Nightmare clients: 4 tips for dealing with unappreciative clients

Clients From Hell author Bryce Bladon offers pro advice for coping with a 'bad date' scenario.

Chances are you've encountered a crappy client situation at some point in your creative career. We've certainly been recording them on the Clients From Hell blog for the last five years...

Over the last week or so, we've looked at some of the most common nightmare client scenarios on Creative Bloq – from how to deal with clients with poor communication skills to clients that don't pay. Today we're focusing on unappreciative clients.

Like a bad date, these are the clients that are hasty on the foreplay, skipping the relationship to jump straight in with demands. Read on for the most practical and least violent advice for resolving this type of client situation...

Nightmare client situation: hasty foreplay

My client is rushing the project, demanding more for less, and not appreciating all the time and effort I've put in.

Client: Desperately need to meet ASAP regarding a new deadline!
Me: I can meet you tomorrow afternoon, Thursday morning, or Friday around lunchtime.
Client: I can't do this week. Or next. I'll let you know.

Clients who put you in a situation like this are a lot like a bad date. Rather than taking the time to ease you into a working relationship, they're hasty with the foreplay.

Cheap, ungrateful and completely oblivious to their own shortcomings, this type of client tends to think you should just be thankful for the opportunity of a job.

Me: Based on everything we've talked about, I estimate this will run to about €850.
Client: Great! But I'll have to pay in US Dollars.

Me: No problem. That should come out to roughly $1,160.
Client: What? No, I'll pay you $850.

Me: Well, no, that's not the price I estimated. I mean, we can lower the cost by removing some options but...
Client: What are you talking about? That's the same price, just different money.

So how should you best deal with unappreciative clients? Here are four top tips for turning the situation around...

01. Communicate your needs

If you find yourself on a bad date, there's a solution that doesn't involve flipping the table or choking on the metaphorical bread. The key is to communicate needs – both yours and your client's – as soon as you sit down.

This means being clear about the schedule, the milestones and the nature of your work process. All these points should be reflected in your eventual brief and contract.

02. Outline all eventualities

Sometimes, a shift in the deadline or a tweak in the deliverables is unavoidable. If you're smart, you'll outline what to do in these scenarios via your contract.

If you didn't take this precaution, know that you're responsible for everything that you promised and agreed to prior to starting work.

03. Be very clear

Don't talk down to your client, but do your best to make them understand what goes into your work. There are no substitutes for time and talent, and it can help to educate clients on this fact. After all, you can't bake a cake faster by turning up the heat.

04. Know when to charge more

If a client insists that work has to be done sooner or more needs to be done, insist you're paid for your time. You should be treated like the professional you are.

It's not rude or cheeky to charge more for more work; just make sure you communicate to your client that you'll have to charge extra prior to starting any additional work. If the client thinks it isn't worth the money, then the extra time was never necessary to begin with.

Words: Bryce Bladon
Illustration: Yukai Du

The full version of this article first appeared in Computer Arts issue 233, a special issue (with a photochromatic cover) revealing the UK's top 30 studios, plus how to craft the perfect folio and make more money as a student...