home » blog

Monthly Archives

Five Signs a Client May Be Driving Your Project Down the Toilet

Designers and other creatives are often stereotyped as lazy slackers with diva attitudes .There's a new commercial (for Intuit's build-your-own-website service) that shows one dissatisfied customer saying, "I hired a designer to build my website... five months ago..." with a been-there-I-can-relate overtone. Strangely, though, it's been my experience that many times, clients have a hard time doing their part to finish the project. I don't know if it's a mental block, laziness, or lack of real need to complete the work (underlying satisfaction/familiarity with the status quo), but it's clear that some clients are driven to complete a project with momentum while others start off strong and fizzle.

Here are five signs that a client may be an intentional or accidental saboteur to project progress:

1. Negotiating price before job specifications are clear. Clients who do this are most likely to bail on a project because of "dissatisfaction" after they find that you won't expand the project parameters to entail every marketing material they think of or give them limitless rein to be whimsical or fickle. In my experience, people who aggressively attempt to lock in pricing before being clear about what they want are setting up a scenario wherein get a "bargain" by getting extra work from you.

2. Expanding job parameters after price is set. Just as difficult are clients who want to add on tasks after the job has been contracted. (If I had a dime for every time this happened...) Sometimes this is necessary and good-intentioned, and sometimes it is deliberate by another bargain-shopper; in either case, the best way to handle it is to stop, re-assess, and submit an adjusted quote and contract. If the buyer balks, walk.

3. Using a fake name, email address, or other information. I am honestly shocked by how many people seek service providers and conduct their correspondence with aliases and vague or misleading personal and professional details. More shocking, perhaps, is the fact that most of them don't know how to truly mask their actual identities. When you encounter this, tread softly; some people are genuinely concerned with privacy, but sometimes, they're people who just don't want to be reachable when they decide they don't feel like paying or want to disappear after you've supplied concepts or the bulk of work.

4. Being non-communicative or otherwise stalling the process. Most clients request work on an "as soon as possible!" schedule, but few are reciprocally as responsive. From long delays between responses to slow disclosure of proprietary information, a client's inability to keep the momentum going can paint their overall experience in a dull color. Weeks into a project, they may not remember the details but may have an overall feeling that things were a lot slower than they'd hoped for. To prevent this and defend yourself, always keep a record of the work, and document your requests for contributions in email (for instance, in a summary email after a conference call).

5. Providing vague or conflicting feedback. Sometimes, a client doesn't really know what he wants, but the service provider can't always know this upfront. It may be after hearing "I don't know, I just don't like it, but I don't know why" or "Can we go back to the other version?" for the fifteenth time that you'll know you're dealing with such a client. Usually, this is well-intended, but sometimes people are just like that. Either way, save all versions of files, keep notes, and learn how to gently kid your client to prod them into being decisive.