Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
The wisdom of sThig, cont'd: handling bad clients.

In his post Top Ten Ways to handle Bad Clients, Scott Thigpen fields some really great insights, and some things I need to keep in mind right now, especially:

  • Ask for asshole money up front. Insanely wise. I have a gig right now where the clients kept me waiting for content for literally six months, and then of course need me to go at breakneck speed now that they're ready. Argh.
  • Make them cough up numbers first. I get this all the time, and I even have one client right now who's saying, "We have no money for this, so I need you to tell me what it's worth", which is loosely translated into "Tell me what we'd ordinarily pay you for this so I can come back with a proposal for a third of that paid in installments, each of which you'll have to hound me for." Argh.
  • Be a fair bill collector. This is perhaps the most critical for me right now, because it's what's keeping me in the windy city this weekend. I'd been planning to go to SXSW this week for the last two months, but the money I'd budgeted for it still hasn't come in from four different clients, which means that I'll be raising a Shiner to all my peeps in Austin from here in Chicago instead. This has me bummed out, but that's the nature of the freelance business – it's always feast or famine, and at the moment my workload is feast while the bank account is famine. C'est la vie. The worst of it is when you spend months working on gigs that run long, during which you're living off the credit card/savings account, and then they don't pay for a month or two after they're finally completed. Argh!
Of course, I realize that a large chunk of this is me still learning the ropes of small business ownership and trying to find the middle ground between hardnosed businessman and, well, me. I tell you one thing, though – the last couple of years have been staggeringly useful, which I've been constantly referring to as an MBA in Real World Economics. I enjoy working with 99% of my clients, I've only ever had to really fire one, and I'm sure that eventually all of this will sort itself out – but I'm definitely keeping my eye out for posts like these, chock-full of the wisdom of my peers...


You might consider writing "late fees" into your contracts from the get-go. If they're late with their payments, penalties accrue. I'm not saying go do it -- after all, it may be a negative selling point, which is why a lot of businesses that depend on repeat clients don't do it -- but it might provide an incentive to pay on time.

At the least, I'd look into how other freelancers have fared.

Oh, I do. The problem is, when I drew up a contract with my lawyer the most I could charge was an additional 1.5% for over 30 days, which is bollocks. I'm drafting some new versions of these contracts, and I think I'm going to jump straight to the credit card APR dilly-o. If I have to pay huge fees for living off my credit card, you'd better believe I'm going to figure out a way to pass those fees on to any deadbeat clients.

Post a Comment