TechRepublic: Four types of clients to avoid

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consulting

When you meet with a potential client, you should think about more than just how to meet their project needs; you should also listen and watch for cues that will help you determine if you actually want to work for that client. So how can you spot a problem client? Let's face it - no client is going to tell you upfront that she has a hidden agenda or reveal that every consultant who worked for their company quits mid-project. I look for telltale signs from the four types of problem clients that I've encountered. Here are more details about those client types and the red flags to look for early on in negotiations.

The bargain hunter

You don't want to do business with the client who is constantly trying to get free work. You can sometimes identify these clients in the sales process when they repeatedly try to get you to do significant amounts of work for free, or if they show irritation when you say that you charge for all but the first meeting with a client. Experienced consultants warn you to be wary of clients who are overly creative with payment methods; in particular, clients who tempt you into working for royalties on the software you develop for them instead of offering cash for your development work. Never fall for the statement, "The market is huge for a system like this - you'll be able to make a fortune when this thing is done!" All that client wants is free software development and a share of your future profits for "making you rich."

The power trip client

The power trip client tries to turn every situation into one with a winner and a loser. The tip-off that you've encountered this type of client may come during contract negotiations when the client shows inflexibility about modifying even the smallest of terms he's suggesting. If he insults you, becomes aggressive, or attacks your qualifications, those are all flashing red lights signaling you to run from this situation.

The know-it-all client

The know-it-all client shoots down your initial attempts at solving his problem and then tries to blow you away with tech buzzwords that he obviously learned by searching online. This type of client is likely to try to get a detailed proposal out of you only to turn it down and take that information somewhere else and try to get it done at a lower price.

The rush, rush client

Be wary of the client who seems like he is in such a rush that he wants you to get started immediately without a signed contract, spec, or any "trivial" paperwork relating to the engagement that might keep him from meeting his deadline. When you encounter a "drop everything and do my work" type of client, you know right away that you're likely dealing with a selfish, demanding, and likely very disorganized client who can't manage his way out of a paper bag. Even worse, this client will likely also turn out to be a rate chiseler, who will express shock when presented with your bill. Never, ever proceed without the engagement properly documented; otherwise, you'll probably get stiffed by this type of client. Run away fast.

Share your thoughts on difficult clients

What telltale signs do you look for to try to determine if a client is likely to cause you headaches? What types of problem clients would you add to this list? Post your comments in the discussion.

posted by Brad Egeland
November 12, 2010 @ 11:48 pm
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