In theory, owning a PR firm gives you the ability, and right to work with exactly who you want. However, most of us have added a client or two to our roster who end up being less than ideal, whether we ignored red flags during the proposal process or find issues developing once the first month’s retainer has been signed.
While it is never easy to let go of a client (see here for a script you can use to sever ties) or sit down for a tough conversation, these boss-level acts of bravery invite the personal development and growth that leads to business development and growth. There is no reason to endure difficult clients who don’t value your agency’s work.
That said, open client communication and clear expectations can fix many common client issues before it comes down to termination as the only option. Here are a few tips to help you spot red flags and shut them down before they take over the relationship.
Be on guard if you see these actions from your client:
1. Clients who are just plain unprofessional
While often driven by fear and discomfort, clients may demonstrate a lack of respect for your time and processes by calling at all hours, ignoring regularly scheduled calls and check-ins. They may text outside of business hours, demand near-constant updates, reschedule meetings or go MIA when media opportunities arise. Overall this lack of respect is a boundary and trust issue, best handled with a frank conversation that outlines proper procedure. It’s also up to us to hold up our own boundaries and redirect communication to it’s proper time and place. remind them of your contract clauses, invoice fine print, and designated hours enforcing these details. Resend documents if you need to, but be sure to highlight the text in your contracts that clearly address what and how you handle client communication.
2. Clients who increase your workload (but not your paycheck)
It’s one thing for a client to come to you and request that you handle a new aspect of their communications strategy with the understanding this will add to their retainer, and an entirely different situation when a client regularly asks for more work to be completed under the existing scope of work. We call this scope creep in the industry, and a great way to mitigate issues here is to ensure you have a clause in your contracts for change orders and to walk through the scope of work with your primary content to ensure full understanding of what is and what isn’t covered. And exclusions area in a contract is also a great place to articulate what isn’t a part of the retainer.
3. Late payments and compensation negotiations
Not surprisingly, one way to expend a ton of time and emotional energy is with clients who are notoriously late with payments, or who try to change payment terms from month to month. In order to run a profitable agency, determine cash flow, and keep your sanity, this is one place where holding a strong boundary is key.
Letting time pass without addressing problems can make things aggravating, unproductive and uninspiring. If addressing concerns with your clients doesn’t set the record straight, it may be worth it to simply part ways. While firing a client is never fun and certainly not ideal, it is sometimes a necessary practice and part of business. Save the stress, keep your dignity and move on trusting your idea client is on its way.
Owning your own business allows you the privilege to choose who you work with. Acknowledging red flags is important to keep projects on track and workflow organized. Remain confident – and keep your clients in check.