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How Creatives Can Spot and Avoid Poorly Paying Clients

When it comes to getting the best return on your time investment, being able to spot a bad client is a valuable skill. In the business of creativity bad clients will sap your time, drain your inspiration, and cost you money. Become a master at spotting bad clients, and you will be able to focus your energy on more rewarding projects.

Free Work Are Worth Every Cent

(Unless it is a non-profit cause you believe in, or a good friend) There is truth to the old saying “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”

. If you give away freebies from the onset, your clients will start to expect them. Unless you have unlimited time and cash on hand, you will find that freebies will act as a weight around your neck, making it hard for you to earn well.

Match Expectations and Funds

Before you start a project, determine how much it will cost to do the job right. Then allow a margin of error, as unexpected circumstances could very well arise that may cause the job to cost more than you had originally anticipated.

Unable to find image credit. Picture found in meme.Own your part of keeping the budget. Making a budget is easy in comparison to sticking with it. Never allow yourself to go over your budget unless a genuine, unavoidable emergency arises.

Take care at the beginning of a project to educate your client to the fact that, no matter how thorough a brief, budget, and a plan might be. Team members and stakeholders will, as they learn more by working on the project, inevitably discover oversights and misinterpretations. This is true in any moderately complex creative endeavour. Use this to manage expectations and align them with the budget. Revise as you go along. Or as Mike Tyson puts it “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

The Client Who Doesn’t Want to Pay

You can spot this client a mile away. He wants you to photograph his wedding for free so that you can get exposure for your business. He wants you to create a few designs for free, and in exchange, he will introduce you to other people in the industry. Trust me on this one, if he were that connected in the industry, he would be able to afford to pay your fees. Don’t waste time with the client who doesn’t want to pay.Unable to find image credit. Picture found in meme.
Clients who don’t want to pay may not always tell you this upfront. They may say other things that will tip you off. Clients who don’t want to pay will often say things like:

  • “I could get this done cheaper at ‘X’ company.”
  • “Why is it so expensive? My sisters, uncles, nephew will do it for half”
  • “I could do that myself.”
  • “I’ll pay in full when the work is done.”
  • “If I don’t like your work, I’m not paying.”
  • “We will make it up to you on a later project.”
  • “The payment, will come on time -next time. I promise.”

If Poorly Paying Clients Behaved the Same Way in Regular Stores

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Clients That Pays Too Little And Too Late. Are Clients That Needs To Go

Avoid this client. Be clear about your payment schedule, and revision your policy. Make sure that your client knows how many times you will revise your work. Be firm and don’t allow your client to demand multiple revisions that will cost you time and money.

Dan Ariely wrote in his book Predictably Irrational: “People are willing to work free, and they are willing to work for a reasonable wage; but offer them just a small payment and they will walk away.”

Avoid some of the costly and stupid mistakes I’ve made,  and read the article “Everything A Creative Should Know About Firing A Client”. For some helpful advice on who to fire, how to fire them, and how to handle the aftermath.