A few days ago, I received a call from a client saying he needed my design service urgently for his restaurant. He is going to open his restaurant in 4 days’ time and yet he hadn’t got his logo and marketing collaterals done. He said he was willing to pay the express charge and immediately passed me a check for 50% down payment during our first meeting. I agreed to email him the logo design the next day and deposited the check on the same day and thought all was good.
During the weekend he called a few times to press me for the logo changes, I promised and email him on Sunday even though it was not my working day. On Monday, I realized the check he issued was bounced, tried to call him several times but he was not answering the phone. Since then, he seemed to disappear from the air and no where to be found either in his office or restaurant. I was frustrated and disappointed! I was there trying my best to help and yet he seemed to have the intention to cheat on me the very first day.
This was not the first time I had met this type of dishonest client but because he had given a check and I thought there should be no problem. I should have waited for the check to be cleared by the bank and only started working on the design then.
Nevertheless, it is another good lesson learnt and I’m writing it down to share with you some of the points I overlooked. Hopefully it can help to remind you when you are meeting such clients and avoid learning the hard ways.
Spell Out the Terms & Conditions
You have to spell out your terms and conditions clearly so that you are protected from those clients who intend to cheat. State all your terms and conditions in your contract and ensure the clients understand them fully. You need to especially highlight the payment terms such as down payment, express charge, revision charge and even late charges for not paying promptly. Don’t forget to tell your client when you need them to pay up otherwise they will take their own sweet time to do so.
Once your clients approve, get them to sign and fax back the contract with their company stamps. This will act as a legal proof if you need to bring the dishonest client to court one day.
Be Firmed with Your Policies
Be firmed with all the policies you have stated. For example, if an urgent job requires express charge, charge them fully with no room of negotiation. Also, do not accept check if they want the work being done immediately, ask for cash instead if they are that urgent.
Tell clients the minimum turnaround time requires. If the clients do not agree, it is better to drop them early than making yourself suffer unless you need the cash badly.
If you are not working on weekend, inform them prior to accepting the job and if they want you to rush the job during the weekend, add another extra charge to the job. You should not be the one to bear the responsibility when your clients are disorganized and bad management of their times and resources.
Be Alert when Client says “More Jobs to Come”
These types of clients like to use “more jobs to come” as bait when asking for huge discount for their first job. They would tell you this will not be the last job but many jobs following after the first job done. Unfortunately, from my own experience, I never heard from such clients after the completion of the first job.
So do not let them take advantage of you and tell them the reason you need to charge for the amount you quoted. If they still insist for huge discount, ask them to look elsewhere for help.
What to do when Client says “Deadline is Yesterday”
The first impression is these types of clients are not organized and bad time management. Stay away from these clients as they are trouble makers. Don’t let your heart takes over your head as these clients are never a pleasure to work with.
Don’t Tells Client “You are Working Alone”
If a client is asking are you working alone or a freelancer? Do you answer directly you are working all by yourself? This is an honest answer but may not be the best answer because those clients who have bad intention might think it is easier to take advantage of sole entrepreneur. So those of you who are working alone might want to consider teaming up with other professionals like accountant, lawyer, related-field consultants and even joining a business networking group like BNI to get some business support. There are also some volunteer legal professionals who are willing to offer free advice so try to establish good relationship with them. They will be a great resource to rely on when run into dispute with bad clients.
Once you have found a team of support, you can now tell your clients confidently that you are not working alone! You have a team of professionals to back you up!
The above list is not exhaustive but some of the great ways to safeguard yourself as a sole business owner. Sometimes, it is hard to identify bad clients or those who try to cheat but if we have the proper term, conditions and system in place, it can help to minimize the case.
Do you encounter such bad clients before? What did you do? Please share your tips and help to protect sole business owner’s interest. You will be greatly appreciated!