An anonymous reader sent me this question:
I’m struggling with my work/happiness situation. I want to be return to graphic design as a career, but I realize that in order to be successful at it, I will have to find a way to become a better diplomat when I come across very difficult clients: clients who think they know better, belittle the importance of the work (“it’s so easy I could do it”), are experts at everything and generally make the creative process hell.
Most people are not like this, but I would like some pointers on the difficult side of pleasing people, while still trying to maintain happiness at work.
There is one realization that I think every independent worker and startup company needs to arrive at:
I know that as a fledgling company you may worry about making ends meet and consequently think that every customer is a good customer.
But the fact of the matter is, that some customers are more trouble than they’re worth. They make you fight to convince them of the value of your work, they make every meeting a battle of wills and they demand subservience before they will grant you their business…
Their money may be good – their company, however, is toxic.
I previously wrote two blog posts that touch on this. One is about why “The Customer is Always Right” is wrong, and shows that some customers are not only wrong, they’re wrong for your business.
In another blog post I wrote about how I learned to say “No!” to customers. How some of the toughest most demanding customers may actually come around and respect your work, providing you tell them “No!” when they make unreasonable demands.
So my advice to any contract worker, startup company, independent consultant or is this:
Yes, you will lose out on some business here and now, but consider the cost of accepting a bad customer’s business. The constant struggle will make you tired, annoyed, depressed, demotivated and much less able to go out and find nice, fun customers.
Working with happy customers, on the other hand, will make you happy. This will increase your energy and motivation. You will do better work. You will get more referrals and more repeat business. You will have more confidence in your own abilities and therefore do better in your sales meetings, getting you even more happy customers.
What’s your take? Have you tried saying “No!” to a difficult customer? What happened? How do you treat difficult customers?