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over 8 years ago from Tevi Hirschhorn, UX Designer
I once had a client that was under the impression that he owned 100% of my time because he was paying me. We talked schedules several times before he emailed me with a request and then seven minutes later an email asking where the update was. After I explained it would take some time, he demanded the work be completed right then. At that time I told him that I would complete the work but it will be the last thing I do for him.
It is totally OK to drop bad clients and people should. Bad/mean/demeaning clients take up time dealing with their bad-ness, and that isn't time you need to waste.
Thanks for the low-down. Have you ever seen an agency truly fire a client?
I currently work at an agency and we actually fired a client a couple months ago.
It got to the point where the client would spontaneously show up at our office and wanted to sit with us while we did the design to direct it.
Needless to say, it never got to this point.
Yes, I have.
It took a few months of planning and finding clients to replace them (they made up a large percentage of the bottom line), but it does happen.
We fired a massive client based in NYC because they approved design and about halfway through development came back and asked us with screen shots to update the site to look like another site. We told them we could do design updates on the condition that we would: 1. Not "make it look like" the other site (heavy gradients and ugly colors) & 2. That it's a change after approval and would cost them.
They pushed back on both those things and withheld a scheduled payment so we called them to resolve - which did not end well. We ended up informing them that per our contract we would be stopping all work, downloading all their files to a thumb drive and invoicing them for our project termination fee + the scheduled payment and would mail the thumb drive once payment was remitted.
They ended up paying and apologizing for the whole fiasco.
All good points. I think that's why it's important to always evaluate what the project really is to you. If it's a money project, you just gotta check your opinions at the door sometimes and look at that project as exactly what it is - revenue. If you can't stomach that.. learn to quickly or don't take the gig. Sometimes you have to remember... a month on a project you hate might help keep the lights on the next month you're working on something personal.
I have moved on from clients before, but the couple times I have... I handled it as professionally as possible. Usually there is a reasonable reason to part ways (in one case, they could never stick to a plan... turning a quick project into a long, drawn-out affair... which was never part of the initial agreement). In those cases, I went out of my way to find other contractors to help them continue on.
Even as a FT contractor (or PT one too), everything boils down to communication... and setting up an agreement before work is even started. Discuss time expectations, your general working hours and style, etc. Outline and detail the project itself and what's expected. If you do these things in the initial call/meeting and represent yourself accurately, you'll rarely have a client issue.
These days I simply ask what they need and I tell them how I generally work, how I communicate and keep them up to date, how long it will take me and how much I'm gonna cost. If they don't like ANY of it, I'm out... before it even started.
The key is being honest with what you really can deliver on. I've learned long ago over-promising a delivery is a disaster. When you're honest and push back (even when they tell you something is needed by X)... they almost always back down when you tell them it's Y or you can't touch it.
There will be some clients that take your ideas and opinions as gospel... and others that simply need execution. Just be aware of the need - and your role in it from the start - and then rock it.
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Walking away is always an option for bad clients, if you don't mind going hungry for a day or two or possibly sleeping on a bench outside.
I hear a lot of designers talk about dropping bad clients, but does anyone actually do it? (Not trying to start a flame war, honestly interested to know). For example, I work for an agency, and I actually do have a hand in choosing clients, but when clients go bad I have zero say in getting rid of the client and would probably say that's the situation the majority of designers find themselves in.
If I worked as a contractor and wasn't independently wealthy (because I'm not), mostly likely I wouldn't be able to fire any client at will because the cash flow would be necessary to survive. I would guess that's the situation most contracting designers also find themselves in.