Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What's Your Recurring Nightmare?

Over at Lori Widmer's Words on the Page, Lori mentions a recurring client issue: clients bringing in groups of outside people to edit her work. Over at another of my favorite blogs, the Irreverent Freelancer seems to get a lot of clients who try to find excuses not to pay after the project is completed. I've rarely had this happen (knock on wood), but I do have my own recurring client issue: clients who disappear after the first draft.

Most of us have some sort of client issue that happens over and over again. If you find this happening, here are a few actions you can take.

First, ask yourself: Is it you? If a certain situation keeps happening, it's not unreasonable to think you might be inviting it in some way. For those clients who disappear on me, I've definitely done things that have made the situation worse and may have led clients to believe they can get away with it--like not insisting on having a working phone number and address on file for every new client. It's a danger when you're a basically laid-back person and you communicate with clients primarily by email, but the problem with having only an email address is a). it's easy to ignore and b). it doesn't always give you a hint as to where the person's located in case you get in trouble. It helps to know where people live.

Know the signs. For me, there are two types of clients who are likely to disappear after the first draft: clients who take forever to get started on the project, and clients who need it yesterday. The first type can take weeks to get your signed contract back; you'll think the project is off after a while, and then you'll hear back weeks later. It's pretty common. The second type, in my opinion, is likely to be disorganized and gets all anxious about not having a certain type of copy that some marketing guru probably told them they needed. Then once they get it, they aren't thinking about you anymore--they move on to other things--and you've got to push for feedback and payment.

Have a procedure in place. My procedure for nonresponding clients involves letting them know up front that if I don't hear back from them after a certain time, I'll invoice them. I also make sure I have all the information I need in place to pursue payment, if I have trouble getting it. While nonpayment has been very rare in my experience, delayed payment isn't unusual.

Nip it in the bud. Getting a certain type of client problem over and over means you get plenty of practice dealing with it--and eventually you'll learn how to spot the signs and prevent problems before they happen. With time, you may be able to make that recurring issue a non-issue.

What's your recurring issue?

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