[accent]While it’s always our goal to match our talent with the easiest, breeziest assignments, there are times when tougher personalities come into play. Whenever you and your client are not seeing eye to eye, your objective should always be to try to find a way to make your business relationship work.
Often, if you can identify what it is that’s making a client difficult, you can figure out what steps you can take to improve the situation. You’re not going to change your client, but you can try to build a productive way to get your assignments completed with as little friction as possible.
Here are some tips on how you can best handle your next difficult client.[/accent]
Is Your Client New To The Process?
If so, your client may really just be seeking reassurance. They’ve hired you for a reason, they need your skills and knowledge, so part of your job is to stay calm and let them know that the project will get done, and it will get done right. Be clear about how your process works, because they really may not know.
Does Your Client Think They Can Do The Job Better?
Some clients may feel like they know better. The key is to respect their opinions, agree on little things where you can and they’ll start to think you’re reasonable enough to listen to your expertise. And keep in mind, they need you to help them get the project done. Despite what they may say or imply, they can’t do it on their own.
Is Your Client Just Plain Stubborn?
If so, they’d be the last to admit it. But the way to talk them back to reality is to get them to focus on the end customer, the intended audience for whatever project it is you’re working on. Ask for hard data on the customer and their needs, since it’s those that must be addressed first and foremost.
Is Your Client Rude And Obnoxious?
There’s no way around it, this is a tough situation. If you can tune out the garbage and focus on the work, good for you! But if you’re having a hard time turning the other cheek, it’s important to stop, breathe and remember the problem isn’t you, it’s them. Also remember that it’s your reputation on the line, so stay professional, don’t descend to their level and don’t burn bridges. Take the high road whenever possible, no matter how hard it may be in the moment and focus on completing the assignment. When they see your great final product, and the fact that you didn’t respond to their negativity, hopefully their attitude will change on any future work. Or maybe you’ll be “unavailable” when that time comes.
Did You Make The Client Difficult?
No one likes to admit it, but at least consider the possibility that you may have inadvertently triggered your client’s bad behavior. Make sure you know what their expectations are and that you can meet or exceed them. If everyone gets to the job by 9am, don’t roll in at 10. If everyone dresses up a little, so should you. If there’s an internal pecking order in the org chart, observe it. Don’t keep your client in the dark about anything, make sure you’re being transparent every step of the way. If, after several rounds, your client is still insisting on a certain look or phrase or concept, do your best to provide it, it’s clearly something they feel is important.
You can start to see the pattern here, there are generally human reasons behind every difficult client’s bluster. If you’ve ever worked on the client side of the table, you know it’s not the easiest job. There may be all kinds of business pressures from above and beyond that creatives aren’t always privy to. And while good clients know how to master the uncertainties, ambiguities and contradictions in order to get things done, difficult clients often need help. And ultimately, that’s what you’re there to provide.