Ever had a bad apple client? Yep. Especially when one is just starting up a business, any client seems like a win. But wait! Before you hop into working with just anyone, listen up. Vetting clients is a two-way process. They may hire you but you are agreeing to work with them.Not all clients are right for your business. I have some advice that could save you lost time, headache, and money. In this episode #27 of Take Back Mondays Podcast, I'll go into tips how to avoid the bad seeds. If you enjoy it and want more business tips, please subscribe!
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I love my clients but not all are created equal. I made a few mistakes early on and worked with some bad apples. Let me warn you what kind of animal clients are roaming in the wild.
This is a story about one of my worst clients.
Let’s call him Bob.
Bob hired me as his business coach. He wanted help with his newly minted online business, especially on Linkedin to attract more clients. Although I was hired as his business coach, I ended up doing much more: I redid his Linkedin profile, wrote his copy, gave him free templates, scripts, and training, and even created brand graphics for him (what was I thinking?). Plus I did it all for a discount since at the time, I thought I should charge less to help more people. Generally, he seemed pleased until the end of each month, where he always would start acting negative and complaining that he wasn’t seeing more results to get paying clients.
My reaction was to scramble to help him even more. After all, the reputation of a coach is based on results, so I only want success stories. I couldn’t let Bob down!
The fact was that he wasn’t actually doing much work himself. In between our sessions and all the assets I developed for him free of charge, he was lazy. He was also flaky and would try to extend or pause services, which really set back any progress we’d make with his brand. How could he get new clients without consistency?
But the thing that finally pushed me to end our contract was this: After all I’d done for him, he never paid me on time. Month after month, he would ignore his invoice and when I’d mention it, he would say he would pay…but then didn’t for over a week overdue, despite me having already given him a below-market coaching rate!
This really stressed me out, especially when I thought he’d realize how much money I’d saved him by doing assets and copy for him, as well as giving him way more support than per contract. The last thing any business owner wants to do is to chase open invoices.
But his reaction was exactly the opposite: he was self-centered and arrogant about everything, and ended up saying I didn’t do enough for him! At first, I was angry at him, but then I reflected and took away the following lessons that I’d like to share with you:
1/ Charge higher rates for higher-quality clients
Bob wasn’t good enough for me, not the other way around. I write more about pricing strategy here that you may find helpful. Bottom line: skip the discounts! They only bring trouble by attracting wannabes (see below).
2/ Limit your services strictly to the contract
If you wish, you can design a price list for add-ons or additional time. In fact, I love brainstorming upsells! But as you’ll see from my story, when you try to deliver outside the scope, you get burned. Clients need to know what your services are worth.
3/ Enforce late payment fees
Mine now are 35$ per day and after 30 days I go to collections. I also recommend that all business owners who offer payment plans to use a good collections agency (Gravy is one to check out).
4/ Recognize performers from wannabes
There are top performers and there are wannabes. Learn to see the differences. Bob was clearly a wannabe. He secretly thought he didn’t have to put in the work because somehow he was cleverer than that or some absurd reasoning. In fact, he spent a lot of time looking at what others were doing and complaining…instead of putting in the work I gave him that would have helped him! No wonder he wasn’t successful. These are the wannabe types to be on the lookout for and not to enter into any working relationships with!
A performer, on the other hand, takes the work very seriously and is ready to do what it takes because they sincerely want their business to succeed. They are coachable, hard-working, and willing to learn new things every day. They push themselves outside their comfort zones, don’t get discouraged by failures or setbacks, and are self-disciplined. Here are the signs you’ve hit the jackpot and found a performer whom you’ll want to work with asap!
5/ Set Stricter Policies and Discuss Them Upfront
There is no better way to scare off wannabes than high rates combined with strict policies. I’m talking about a commitment. In your contract, you should clearly state what the client's responsibilities are. I suggest you take your time developing your contract and maybe ask your business coach to help you. Some of the elements I would highly recommend you include are:
- A responsibility to reschedule 48 hours in advance or else forfeit the session
- A no-show means the client forfeits the session
- An expiration date on all services
- A strict payment policy with late fee penalties and consequences
- An in-scope and out-of-scope clause
- Requirement to comply with the program (if they want results, that is)
Add anything else you need to avoid bad experiences. Make sure to tell potential clients how important it is to carefully read through and consider all the ins and outs before hiring you. I used to feel this was too rigid but now I’m more than happy to scare off clients who can’t guarantee they won’t do all these bad things to me!
When you are a new coach or business owner, you get super excited by ANY client who comes calling. Let my story be a warning to you. Not all clients are created equal. Protect your time and energy to invest in top performers who will always put in the work, not take advantage of your generosity, and will turn into glowing case studies of success for your coaching!
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