Working With Demanding Clients

You’ve just arrived at your hotel on a long-awaited vacation, and an email message from a client shows up in your inbox. He’s working this weekend and wants to brainstorm about a project. You know it isn’t particularly urgent and wonder if he remembers the three conversations where you mentioned you’d be traveling with your family this week. Your mate is already giving you the look that means: You’re not going to ruin our vacation by taking business phone calls, are you?

What do you do?

It depends. With your typical corporate or small business client, you could simply write back saying that you’re traveling this week and would be happy to call them at 9 am the first morning you’re back in the office, or even on the Sunday before, if that’s better.

But that might not work if your client is a very high-profile celebrity or executive who expects white glove treatment and pays you a premium to provide it–when he wants it. If you hope to keep the account, your message might have to be something like: I am sorry. I am about to get on a charter boat where there won’t be much phone connectivity. I’ll be back around 5 pm. Could we talk at 5:30 or first thing tomorrow morning?

In “High-Profile Clients: Worth the Hand-Holding?” for the AARP’s Life Reimagined site, we talk with self-employed professionals who work with elite clients frequently to get their advice on how to handle situations like this. I loved their creative solutions to the sometimes unreasonable demands these clients can make.



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