How to deal with high maintenance clients [post with podcast]

Learning how and when to say ‘No’ to potential or existing clients is a key to successful web design business. In the latest episode of the podcast “This is your Life,” Michael Hyatt  is covering in a great way how to identify and handle this type of client. I encourage you to listen to the entire episode, there is solid practical advice and concrete tips on dealing with difficult situations facing freelancers on daily basis. You can listen to the podcast from the browser (use the player below) or find it on iTunes. You may also visit the Micheals’ post about this podcast.

Dealing with High Maintenance Clients – “This Is Your Life” Podcast with Michael Hyatt


Highlights, summary of the podcast and analyze:

  • There are companies or individuals who can be describe as “high maintenance.” In most cases, it is, too time consuming and expensive, to educated them enough to change. In some cases, it is just impossible to change them for the better. Should you have a client like that, you would benefit to simply stop working with them.
  • Maintaining high maintenance clients slow down your business, and use resources which you can dedicate for your remaining clients.
  • Try to identify high maintenance clients from your current portfolio and politely cease the working relationship. Some polite reasons for ending the business relationship may be “My capacity does not allow me to serve your needs on a satisfactory level” or “My workload does not allow for this type of service in your time frame”.

Prevent stressful situations:

  • Create detailed proposals with clear goals and expectations.
  • Do not work with clients who constantly, aggressively negotiate pricing. There are always negotiations, but cutting corners on expenses or continuously attempting to negotiate pricing is a red flag.
  • When a client does not communicate adequate details during initial negotiations, you are risking project disaster.
  • Don’t promise things you cannot deliver, being honest pays off.
  • Check references!  Don’t be afraid to contact past business relationships of the potential client and inquire as to their business behaviors. You may save yourself time and money in the long run.

Some behaviors are rectifiable.

There are sometimes situations where the client seems to be high maintenance and their methods of communication may cause your business relationship to become unproductive. In some cases this can be easily rectified:

  • Client is sending emails too frequently? Ask for one email with all issues listed. Explain that it saves you time, allowing you to make changes faster and be more productive – subsequently, saving him money.
  • Calling you too frequently? Schedule a conference call for a given time and make it clear you have a limited time for the conversation.
  • Frequent meetings? Limit meetings by explaining that although you understand meeting face to face may help getting on the same page, in most cases this not necessary and you prefer keeping meetings to minimum.  Explain that if they insist on meeting more often, you will need to start charging for your time. Propose communicating by organized emails for a week to see if that works.  If the client continues to demand meetings and you feel like you are wasting your time, do not hesitate to stop working with the client.  They are more than likely a High Maintenance Clients.  In this day and age, email communication is a common source of communication, allowing you to keep archives for future reference, while working on the project according to your schedule.
  • Unnecessary talk during the call? Do not hesitate to stop a client who strays off the subject.  Perhaps “Mr. ABC, let’s stay focus on discussion about the project, so we can cover all details during the time we scheduled for this call” will help get this client back on track.

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