Have you ever faced one of these few scenarios –
- Tight deadlines set by the client.
- Last minute changes.
- Mismatched expectations between client and you.
- Late Payment.
… and the list goes on.
Chances are that one of these things have happened to you as a Freelancer or Vendor, and your eyes have rolled so far back that you can see how far behind the clients are in their payments. More often than not we succumb to their whim because, at the end of the day, they are the ones paying; but when we do draw the line and say that “enough is enough”?
I’m not here to tell you to “threaten immediate legal action” or “bang the door” (I’ve heard stories of how vendors would knock on the client’s house door and demand payment) because I feel that these are underhanded means that sour relationships and ineffective use of my time. The following methods are what I’ve implemented in my experiences that have achieved fairly successful results.
In the military, establishing a proper communications channel is vital to ensure the alignment of forces (keeping this way too brief, but you get the gist). Likewise, when dealing with clients, proper communication from beginning to end is key to maintain an effective project workflow.
Many times I have seen colleagues speak crassly with clients; it is important to understand that messages or emails will be read and interpreted by EVERYONE within the recipient list. Therefore, being a representative of your brand, the image and posture portrayed will be that on behalf of it. Speaking with emojis and slangs may not sit well with everyone in the group and actually may actually demote the company’s image in the client’s perspective. I usually reciprocate the mannerisms of the client instead of assuming so, and only until the client is comfortable with me will I relax in my mannerisms. Setting the right image and posture informs the client that you are taking things seriously and not messing around, and that they shouldn’t be doing so to you too. This applies to email chains as well as mobile chat groups.
This works both ways. The clients are usually bogged down by their other works and deadlines, and therefore rely on you to provide timely updates on the progress of their projects with you. I feel that as service providers, we have a vested interest to ensure we have performed our due diligence and more for the client. Not only are you telling the client that you are efficient in your methods, but it sets precedence for other projects that may be awarded to you as well. Performing your due diligence also excuses you from faults that the client might accuse you of, but it is important to make sure that you document or archive every step of the process (be it an email or document) as I myself have encountered clients who have retracted a “Gentleman’s Agreement” and feigned ignorance.
I feel this is one of the most important factors to consider when dealing with clients. Unless expressively stated, terms and conditions are ALWAYS negotiable. Far too often have I seen my peers on the losing end of the stick, all because of blindly accepting terms set by the client without ever so much as asking whether they would be open to discuss or negotiate. While the client would have their terms to abide by, you would have your own terms as well; a variety of terms such as protection of Intellectual Property and Copyrights, Payment Structure, Additional Works, etc. Deep-diving into how each term should be structured would take up far too much time, so this would only cover a generic scope of the subject.
In all my dealings with clients, I have yet to encounter one who was adamant on agreeing to their terms; they have all been open to negotiating and finding a mutual agreement to the terms laid out by both parties. That being said, mutual understanding and flexibility is key to maintaining a lasting relationship with your client.
For example, if a client requires that payment will only be made after the full delivery of the scope of work, I would look to re-negotiate and offer a 20-50% downpayment first, 20-40% after delivery of a first draft, and remaining after the full delivery.
You might be wondering that in a perfect world, the client would be abiding and seek mutual ground with you, but this is reality, and reality often sucks, thinking that:
“If I don’t accept the client’s terms, they’d look for someone else who will.”
You’re right, they probably would. However, in retrospect to the situation, I wouldn’t want a client like that anyway. If they are this inflexible before the project commences, imagine what it would be like after. Which brings to my next point…
Choose your battles
As long as no contract has been signed, you are free to decide whether or not you’d want to work with the client. Think about it: Would the service rendered for this client add value to my portfolio? Would they be someone worth committing my time and effort to? If I may be brutally honest, how desperate am I? If you do decide to not work with the client, explain to them kindly why so (not mutually benefitting, etc) and move on. If you’re a bit nicer like me, I’d usually refer other vendors to them. Why would I willingly give business away like that you may ask?
Well for one, I believe in the law of reciprocity, and that even though I may not fully comprehend the client, I still seek to add value to them. My intention is not to criticise and condemn, because everyone has their own way of working and for some, they’d just be following protocol. I strive to leave a good impression at the end of the day, knowing that I have done my due diligence to service the client and however so they may take it, would be out of my immediate control.