Remember when we first started out in business, we were all energetic and our desire to get clients so overpowering –we wanted to help everyone.

Then as time went on and we had engaged a few clients that were quite time consuming and not appreciative of what we do for them. They began to wear us down in terms of energy and desire to go that extra mile. We may avoid their calls and not give them 100% of ourselves. Why would we when we don’t get the responses we need from them?

I was guilty of this too.

And then they refused to pay us.

So we did all this work, tried to keep them happy for as long as we could. Often went that extra mile to make things right (because we often blamed ourselves for their behaviour). Wrote off many hours because there was no way we could have charged them the hours we spent on their work. Worked without invoicing them regular invoices and then they didn’t pay us.

So the way I see it we have two choices:

  1. Continue to work like this with those ‘crappy’ clients OR
  2. Change the way you work

Here are a few suggestions that might help you change the way you work with these clients

Number one, which is very crucial, is communication. 

Let them know from the start of you recognising they could be a problematic client how you will work with them.

  • Advise them time spent on their work will be charged
  • If in fixed fee get them to sign a disclaimer to understand the scope included in this fee and outside work will be charged
  • You need certain paperwork etc in this format and by when before you can start their work
  • If they push back on legislative matters push right back (this is non-negotiable)
  • Communicate everything by email (even confirm phone conversations by email)
  • Invoice regularly and get onto a direct debit agreement

Number two, is consciously remove yourself from the stress they are creating.

  • Do not be as available 
  • Do not engage with them. Let their calls go to message bank –it is ok to call them back tomorrow (often they have fixed their own issues by then)
  • Do not continue a conversation you do not need to be involved in
  • Remember you have other clients that are not ‘crappy’ and spend your time & energy on these clients

Number three, replace these clients as soon as practical.

  • If your mind & energy is with these ‘crappy’ clients, you won’t have the space to find new clients
  • Put their prices up (‘crappy’ client tax or loading)
  • Be on the look out for new clients to replace them
  • If the situation is really bad get rid of them immediately (your business and health is much more important than the dollars you are reimbursed to feel this way)

Number four, identify the traits of a ‘crappy client’

  • Develop a system to rate your clients 
  • Work your way through your clients with this rating system and either improve them or move them on

Running a business is so much more than bookkeeping for wonderful clients. It is time to pull up your big girl/boy pants and make some tough decisions for the development of your healthy business – because you deserve it.