One of the reasons people leave the corporate world is to escape bad bosses. The kind who drop voluminous amounts of deadline work on your desk right before they leave for a nice evening at home with their families. The kind who call you at home, apologize profusely and then do the same thing again the next day. The kind who act like giving you a raise is doing you a favor.
Strangely enough, it’s harder to recognize a bad client than a bad boss. Once you become a freelancer, you tend to see each client in terms of the amount he or she is adding to your bottom line. Instead of a client’s way of treating you, you see the positive dollars flowing into your bank.
We’ve been lucky: The vast majority of our clients have been wonderful. But we’ve also realized that there does come a time when it’s time to say sayonara to a draining client. Aside from the fact that the client may be wrecking that lifestyle you wanted, he or she may be keeping you from finding better clients–who will pay you more and treat you better. Here’s a little quiz on the 12 signs of a bad client–and if you find yourself scoring high, here’s our post on how many clients you need for a thriving freelance business.
Give five points for every time you answer yes.
1. Does the client pay your invoices late?
2. Is the client rude? For example, does he or she regularly send nasty emails, shout on the phone, and or behave in an overly demanding way? If you work on a team, does he or she treat you or other members in a very disrespectful way, in front of the entire group? (Even a great client may have an occasional lapse, so the key here is determining if bad behavior is the norm).
3. Has the client ever called between midnight and 7 a.m.?
4. Does the client call at times you’ve specifically said you are unavailable?
5. Have you ever found yourself worried about the client’s bad moods in situations such as these?
- Watching TV
- At a parent-teacher conference
- Out with friends
- Stealing that rare romantic moment with your significant other
6. When you sit down to calculate the hourly rate, does it comes up to be much lower than what you charge other clients?
7. Does your significant other dislike the client on your behalf?
8. Is your client a “tweaker” or a control freak whose interventions actually make your work worse—to the point that you do not want anyone in the marketplace to know that you work for this customer?
9. Does your client blame you for his or her own bad decisions–or his or her refusal to make decisions?
10. Has your client has asked you to do something you find unethical?
11. Does your client expect you to travel even when you’ve explained that it’s difficult for you?
12. Does your client fail to recognize that you have other clients?
If you scored more than 50, it’s time to remind yourself of why you went freelance in the first place. Prepare to have a discussion with the client or to end the relationship. You’re a businessman or businesswoman now. Have strategies in place to replace the revenue. But don’t put up with a client who’s wrecking your quality of life.
If you scored more than 30, there may be a chance you can save the business relationship, but it’s time to push back. Saying “No” to unreasonable requests may sour the relationship, but you remember: you were thinking of ditching the client, anyway.
If you scored under 30, take a deep breath and hold steady. But if you bothered taking this quiz, there’s a good chance there’s trouble in this relationship. So the wise word is: Don’t add more business from the client, even if he or she offers.
If you scored under 15, count yourself very, very lucky.