takes more work than that, and it will also take some $$ in addition to the development/design costs of the site. If they can't understand that, you have your work cut out for you, and it probably won't be pleasant.

    (with 10 years in this business, I've seen a few things, but I don't want to give the impression that all clients are of the nightmare variety, they're not!)

    What questions do you ask prospective clients?

    LisaB

    gpilling




    msg:779607
     4:24 pm on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I have spent a lot of my working life in sales - and the best thing I ever learned how to do was to walk away from a deal. If you don't like the terms, then don't do it. Another deal will come along.

    From the other perspective, as a person who has tried to hire "professionals", it is amazing to me what is considered service. I am still waiting for a network/server guy to come back to my office. He was there on March 7, and said he would be back the next day. Still haven't seen him.

    Of course, he was a guy that told me it would take 8 hours to upload a Frontpage website (at $65 per hour). Note that this is a quote for uploading only, the site in question was already built. I decided against that, and uploaded it myself in half an hour. Makes me wonder how foolish he thinks his customers are. Needless to say, I am not pursuing his services any more.

    So I guess I am saying I can see both sides of this thread - and I WISH there was a greater percentage of professionals in the business. I just can't seem to find them I guess.

    Draconian




    msg:779608
     6:02 pm on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Vendor

    noun: someone who promotes or exchanges goods or services for money...

    I am not a vendor. Perhaps that is where you are going wrong. I do not vend products, I sell a professional service.

    Automan Empire




    msg:779609
     8:54 pm on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I am not a vendor.

    I totally understand the distinction being made here. An analogy: Do you think Wolfgang Puck is just a cook? If yes, how much of his time would you waste asking him to whip up a 99 cent cheeseburger like the cook around the corner will? I sell a high end service and bristle at those who casually equate me with the commodity-peddlers of the world, too.

    I have plenty of experience at both sides of the client/service provider relationship, and both sides have their horror stories in equal number. People who are mostly one or the other are most likely to be offended that the other side does not have them on a pedestal regardless of their behavior. Maybe there should be a companion thread of Vendor nightmare stories; that way clients can share nightmare tales without having their bubble burst as to how exasperated vendors see them, and vice-versa.
    I am thinking of an industry forum where threads like "Let's all complain about annoying customers" quickly grow over 100 posts and new ones get started, but "Let's all praise great customers" threads are dead and buried with 5 replies. That is just human nature, BUT I should add that the customers have NO WAY to see these threads! (I hope! :) )
    Cheers,
    -Automan

    joeking




    msg:779610
     10:24 pm on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I often walk away from business (and money) if I get bad vibes from a client. People are amazed I do it, but it's nice to know I'm in good company reading this thread :-)

    Here's a story from last week. New client wants photos added to website, but instead of emailing them to me he wants to post them to me on a CD.

    Next day I get an email - why aren't my photos on the website?

    Er, one because they haven't arrived and two even if they had who said I would drop everything to put them on the moment they did?

    Next day another email - why aren't my photos on the website?

    Er, same reasons as yesterday.

    Photos still haven't arrived, but I know he is going to want them changed after a few days, will want them bigger, etc. etc.,

    Customers eh? Who needs them ;-)

    joeking




    msg:779611
     10:34 pm on Jun 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Oh yes, another warning sign . .

    We're a charity / school / student / good cause, will you work for nothing so that we can get a good price out of you?

    old_expat




    msg:779612
     3:24 am on Jun 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Oh yes, another warning sign . .

    We're a charity / school / student / good cause, will you work for nothing so that we can get a good price out of you?

    So you don't believe in charity or good causes? What's such a nightmare about simply saying, "Sorry, we don't have the time at present."

    I'm not really a designer but I make free pages for the local business on one of my personal/hobby site. It's amazing what a nice feeling you can get when someone tells you they got some business from that web page.

    Apparently, you are interested only in $$$.:(

    martinibuster




    msg:779613
     4:27 am on Jun 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

    >>>If you can produce something that's limited in scope, but will still move your client from here to there, then you may have found a middle way to please them while not reducing your rates.

    but then you're playing into their hands why do half a job?

    Not half a job. I'm talking about search related consultations, not web design.

    Some clients only need to know how to get from here to there, and for that all they need is someone to go over their site and tell them what's wrong. Doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, and it doesn't have to take a ton of my time, either. Win-win.

    Link development is a whole different matter. But even there I'm discovering ways of doing things that brings the cost down to reasonable levels- without creating unreasonable demands on my hourly rates- win-win. It's called being efficient.

    Generally, there's a third way of doing things, it doesn't always have to be your way or the highway.

    decaff




    msg:779614
     6:50 am on Jun 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Great topic here...the layers involved are actually more suptle then just a simple binary reaction to someone..

    I was very fortunate to meet a certain client back in May 2003...very sophisticated business person who had translated his deep sales and targeted demographic knowledge into a very dynamic web business / brick and mortar (yes..he actually had a physical location that supported his multiple web sites for dialoguing with the targeted audience, building trust, taking orders, dealing with customer issues...sales...etc..etc..)...

    Anyways...the short of it is...when I met him he had just lost his primary programmer to a serious stroke...(and this programmer did some wonderful technical translating of this individuals business concepts into 4 wonderful sites..)

    He and I met on the phone and hit it off...and I really did sympathize with his situation..
    He decided to hire me and I took on a multi-task type roll to help him move his business forward...(but my main roll was the SEO / Internet Marketing side..)..and I kept him at the top of the SERPs for 3 years strong in a very competitive niche sector...this drove 80% of his monthly revenue...

    Anyways...this was the best working relationship I have had to date and lasted for a full 3 years...(just came to an end this June 26th when he sold the web / brick and mortar business to one of his long time employees and his partner)...well let me back up...I am not sure it has ended yet...just haven't heard from the new owner - who I interacted with many times on the phone - .... and I may still be onboard...BUT...the gentleman who hired me back in June of 2003 is no longer involved...and has moved on the other life processes and business endeavors...though I hope to do some other business venture with him in the future...)

    You see...He and I never actually met in person...this wonderful relationship lasted for 3 full years...and has been at the core of my business process... (time for some "disruption" ... it's a good thing actually)...

    I will miss this one very much indeed...(I will freely admit it...I sat down and had a good cry when the call came)

    The key to this one is that we were totally honest with each other from the get go...and kept it that way all along...

    BeeDeeDubbleU




    msg:779615
     7:30 am on Jun 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I spent some time on an enquiry from a guy in London last week who wanted a five page website to advertise his part-time widget hire business. I talked him through the whole process, enlightened him about SEO, sent him complimentary information and offered to do his site for 500.

    I got an email from him yesterday saying that he had decided to let his daughters design the site for him. I had a look at it and it looks like a nursery school project. Worse still, it has no meta tags, page titles or SEO of any description. The guy's business is hiring a highly expensive widget that is associated with class and money and his website looks like ****!

    My problem is that on this occasion I did not see the warning signs. :(

    BeeDeeDubbleU




    msg:779616
     3:03 pm on Jun 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I just got another "likely" prospect and my response was ...

    Hi XXXX,

    Thank you for your enquiry but it's not the sort of stuff that I do.

    Best of luck!

    Beedeedubbleu

    It's really quite easy :)

    Lobo




    msg:779617
     4:13 pm on Jun 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

    As an example here is an email I received a couple of days ago..

    <edit>email was a bunch of vague criteria, filled with maybes

    I replied that we should meet up and get a better idea on the scope of the project...

    How else can I evaluate a cost.. No one would buy a car with out knowing what make/model it is, what extras come with it etc ...

    The hardest problem in many cases like this where the client is either unsure or has no idea of the process or their site is an after thought etc ..

    Is enlightening them, personally I give what I truely believe is the best advice for their particular business, I take the time to get to know them and their business and advise on the best options before starting..

    Yet the reaction can be more like they are listening to a used car salesman, because they do not know the process or what is involved, I find people automatically become wary of things they do not understand.. and think because they are in the dark they must be getting ripped off..

    I'm still waiting for a reply after 2 emails and 2 phone calls to answer machine..

    [edited by: jatar_k at 4:38 pm (utc) on June 28, 2006]
    [edit reason] no email excerpts thanks [/edit]

    rocknbil




    msg:779618
     8:16 pm on Jun 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I got an email from him yesterday saying that he had decided to let his daughters design the site for him. I had a look at it and it looks like a nursery school project...

    Ack, these are most disturbing of all . . . worst part being the mother/father instinct kicks in and there's nothing you can say, their baby's magnum opus is gold . . . .

    angy




    msg:779619
     11:47 pm on Jun 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

    My favourite problem-client red flag is: "... give me your best price on this and I will give you ongoing work."

    Always reminds me of Lewis Carroll's "The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday - but never jam today."

    iamlost




    msg:779620
     4:05 am on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Nice topic mcjohnson - reading these posts has brought back lots of memories: good and bad, happy and sad.

    Work on smaller sites often equals ignorant customers who cost as much in 'free' time determining requirements as are billed in 'work' time. Sometimes those 'free' requirements are simply taken with barely a thank you and someone else gets the billable time. Ignorance is not confined to small sites but the large ones rarely expect freebies. And everyone tries scope creep; a basic human behaviour: testing limits.

    After getting stung twice this way I changed my labour policy to 'I will be happy to quote from your RFQ'; No RFQ, just vague ideas; 'I am happy to work with you to develop an RFQ for $n allowing you to get competing bids to compare with mine.' An RFQ is unnecessary or should be free; 'I have a minimum professional charge of $n and only work with a signed contract.' I can provide future <something> for a deal today; 'We can certainly include that future <something> as part of this contract proposal. Shall I also add its RFQ cost or will you be providing it?' Almost all the little problems went away. And the big ones paid for themselves.

    That brought me to the happy conclusion that most problem customers were easily filtered:
    * polite but immediate notice of a professional providing a valuable service.
    * no 'free' advice prior to a signed contract.
    * no work except as specified by signed contract.
    * no work that has not been fully prepaid.
    The 'problem' client rarely darkened my day past the 10-minutes it took to see I was serious. They fired themselves. And spread the word. Very gratifying.

    BeeDeeDubbleU




    msg:779621
     8:11 am on Jun 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

    My favourite problem-client red flag is: "... give me your best price on this and I will give you ongoing work."

    Oh so true! I believe that the people who use this approach do so because they know only those who are inexperienced in business will fall for it.

    old_expat




    msg:779622
     2:00 am on Jul 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Back in my old brick and mortar, low-tech, small jobshop manufacturing days I heard about a company I will call Acme. All their potential vendors made fun of them.

    -They wouldn't pay their bills.
    -Their buyers were idiots and con men.
    -They wanted everything "right now".
    -They often wanted extra work done off the purchase order.
    -They would cancel orders after the parts had been started and fought any cancellation charges.
    -Their engineers wanted free prototype modifications.
    -The entire group would invite a vendor for a Friday night cocktail hour and leave him with a $500 bar tab.

    I needed work and fell for their "hustle".

    To make a long story short, over the next 2 years I made TONS of $$$ off them.

    Turning problems into opportunities and opportunities into profits is what optimistic business people do.

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