I love my current clients – this isn’t about them. But in the past, mainly when I was a freelance journalist, I have had to deal with a few clients that were very difficult. They went from profit to pain.
Bad client behaviour
- Asking for more work without paying more
- Paying very late
- Insisting on changes even when I had strongly recommended against them
- Being uncommunicative or hard to reach
- Epic delays in giving feedback
- Feedback that was difficult to implement or (sometimes) understand
- Insist on impossible deadlines, even while delaying their own part in the process until the last possible moment
- Getting me involved in their office politics
What to do?
Usually, bad clients and bad projects involve a combination of these problems. They cause me a lot of stress.
Over the years, I compiled 40 Essential rules for stress-free client management but the ability to walk away is very valuable.
In a couple of cases, I’ve walked away from clients or projects, even at the risk of a big cut in my income, because the profit : pain ratio was too bad. I made these decisions based on emotion – the pain side of the equation – and I only came up with the idea of this ratio the other day.
Certainly, I can tolerate a lot more stress and inconvenience when I’m being well paid. I’ve heard this described as an ‘arsehole premium’. Ultimately, though, even the best-paid projects become too much if they affect your personal life or threaten your professional integrity.
The profit : pain ratio gives me a way to think about these situations in a more rational and less emotional way. What are your red lines? How much pain will you accept before you walk away from a project? What do you do when clients don’t treat you right? What’s your profit : pain ratio?