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While many, if not most, of the readers of this blog are providing services to others, even service providers tend to find themselves in the client role on occasion.
I recently provided some tips for avoiding deadbeat clients and I thought it would be appropriate to look at another problem: the client from hell. And how not to become one.
If and when you find yourself in a client role, here are some suggestions for avoiding the 'client from hell' title.
Pay on time. It's hard to keep a service provider motivated about your project when he or she isn't being paid in a timely manner. If there's one thing that can really destroy a successful working relationship, not paying on time is it.
Spec requirements out. Projects usually go a lot smoother when everyone is on the same page. The best way to do this is to spec your requirements out in detail. Unfortunately, putting together thorough specs is often a project in and of itself - one that many of us skip.
Don't. Putting together detailed specs is one of the best ways to ensure a frictionless interaction with your service provider.
Push, but not too hard. When we contract someone to do a job, most of us want the job done quickly, done right and done within budget. It's a reasonable expectation but one that most of us know is elusive. So we often feel the need to 'push' service providers along, thinking that this will help.
But there's a fine line. Are you the client who is pushing because the service provider isn't keeping you up-to-date? Or are you the client who is calling on a regular basis just to 'check in' when there's no legitimate reason to do so? Being the former is okay, being the latter is a sure-fire way to become the client from hell.
Bonus tip: invest in building good project management skills and chances are you won't have to pester your service provider with the "Just wanted to see how things are going" phone calls.
Recognize and respect scope. One of my biggest consulting pet peeves: clients who retains you for a service that costs $x but then start asking for additional services that cost $y, completely oblivious to the pricing differential. It puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to be the 'bad guy' by telling them that what they're asking for goes beyond the scope of the services they contracted for and that the additional services they're requesting will cost more.
Given this, I appreciate the client who is willing to say, "I understand that we're probably going to have to discuss the terms of our engagement" when he or she expands the scope of the project. Sure, it may seem counterintuitive to invite additional charges, but clients who constantly increase the scope of their projects without demonstrating an understanding that this has an impact on price are clients most service providers don't enjoy working with.
Treat your service provider like a human being. Above all, remember that service providers are human beings. Even in professional relationships, there's nothing wrong with treating the other person as you would a 'friend'. In all aspects of life - professional and personal - people are at their best when they interact with others who they 'like'.
So if your service provider thinks you're genuinely likeable, he or she is going to enjoy working with you. That is perhaps the most important component to becoming the 'dream client'.