Disaster Client Ahead

I wonder whether other small business people — say, electricians or wedding planners — find themselves dealing with a potential Disaster Client.

Someone like Jackie (name changed to protect the guilty!).

Jackie recently contacted me seeking info about my designing a website for her.

Turns out, she was putting the cart before the horse because she had:

  • No business name
  • No logo
  • No product to sell
  • No outline for the classes she wants to conduct
  • No deadline for project completion
  • No budget in mind for website design

I tried — patiently, encouragingly — to walk her through the process, but she kept getting sidetracked. She’d brought along a friend — Carrie (name changed to protect the innocent!) — and repeatedly engaged her in discussions unrelated to the topic at hand.

And when I attempted to bring her back on track, she assured me she wants “total control” of this venture.

Wait, what?

Who’s doing the design here, Jackie?

Well, Jackie had gone online and attempted the do-it-yourself route, “but it didn’t look pretty, like the ones pictured.” No, I don’t suppose it did. After all, you‘re not the professional.

Then she blatantly informed me that, if someone signed up for one of her helping classes and wouldn’t do what she told them, she’d have them leave. “Just go ahead — wallow in your misery. We’re going to improve, with or without you.”

Uh-oh. Really?

Carrie and I exchanged a skeptical glance and winced simultaneously. When we called Jackie on it, she insisted she was serious.

Okay, how does she expect to make money to recoup the expenses she’s going to incur by hiring me to design a website for her if she’s going to run customers off??

The meeting deteriorated from there. Jackie wanted all sorts of bells-and-whistles for her new site, but she refused my suggestion of hiring a programmer because of the additional cost. “Oh, you can do it,” she said. “You probably need to learn programming anyway.”


And if I had any doubts about refusing to work with her, they evaporated when we discussed price. I pulled a ballpark figure from the air for programming and design (way lower, I might add, than any of the estimates I found online from other designers), and she looked at me like I’d sprouted an owl where my head should be!

So, I’m sorry, Jackie. You’ll need to find yourself another designer. I didn’t go into business for myself to be made miserable by Disaster Clients!

35 thoughts on “Disaster Client Ahead

    • Oh, golly, Ann, I hope you’re not embroiled in a similar fiasco! But at least I’m glad if I was able to help. Thanks for stopping by and do drop in again.

    • You understand! Thanks for empathizing, Judith. I know folks just want to get their dollar’s worth, but I can’t fathom how one could be so difficult — right from the get-go!!

    • When she said that, I know my jaw dropped, FF. And to hear she was serious was more than my poor self could bear! If I’d paid good money for a class and was told during it to leave — without being reimbursed — I think I’d probably sue, ha!

    • There is that, Suzi! Perhaps I should steer her to a small business symposium of some sort, so she can hear from an expert that this idea of hers likely won’t amount to a hill of beans?!

  1. Brava, Debbie! Kudos to you for dropping her because she sounded like she’d be a total disaster to work with and you just don’t need that kind of aggravation. It’s not worth the money or time.

    “if someone signed up for one of her helping classes and wouldn’t do what she told them, she’d have them leave. “Just go ahead — wallow in your misery. We’re going to improve, with or without you.””

    WOW…does she ever sound like a CONTROL FREAK! I’m surprised she has any business with her rude attitude.

    And yes, I get the same kind of customer at times when it comes to doing their makeup for a special event. They will tell me what to do and how to do it, and then often sit there the whole time and TEXT on the phone while I’m trying to apply the makeup. OMG…it drives me crazy.

    For the most part, I love my job and providing a service for the public. However, some customer truly try my patience.

    Have a faaaaaabulous week, my friend!

    • Customers text while you’re doing their makeup?? Oh, Ron, that’s just too crazy!! Don’t they want to watch…and learn? I mean, you can’t possibly follow ALL of them home and do their faces every single day, right?? That’d drive me crazy, too!

      It seems that customers like “Jackie” need to work with the kind of professional who basically says, “My way or the highway.” Just as she does. And if they were to charge her a FORTUNE in the process, perhaps she’d believe she’s getting what she’s paying for. Still, the aggravation of having to work for someone like that just isn’t worth it to me. I’ve had my fair share of control freaks, and they’re no picnic!

      Happy second week in January, my friend!! xo

  2. There’s a reason mechanics and such have those signs in their places of business:
    Labor Charges:
    I do the job $25/hr
    You watch $45/hr
    You help $150/hr

    With this one, I might add:
    You tell me how to do it $15,000/hr

    • I’ve never seen that sign before, Linda, but I think everyone who works for himself needs one — mind if I borrow it??!

      I especially appreciate the addendum. Customers who admit they know NOTHING of what I do, yet insist on telling me HOW to do it (while asking nit-picky questions designed to basically teach them everything I’ve learned since I started doing it) are in a category all by themselves. I don’t know where to refer them — I wouldn’t want to wish them on any other web designers, but I know I can’t work with them. “Jackie” just might have to be satisfied with one of those do-it-yourself programs!

    • Thanks for sympathizing, Monica. You’re so right — no way could I work with someone that abrasive. At least she was upfront, though. Can you imagine how horrid this situation would be, had she faked meekness, we’d signed a contract, then her true nature would have shown up??!

    • “It’s not always about money.” Tanya, that’s the truth! Sure, I could’ve used the business. Sure, I could’ve used the money from a project like hers. But working with someone like that would have been AWFUL! She wasn’t going to be satisfied, no matter how good a job I did, and she was going to complain and argue the entire length of the project — to the point where I’d eventually have to set her free without finishing. So yes, this is much better…for all concerned!

    • Thank you for empathizing, Professor. I guess she never understood the Rule to treat others as you would have them treat you! When someone seeks “help” from a professional, he needs to back off and let the professional do what he does best…without interference or aggravation. You’re lucky you don’t have this problem, right?!

  3. Way to go Debbie, good decision to pass on working with this client, from the sounds of it! I don’t blame you and have had clients come to me with no idea what they really are even looking for. They need to get to a certain point before they can be helped by us, at least that’s what I find as a freelance writer. I wish you all the best though with future clients (I hope they are angels!) 🙂

    • Christy!! I’ve missed seeing you around these parts and hope that means the book is selling like hotcakes! Thanks for empathizing and reassuring me I did the right thing. It’s hard when there’s money to be had — haha! — but I keep telling myself NO amount of money would be worth that aggravation! Angels would be nice…very nice!

  4. Sure, extra money would be nice, but it’s good you went with your gut here because I have a feeling that working with here wouldn’t be worth any amount of money she could pay you. (Can you really put a price on sanity?) In fact, I would probably put a ridiculously high quote out there for the ones I didn’t want to work with so they would go away 🙂

    • Janna, that’s EXACTLY what most of us do (how’d you know?!?) You’re so right, the extra money would be nice, but…working with a person who can’t be satisfied is a lesson in futility. I can see both of us, old and grey, limping along trying to get her a website she likes — and NEVER succeeding, ha!

  5. I have lots of crazies. Mostly good crazies. But a few who have threatened my sanity– like the women who called multiples times a day asking to speak with her pup. I usually work an aggravation rate into my billing. I don’t advertise it, I just find a way to add it in. It’s the only way to stay sane. I’ve only fired one client and that was because after multiple times of changing the time there was a snafu when he finally did arrive, I was about 15 minutes from home. He waited until I arrived and despite the fact that I apologized, he screamed at me told me I had no idea how lucky I was or how valuable the time I had wasted was —BECAUSE HE IS A DOCTOR AND I AM A PET SITTER. So I agreed with him, handed him his dog’s leash and shut the garage door. Generally speaking, I love all my clients and their pups. However, sometimes you have to fold them which is what you did when you said No DEAL my time is better spent with someone who values my work.

    • *applause* Outstanding way to look at this, Katybeth, and I appreciate hearing from somebody who knows what I’m talking about (though sorry you, too, have had to deal with such nonsense!). Tacking a little lagniappe onto the bill as an “aggravation fee” resonates with me, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who does this. As for that doctor — grrr, what arrogance!! Anybody doing an honest day’s work deserves the respect of everybody else!

    • Thanks for the support, Kim. My bank account is fretting over my turning down business, but I keep reminding it she probably would’ve balked at paying anyway, heehee! xo

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