Dear Solopreneur, it's not you. It's your clients. Anyone who runs a business will inevitably have to deal with a demanding client, but it's not always clear how to handle them.
Do you assert yourself more in order to show them you're in charge? Do you submit to their every whim, accept the payment, and then drop them later? Or do you work overtime to meet their demands and hope for a big payout?
The good news is that you have options. Here are a few ways you can deal with pushy clients so that they don't ruin your day (or your career).
1. Stand By Your Scope
Pushiness can happen for one of two reasons:
1. The client is naturally pushy -- they're that way with everyone.
2. You haven't set clear enough boundaries so they're pushy by default.
Scope creep happens all the time, but unfortunately the burden for fixing scope creep is on you, not the client. You have to be extra firm in what you will do and what you won't do. The earlier in the process you can solidify your scope, the better.
Always (always!) have a contract that outlines the scope of work in as detailed of manner as possible. If the client tries to get more work out of you, you have something to fall back on. "This isn't a part of the agreed scope according to our contract..."
You can either charge more for the additional requests (if you want to do it), skip the extra work altogether (if you don't want to do it), or you can renegotiate the contract at a better price and timeline.
If you client expects the impossible in terms of deadlines, then be straightforward with them. This may take a bit of guts on your parts, but this is where the rub meets the road as they say.
You can either stand up for yourself and educate them about the realities of what's possible, or not possible in the allotted time frame, or you can cave. But it's ultimately up to you -- not them.
2. Communicate More Often
If your project or service is supposed to be long-term, you will need a solid strategy for communication, especially with a pushy client.
Your client may be scared that they might not see the right results at the end, even after spending all this time and money on your services. It's your job to reassure them on a regular basis that you know what you're doing and that you have a plan.
Basically, you have to think preemptively.
If you're slammed with work and can't get to a project or there's been an unexpected delay, let them know and give them a projected time of completion.
It's not that you have to let them know what you're doing 24/7, but if they know exactly where you are in the process, they may be less inclined to badger you about it every second of the day.
Also, don't be over reliant on email. Consider picking up the phone, or asking to schedule a meeting with them via Skype or in person. Take the initiative to set up times to connect with them so they always feel in the loop.
3. Define Their Expectations
Sometimes clients are pushy because they know exactly what they want and they want you to perform a certain way. In that case, you're either going to live up to expectations or you're not (and they'll probably let you know it).
But on the other side of that coin are the clients who are pushy because they don't know what they want. They might come to you and say, "We want you to do XYZ!" but when you do XYC, they panic.
"We're not seeing result! Change this!" they demand. And you do...only to have the same loop replay itself the next time.
If you're constantly running around in circles with a client, consider spending some time clarifying exactly what they want. Ask Socratic questions. Offer creative solutions. Show them examples of what you've done in the past.
Find out as much as possible about what they were expecting to happen. You may discover that you're really not the best solution for them, but maybe you can point them in the right direction. Or maybe you are perfect, but your strategy just needs some tweaking.
Do you best to clarify what it is they want so you know whether or not you're able to meet demands before you do any more work.
4. Drop Them
Of course, there comes a point in every client relationship where you'll need to assess whether or not the payout is worth the effort.
The more time you spend catering to the every whim of one of your clients, the less time you have for things like planning, strategizing for your business. Eventually, your mental energy will run low and your work (and personal life) will suffer.
If a client constantly asks for more work outside your scope (or you keep failing to define an accurate scope), or they're frequently rude, or give poor feedback, or are late with their own deadlines, it will wear on you.
No amount of money is worth being bullied by clients who don't value your unique contributions. If they don't see you as the best solution out there, don't waste your time courting them for more business.
And unless a client is handing you those laughably oversized payments every month to compensate for their attitude, cut ties and move on. Don't feel the need to hold on to a client simply because they're paying you.
5. Become Exclusive
On the otherhand, if they are handing you laughably oversized checks every month and you don't entirely hate working with them, you may consider an alternative solution: work exclusively for them.
Working for a pushy client may not be the end of the world (if you can stomach it) as long as they're your only client.
If they like your work and are paying well, but they're non-committal and demanding, consider raising your rates, offering them a retainer, and see what they say.
Who knows, you may actually like working for a pushy client.
It's not always easy dealing with pushy clients, but you don't have to let them rule your life. If you find that you have one or two clients who are constantly running the show, you will need to muscle up the courage to stand up for yourself.
Have an agreed upon scope of work and refer to it constantly. Don't be afraid to charge extra for out-of-scope work. But be sure to communicate frequently about what is and isn't out of scope, especially if there are delays or other issues that are keeping things off track.
If possible, consider asking your clients some questions that will help clarify what it is they're looking for or to find alternative solutions that will make everyone happy. If they simply don't know what they want or they continue to push you around, don't be afraid to drop them completely.
Unless they're paying you the big bucks (and you're into that sort of thing), it's probably not worth it.