One of the most powerful lessons I’ve ever learned came from my first mentor, my half-brother Steve. I called him complaining about some clients and the crazy revisions they wanted and he said…
“You know, dude… When stuff like this happens, there’s really no one to blame. It just means you’re missing a system to deal with it.”
And he was right. We’d never outlined any sort of revision process with our clients at that point in time. We never really went over anything like that. But from that point on, every time I faced a frustration with a client, even though my first reaction was to scream their faces off… after venting, I always asked myself,
“What system is missing that will prevent this from ever happening again?”
As you figure out solutions to these problems, something pretty miraculous starts to happen. For one, you become more clear and confident. Problems came into your life, and you conquered those ugly little trolls.
You also become more competent. You become a seasoned vet in your trade. You have the battle scars. You have wisdom. You’re better than you were.
Finally – business grows. As you create systems for all of the problems at your current level, those systems then leverage you into the next level. And the process repeats. You get newer, shinier clients with shinier new problems. And you figure out solutions to those.
And then you grow some more and the process repeats.
Below are some of the problems we’ve faced, that I know a lot of you probably have too, and the systems we came up with.
I’m not saying our answers are right for everyone. Heck, you might disagree more than a never-nude on a French beach.
I’m just peeling back the curtain and revealing our problem-solving process to help inspire you to create your own.
You might love some of our solutions, and you’re welcome to steal them! (We probably stole some from things we read, too!) But more importantly than anything, I hope you get inspired to change the way you view client problems in the first place, so your business can experience some serious doses of awesomeness.
Alright, moving on ;-) Problem #1:
Have you ever had a client LOVE your design, approve it, then tear it to pieces the next day?
Yeah, it’s happened to us too. You end up spending countless hours on a project that should’ve been finished weeks ago. Every time the wind blows the client changes his mind, and it starts over.
By the end, you’re lucky if you’ve made minimum wage with the cost / time ratio.
After this happened more times than my sanity can handle recalling… We implemented a system. We now CLEARLY have an approval process in our contract (do you?), and we go over it very carefully with all new clients.
It basically says once they approve a design, it’s considered final. Final means we’re happy to make changes should they request them – but all changes will be quoted and billed separately. Heck, I’ll make changes all day if I’m getting paid for it.
But the thing is clients don’t want to spend more if they don’t have to. Doesn’t matter how rich or poor they are, this is something they all seem to have in common. So the fact that there’s a consequence to changing their minds has a really powerful effect:
They take the decision-making process much more seriously. And when it’s final, it’s final, and we can finish yet another project and keep on truckin’.
Have any of your projects ever been put on hold for crazy amounts of time because the client won’t send you what you need?
Maybe it’s photographs, some kind of content, maybe they need to get approval from a higher-up, etc.
Yeah, it happened to us too. A lot.
In the past some projects have been put on hold for MONTHS.
So now, in our contract, we have a very clear consequence for this. The clause basically states that it’s in everyone’s best interest for the project to get done as quickly and efficiently as possible. If they ever hold the project up by 14 days, then X% of the total project cost is added to the final total.
After 30 days the project is cancelled and they owe for all work completed up to that point plus the penalty on top. (This of course is assuming they’re just being procrastinators and aren’t facing some sort of tragedy like having to cut their arm off after getting stuck on a mountain… If they had to do that, we give ’em a break.)
I don’t know if we’ve even had to enforce this one. The clause itself lights enough of a fire under their butts to get them moving. It’s yet another system that has made life so much easier.
Have you ever had a client cancel mid-project and you don’t get paid?
Sometimes life happens and you have to stop what you’re doing. Sometimes the relationship just doesn’t work out and both parties want to separate.
With that said, if we do work, we feel we deserve to get paid.
That’s why we crafted a very simple cancellation clause which has worked wonders. It basically states (paraphrasing):
“Should some happening of life or any reason whatsoever cause you to cancel this project once it has begun, you are completely free to do so. You will simply be billed for any work completed up to the point of cancellation, and we will send you the work we completed up to that point. Should some happening of life cause us to cancel this project, we will hand over any work completed up to the point of cancellation and refund you for any payments made on incomplete work.”
It’s written a bit shmancier in the agreement, but you get the gist ;)
Actually, just earlier this year we were working with a client who seemed amazing at the start, but turned out to be a horror show. When she wrote us asking to cancel, citing the cancellation clause from the agreement, we praised the gods and danced around the room.
She was all paid up except for some development work, so we sent her a bill which she promptly paid and we all moved on with our lives. This is a perfect example of how systems make life easier once you do the hard part of facing the problems in the first place.
The cool thing is, from creating these systems, the whole world opens up.
You now know what it takes to really grow and sustain a business – and you can apply that to anything. You can consult clients on similar problems they face.
You can start entirely NEW businesses and grow them with confidence. But here’s the thing:
The problem a lot of freelancers & agencies face is that instead of looking at their own businesses, they just write the clients off as “crazy” and put all of the blame onto them. Heck, we used to do it too until we received this very same advice.
But if you can look inward, and realize you’re just missing a system to deal with that problem, the sky is seriously the limit. Problem-clients suddenly lose any power they have over you, because your business truly is in your hands.
Sooo the question is, are there any problems in your work that you could use solutions for? Do you have any awesome solutions already crafted?
Share! I’d love hear your thoughts in the comments.
Till next time!