I would love what I do more if it wasn’t for all these clients… What?!?
That’s not true… I feel that way at times, but it’s not true.
That feeling comes when I know I just let a client walk all over me. It’s not their fault you see… It’s mine. Sometimes I’m afraid to lose a client, so I will lie down and let them wipe their shoes on my back.
Again; it’s not their fault. They are just asking for things they think they need. And who can blame them. They have a goal to get more sales and all they are doing is trying to get this particular ad, or that particular sales page, or this particular web site in perfect shape to capture the most sales and leads they can.
But Mike, how come it seems like every time this happens it is always last minute rushed items that go against everything I know about design, user experience and overall business practices?
Good question campers… I’ll tell you why – Because you haven’t trained your clients.
Look, I know it’s easier said than done. There is a lot of competition out there for what we do. The last thing anyone wants to do is make a client, who is paying you with real money and everything, mad enough to leave you.
This thinking is silly. If you have clients that have been with you and have enjoyed the work that you do chances are they want to stay with you. If you have a client that hangs the “I might go somewhere else because they will do everything I say and they are cheaper” threat over your head you may want to evaluate that relationship to see if there is any benefit to having it. I know; I know… the whole paying with real money thing… Your time and skill set is worth more than that. You don’t need to take that kind of abuse.
So… what’s this whole “training my clients” thing all about? Another good question campers… you are very sharp today.
The way I want to discuss today is: you can make your client realize, beyond the shadow of doubt, that last minute changes and guessing is going to hurt their business. How do you do that? Charge them “rush fees” or “late fees.”
I can hear it… you’re saying “whoa, whoa, whoa there horsey… that is not going to go well.”
It can go well. You need to have a very open and honest conversation about what your time is worth with your client. Tell them what your rate is and tell them what your rate is when things are outside your normal agreed upon turnaround time. Show them some examples of work that was done with a reasonable turnaround and compare it to something that was done with a “drop it like it’s hot” timeline. Point out how much better the project could have gone if you had the proper time to execute. And most importantly… explain in detail what you personally gave up to get this project done on that timeline. You need to show your client that your personal time has a value to it and if a project needs to invade that time there will be a cost associated with it.
Chances are a good, conscientious client will look at that and say… “We won’t need to use the rush charges; we’ll have all our stuff hammered out in reasonable time.” That may not always be the case… life does move in mysterious ways and there may be a day that they will have to rush something.
Now… the flip side of that is you will inevitably get a client who doesn’t understand what you mean by “rush charges” and will feel the sting when they get the bill. It may take their breath away and you may even need to have a conversation about it. This will be your opportunity to reinforce and explain that the “rush charge” protects them and puts them at the top of the priority of all other work going on. You also can make sure they understand the value of your time once again.
A good client will grumble a bit, but they will understand in the long run and do their best not to have anymore “rush charges.” Good clients, over time, understand the value of your time and want the relationship to work because they see that it is mutually beneficial. A good client will appreciate the reminder that they have a part to play in this relationship.
Bad clients will do one of two things; they will either drop you because they think your rush charges are outrageous or they will keep giving you last minute projects because they don’t care about “rush charges.” This then, is your opportunity to evaluate the value of this client.
The bottom line is, if you make your clients aware of how awesome the project is going to turn out given the proper time to execute, how valuable your time is both professionally and personally, and how you are willing to help them out any way you can to make this mutually beneficial relationship work, you will have a happy client who will agree to the terms of your relationship and respect the value of your time and talent.
Saving your clients from themselves sometimes requires a little “tough love.” The sting of the “rush charge” can right the ship at times. It may even teach your clients to prepare better on their end and help you deliver an amazing product for them.