How To Handle (or Avoid) the Nightmare Client As A Service Provider

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Hey There

I’m Shirley. Your brand is a hidden treasure and my job is to help you get seen, heard, and paid what you’re worth.

If you’re here it’s because you’re probably dealing with a person who is driving you mad. They talk over you during your zoom calls. They may criticize your work, expect you to bend over backwards to every requests, probably telling you how to run your business, and overall being the bain of your business existence.

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As a service based business owner, you are bound to bump into this nightmare client at least once or twice. Today, we’re going to be talking about how to get rid of these monsters so that you can run you business in bliss.

In this blog post we’ll be talking about:

  1. How to instantly identify a nightmare client
  2. The dangers of entertaining a nightmare client’s behavior for too long
  3. What you can do immediately to change the situation
  4. How to gracefully fire your client, and finally
  5. How to use branding to repel the nightmare clients

How to instantly identify a nightmare client

We need to really be clear on what a nightmare client is so that we’re not inappropriately labeling someone a nightmare just because they are somewhat challenging.

A nightmare client is a person who has set unrealistic expectations that they expect you meet. Examples of this are

  • Clients who don’t respect your time and expect you to cater to them regardless of your business hours
  • Clients who add scope to the project and have no intention to pay you for the additional work
  • Clients who trigger an emotional response like raising your voice, screaming, crying or any behavior that is unprofessional

Ultimately these are the types of clients that are not only negatively affecting the way you perform, but also negatively impacting your businesses operation, income, and reputation. Which brings us to the next point…

The dangers of entertaining a nightmare client’s behavior for too long

We first start noticing the tell tale signs of someone who is difficult. They may start challenging your ideas followed by a quick escalation to accusations and name calling.

Often a nightmare client are straight up bullies. And therein lies the problem.

In psychology, we are taught that bullies target people who they believe the can impose their power on, and go on to insult, put down, and yell at that target on a regular basis. Nearly 54 Million Americans have reported being attacked by a bully in a work environment.

As a result, far too many people will dread working with that nightmare client. Often feeling intimidated by them. If this is you, then you’re likely doing anything in your power to avoid having to answer this person’s emails, procrastinating when thinking about working on their projects, and ultimately it’s affecting other parts of your business too.

According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute when people work with bullies/nightmare clients:

  • 29% will stay silent about it (likely waiting until they get home to complain), and
  • 40% will experience stress related to this person
GIF sad crying drinking - animated GIF on GIFER - by Nuadandis

What you can do immediately to change the situation

Put simply you need to draw boundaries. Super thick, heavy, made of steel, even-a-mob-can’t-break-through-these-doors type of boundaries.

Boundaries first and foremost are your way of kindly telling your client to respect your space. You must be able to set this expectation upfront, or your nightmare client will come walking through the doors like Johnny in the Shining.

here's johnny - The Shining foto (33903339) - Fanpop

For example as a service based business, you must set operating hours so that your clients know when it’s okay to communicate with you. Without them, you can expect your client to contact you at midnight and want an immediate response.

Then when you draw your boundaries you need to reinforce them. Meaning, that when a nightmare client decides to overstep your boundaries, you will step up and tell them that you will not tolerate that behavior .

Pro Tip: Always maintain your composure and be professional. While deep down inside, I’m sure you would live to tell them to kick rocks using colorful words, you never want to stoop down to their level. You have class, you have grace, and you can be the bigger person.

How to gracefully fire your client

This is the best part of the nightmare client process: Letting them go!

let-it-go | Black NAPS (Natural & Proud Sistas)

In the book “Pumpkin Plan” by Mike Michalowicz he compares the ability to grow huge pumpkins to building a business. The similarity is that when you’re growing a huge AF pumpkin, you have you often weed out the weak pumpkins in the patch. These are the pumpkins that will compromise the growth of the huge pumpkin.

In your service based business, your nightmare client it the weed that is suffocating the growth of your big pumpkin. In fact, your nightmare client is sucking up all the water & energy that you could be using to recruit dream clients, and serve your best clients.

Before you spend another minute with that nightmare client, cut them off.

The most graceful way to do this is to say something like…

Dear Client,

After much thought and consideration, I won’t be able to serve you at the capacity that you’ll need to successfully execute your project. Here are recommendations for other resources that will be able to assist at this time.

Thank you

How to Use Branding to repel Nightmare clients

Finally let’s talk about how you can use branding to deter the nightmare clients from entering your space.

Now branding has many different aspects, but in this particular case, we’re more concerned about using Brand positioning and messaging.

When you position yourself as the expert, and create messaging that clarifies your process, you’ll be educating potential clients about what it’s like to work with you.

As a service provider, it’s super important to go through your business strategy at least once a quarter and ask yourself “Does my branding need to be refined to attract the right client?” And you answer will likely always be yes.

Take that opportunity reposition your brand, and adjust the messaging. Then analyze your clientele to see if you have a nightmare in the batch. When you encounter that nightmare client, cut them off, and revisit your positioning and messaging. Keep tweaking this until you get it right.

In an upcoming post, I’ll be talking about brand positioning and messaging more, so get on my email list to get a heads up when I do.

Still have questions?

Leave them below in the comments so I can answer them for you.

2 Responses

  1. Hello Shirley,

    This article is really helpful, thank you for sharing. I am a website designer as well.

    Thank you again!

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