Do you really want that job? (aka The Incompetent Client)

Here’s a hypothetical situation for you: let’s say an organization wants you to make amazing new signs for a promotion… and you recommend to the buyers/client that they install these new signs in specific locations, but there was a past track record of incompetence, such as previously installing a series of signs all upside down. Would you do the job? (And how does that even happen? Who knows!)

I love the funny pictures that show ridiculous things like that.  Actually working with or for people who would make foolish mistakes, and NOT admit, correct and learn from them, is infuriating, but part of life.

These are things that crossed my mind today.

How does a person guarantee they will get paid? Or how does a person guarantee that his/her own work is respected and used appropriately? If the work is compensated, but trashed, it is not very good to use on a resume or as a client success story for referrals. And if the work is paid, but used or implemented inappropriately, that could be difficult to use for referrals too. Worse yet, someone could see the client’s poor use of the product and conclude the maker/product was at fault, rather than the faulty use by the user/client.

These are all based on a thought of dealing with clients with poor knowledge, attitudes, or behaviour. But again in life, that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. They could be great people, with good knowledge but the market rejects the work.

Whatever the situation or client, I think the BEST approach is: make a great first impression for yourself and the proposal, be truthful and open and create a very short term plan (a bootstrap plan) and then get up-front retainer fees received and in the bank. Then begin to build momentum, maybe by frequent and productive meetings, and optional ongoing compensation as appropriate.

This is a relatively new business technique to me. But it’s such a great one. The last several clients I have worked with as an independent, I used this technique, to great success. Now in a group with some partners, I am seeing clients coming in who have lots of gusto and excitement to have us do projects, but I’m feeling the risk if their gusto and excitement is not balanced with their budget.

So unfortunately, there is a high risk of loss to the momentum of the business relationship, and to my own business. For example, when loss of a prospective or active client does happen, morale may drop, affecting the ability to get new clients or perform other standard business tasks like proper accounting and invoicing. Really, I am reflecting on an experience that nearly killed my potential right out of the gate, in 2009, a few months before completely dedicating to iPhone and mobile.

Putting a project on hold, or even canceling one for whatever reason, or worse yet losing a client… I cannot let these bother me, and it is much easier to get on with life and other work if I have been paid properly. Then I will just walk on, looking forward to the exciting potential for the next days and the next weeks.

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