Client relationships can be difficult at the best of times. If you’re an independent developer or you run a development shop, you will always put in situations which make you feel uncomfortable or just plain press your buttons. We all have our boundaries and pet peeves but before you make things personal, take note of these red flags. These are the things which should lead you to consider firing a client. Maybe some of these situations aren’t too much of a worry now, but they may be subtle precursors of what is to come.
Your Client is Slow to Pay
Sure few people are excited to part with their money but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be paid. Less scrupulous clients tend to purposely hang on to hundreds of thousands of rands simply so that those funds can accumulate interest in their accounts. That is far from scrupulous and ultimately affects your ability to effectively run your own business and pay your own staff and debtors. Small businesses often have to close their doors due to their client’s inability to pay on time. At first, the payments may only be late by a few days but before you know it, they are paying weeks or even months late. Keep tabs on that.
They Don’t Follow Your Advice
As a developer, you work in a very niche field and it’s not unusual for clients to genuinely have no idea what it is you do and how you do it. That doesn’t stop some clients from refusing to follow your advice. The results can be disastrous. You think to yourself, ‘Why did you even hire me?’. Your client needs to trust in your knowledge, not be dismissive of it. Without that basic respect continuing a successful and productive relationship becomes impossible.
Continually Changing Their Mind
Of course, what the client wants, for the most part, you give them – when its possible. When they continually change their minds, don’t stick to the initial brief and require far too many revisions as a result… that is a big fat gigantic red flag. Your client needs to be able to articulate their concerns in a way that you are able to find solutions for them. Without that this sort of behaviour will ultimately affect your ability to maintain a productive and profitable business. With enough foresight, this sort of behaviour can be nipped in the bud and eventually prevented entirely.
Unable to Make Timely Decisions
So the client has the final say, obviously, but when the project needs to move forward and they are holding up the process, it simply isn’t fair for them to hold you accountable. Your ability to deliver on time is very much dependant on their commitment to the process and their involvement. Without this, the success of the entire project is at stake.
It’s been said by many to their client, ‘Give me the freedom of a tight brief’. An unclear; just go with it brief, is not, in fact, a brief. A brief is how you forecast costs, your timeline and most importantly your expectations of one another. If the brief is unclear there are simply a multitude of potential outcomes – one of which will be good.
Excessively Rude and Even Abusive
It goes without saying that if your client is aggressive, physically, verbally or emotionally abusive, well, that’s just not cricket. This type of situation is good for no one and you need to get out of it immediately. In line with that; when your client offers only harsh and unconstructive criticism, the relationship is doomed. You have hit a zero productivity zone and what you have left to lose now is your morale, after that, you can actually do nothing for them.
All in all, firing a client is not your first go-to option but there are some very important reasons to consider doing it in the first place. Before you do fire a client however, there are a bunch of steps you can take which may actually help you turn things around. In the end, we learn from difficult situations and we learn even more when we are able to rectify them and move forward in a positive direction.