As a Book Yourself Solid Certified Coach (BYS), I try to follow BYS Author and mentor Michael Port’s “Red Velvet Rope Policy.” The Red Velvet Rope Policy is essentially a “filtration” system to weed out the duds so you only work with your ideal clients.
Obviously, we all want to work with clients who energize and inspire us, and who allow us to do our best work. Working with nightmare clients is a drain, and is a no-win situation for all involved. In fact, when certain “less than ideal” clients slip past the red velvet rope, you may end up wanting to use that red velvet rope to strangle them!
Since physical harm is not an option in most businesses, it’s better to identify problem clients at the outset so they don’t get past your red velvet rope in the first place. Below I’ve listed six kinds of nightmare clients, along with how you can avoid them like the plague. See if any of these types sound familiar. (And make sure that YOU are not being a bad client for someone else!)
1. The Favor Seeker – “Can you do me a small favor?” These 7 words should strike fear in the hearts of all entrepreneurs! First of all, there’s no such thing as a “small” favor. Second, your time is money, so these favor seekers are – in essence – asking you for your money. Most of us love helping our friends and colleagues, but we’ve got to establish a firm favor policy. Otherwise, you will “freebie” yourself right out of business. Own your value and stick to your guns. (P.S. Please don’t ask me for a favor or a freebie. My “favor” waiting list is full until 2016!)
2. The Deadbeat – The only thing worse than a freebie monger is a deadbeat. Clients who take forever to pay or who stiff you outright are the worst. I like to do business on a handshake and a person’s word, but this has burned me in the past. Now I have to insist on payment in advance, or at least a deposit. It’s easy to talk about trust and honor and integrity in business, but the proof is in the payment.
3. The Revisionist – Just like there’s no such thing as a small favor, there’s no such thing as a “little” change or revision. If you’re a service provider who is doing design, or websites, or video editing for that matter, revisions take time. And time is money. A better policy (happily adopted from my friend and colleague Tina Williams) is “make a change, make a charge.” (And make sure your clients know that in advance!)
4. The Procrastinator – I hate loose ends. Clients who never quite finish their projects make me crazy. Here’s an example: Okay, so you bought a video package a year ago (or three years ago), and you never got your shit together to get me your materials or information. Now you come back years later and say, “I’m ready to do my video!” Sorry, doesn’t work that way. My rates have increased three- or four-fold since you bought your package, so the old rules don’t apply. Feel free to contact me about today’s new rates and availability (if any). Times change. Prices go up. You snooze, you lose. Set a deadline for your procrastinators and make sure they know that there’s an expiration date on your services.
5. The Fence Sitter – This applies to many wantrepreneurs (and I say this with love) who say that they’re really ready to make a change in their business, or they’re ready to invest – whether it’s for coaching or other services that they know will help their business. But when it comes time to pull the trigger or write a check, they waffle. They stall. They second-guess. And they wait. As one of my favorite coaches advises, “Don’t force them to a sale, love them to a decision.” Encourage your fence sitters to just decide – one way or another.
6. The Cheapo – There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a bargain-seeker, but customers who routinely expect discounts and special deals are a pain in the ass. There are always going to be “bottom feeders,” but you don’t want them as clients because, ironically, the people who pay the least end up wanting or expecting the most. Make them aware of your free or lowest-cost offerings, but don’t expect these tire kickers to ever become ideal clients.
You may know instinctively who is going to be a problem client. Something in your gut will tell you it’s not the right fit. So put your Red Velvet Rope Policy into place and keep out the types of nightmares listed above.
Oh, and be sure you have a big, burly bouncer at your door!
What do you think? Have you had a run-in with any of these folks? Please share your stories in the comments below.