When you have a bad client on your hands, it can be hard to know what to do. First of all, are they really a bad client, or is it all in your head? Would other people continue to deal with them in order to get the money – are you just being stupid? These kinds of doubts arise easily, but you have to remember one key thing. As a freelancer, you are in charge of the way your business is run – so if there is someone that you do not want to work with for whatever reason, then it is within your rights to turn down the customer.
A lot of bad clients will be very shocked to hear that you will not work with them, and some may immediately back down with their tail between their legs. Some may become aggressive, even threatening. Others still will try to apologize and convince you to serve them after all. But saying no to a bad client, no matter what their reaction will be, is almost always the right thing to do for your business.
Hassle from your clients is not something you have time for – you don’t need any extra stress! Here’s how to deal with the different bad clients who might arise.
The Late Payer or Haggler
If you have someone who causes you trouble with payments, this can be a serious drag. You might wait a long time for their payment to come through, or they may constantly haggle with you and try to get the price down. This can be a drain on you and on your business. After all, you are trying to make a living here, and a late payment from them could mean a bill missed for you. You don’t have to put up with this.
If someone tries to haggle with you regularly and you do not wish to do business with them anymore, the best course of action is to politely but firmly offer them the name of a competitor who operates at a lower price. Many photographers adopt the attitude of not wanting to give business to their rivals, but there’s room in the market for everyone – especially if you are operating at different price points.
When you have someone who pays late, you can ask them to pay upfront, telling them that you will no longer do work for them unless payment is made before the day of the shoot. They may agree – which is fine for you and solves the problem – or they may choose to go elsewhere, which also gets them out of your hair.
If you have someone who makes you go back and re-edit every single image only to settle for a completely different set of images, or who complains endlessly about the things they don’t like with your work, it can be a huge drain. Creatively and in terms of your self-esteem, you may hit a low point when dealing with them.
If they wish to work with you again, firmly tell them that you will only offer a set amount of changes – one round of edits before final approval, for example. You could offer further changes at an additional charge. The clever thing about many of these “no” answers is that you don’t actually have to say “no” – you can put them off in other ways. If they aren’t put off but agree to your terms, then you’re also doing great because you have turned them back into a good client.
The Awkward Emailer
Whether you talk to your clients through email or over the phone, this applies. They ask you a million questions. They have very specific, even oddly specific, fears, concerns, and what-if scenarios. Almost as if they are setting you up… if someone asks how many times they can get a photo edited, they’re probably going to use up the maximum that you tell them. If they don’t seem confident in your abilities, they probably won’t be happy with the final result. Is it worth the stress and hassle to you to go through with the shoot?
You can let them know brusquely that all of your information is available on your website if you want to get rid of them quickly, but that could end up getting shared on social media and won’t look good for your brand. A better option is to politely suggest that your services might not be what they are looking for. Resist the urge to be sassy or insulting in the email – it won’t go down well.
If your client is asking you to do something different from your normal set-up, or to break one of your own rules, this is a different kind of awkward. They are going to push you out of your comfort zone, and while that can sometimes be a great thing, it’s not always so. When someone asks you to do something that you don’t want to, you just need to carefully explain to them that it’s outside of your remit or against your style – and explain to them what that style is if you need to. The temptation can be to go ahead and shoot with them but do it in your style anyway, which is always a mistake. Neither of you will be happy with the results.
The Last-Minute Changer
Look, sometimes things come up. That’s normal life. Maybe their firstborn son really is sick, or maybe it really is Great Aunt Imelda’s funeral. A last-minute cancellation or reschedule isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. But sometimes you get those serial changers – someone who will ALWAYS change or cancel an appointment at least once before going through with the booking.
These people are wasting your time, and they are stopping you from working with paying clients. The next time they try to book with you, explain to them that your policy is not to work with those who are liable to cancel at the last minute as you try to maintain a fully-booked schedule. To prevent this from happening in future, you can start taking deposits or charging cancellation fees. You might not always get the money, but it’s a strong deterrent.