ONE of the things I love most about running a business is that I can choose who I work with.
My favourite clients are people who are upbeat and positive, with a “can do” attitude.
I find whingers, moaners and complainers draining. You can spend an hour encouraging, enthusing and inspiring them, yet you can guarantee they will be back on the phone within a week right back where they started.
You will probably have a good intuition for the type of person you work with best.
But occasionally, the odd nightmare client will slip through the net, such as someone who started out charming but starts being a nuisance and making unreasonable demands on your time.
Here are some tips for making sure that you remain in charge:
1. Trust your intuition
Sometimes you just have a hunch that a client is going to be a pain. You cannot put into words why. You just have a sixth sense about it. Trust these feelings and act on them.
2. Nip problems in the bud
If a client is a nuisance from the outset — say, complaining about your quote or prices — the simplest thing to do is send him a brief letter stating that you are returning his cheque (or whatever he may have given you) so that he can explore other options elsewhere.
3. Set your boundaries early on
I once had a famous Hollywood actor as a client and made the mistake of giving him my home phone number.
Early on in our working relationship, he called me on a weekend saying: “I just want five minutes of your time...”
I was a bit star-struck, so I was happy to help.
Ninety minutes later, I was still trying to get off the phone.
“Never mind,” I thought, “it’s just a one-off.”
But the same thing happened again a week later. I had made a mistake in not making my boundaries clear early on.
It took a third call for me to realise the situation was getting out of hand. I then politely reminded him that consultations were by appointment only during office hours — which he was happy to accept.
4. Increase your fees
One of my business friends has a policy of quoting 60 per cent more for clients he suspects will be trouble.
His thinking is that such clients are likely to take up more of his time, and he wants to be financially compensated for it.
Personally, I do not think any amount of money makes up for the headache of a nuisance client, but if you are more tolerant, this may be an option for you.
5. Make sure your actions are consistent
If you have to end a working relationship with a client, be firm but polite.
Give a refund, if appropriate. At the same time, make sure you remove him from all your databases.
The last thing you want is to keep sending him sales letters, mail-outs and auto-responders.
He is unlikely to want further communication with you, and you certainly do not want him coming back for further services.
All clients are different, so it is important to weigh up your priorities. Decide what you are prepared to tolerate and what you are prepared to let go. Nuisance clients can take their toll on your time and your health.
The important thing to remember is that you do not have to put up with them. It is one of the great perks of having a business.