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In a perfect world, you’d only work with the clients that make you feel good, inspired, reassured and confident. Trouble is, that all those things are what friends do for you, not clients. Clients are a whole other beast.

When a client goes rogue it can be hard to manage the relationship. But what if you’re the problem? (Photo: Canva)

When you start a business or start a new job, chances are that you’ll be facing customers or clients at some point. Unless you’re hiding in a giant corporation or government department, clients, customers, guests, whatever you call them in your world, are part of the game. And not every client is going to be in the business of making you feel good about yourself. In fact, no client is hanging around to do that. That doesn’t mean that every client is a nasty piece of work. But you’re going to come across a difficult one here and there. 

Is the client the problem? Or are you?

Probably the most common complaint that comes from clients is a lack of communication or poor communication from a business. Especially those that they contract to perform a service. And even more so with a service that the client doesn’t really understand very well. This has certainly been the case in my world.

There have been times, even recently, that I was overwhelmed with work and didn’t keep in tight communication with my client. Which made them feel forgotten and a little ripped off. And rightly so. This client got quite aggressive. Which made me not want to communicate with her. Which exacerbated her aggression. Which caused the problem to deepen. And naturally, I lost that client. For all the clients I’ve worked with over the many years that I’ve done what I do, even I don’t get it quite right sometimes. In this case, I was the problem. The client amplified the problem. I amplified it even further. Then it became unsalvageable.

Sometimes you need to be honest with yourself about what the problem was. An aggressive client, or an uncommunicative contractor. 

The client who likes to push the scope 

Having a tight quote, a well-written scope of work and a very strong brief from a client is worth its weight in gold. That’s because there’s always a client who can’t help but ask for more and more stuff that you never agreed to provide.

“Oh it’s just a quick thing to do isn’t it?” Those are the words of a client who has never worked on what you work on in their life and has no idea how one “little change” can derail a whole project. And how much extra time is required to do those “teeny-tiny adjustments” to the scope. 

Once a scope is signed off and the quote accepted, that is the end of the changes. Unless the client is willing to sign off on a new scope and a new quote. That’s because you shouldn’t be delivering stuff for free to clients. You are not their family. You are not their friend. You are not a charity. You need to be able to plan your projects out so that you can deliver a service and make enough money to reach your goals.

A client who continually makes changes to the scope or wants extra stuff outside of the agreed quote is a client who doesn’t respect you, your time or your business. Nip it in the bud early. Never give away free work even for a “tiny little change.” After all, they never stay “tiny.” 

Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter and a digital coach, advisor and trainer in regional Australia.