A while ago I was part of a two-person writing team that the client had assembled. This particular client was just forming a business, so there was a bit of miscommunication on meeting times, call times, etc. In one case, the client had made, and missed, two separate conference calls. Frustrating as it was, we showed up for the third one, as did the client.
The client apologized for his earlier absences. That should’ve been enough. However, the other writer decided it was time to teach this guy a lesson. So for the next five minutes, we were locked into listening to his side of why he doesn’t like to be kept waiting. Ironically, his tongue-lashing kept us all waiting.
A number of things he did wrong – he let his anger show. He copped a condescending tone and launched into a here’s-why-I’m-a-bigger-person speech. He ended with why it was unprofessional for the client to be so unorganized. And again, the irony – his anger was just as unprofessional.
Also, he let the client have it publicly. Okay, three people doesn’t necessarily constitute a crowd, but the point was no matter how justified his words may have been, he needed to speak to that client privately – not in front of me.
Plus, hauling me into it by proxy was thoughtless and disregarded my time – the very thing he was accusing this client of doing.
And that anger? Yea, it never belongs in a client-writer relationship. I don’t care if that client set your house on fire. You stick to the facts. Blathering on like an idiot over waiting 20 minutes seemed pointless. We all know we waited. The client had apologized. Move on.
I was upset too, mind you. I had put aside time for these calls. How I handled it – I contacted the client directly, asking him if everything was okay. Once I found out it was, I reiterated that he missed both calls and that in the future, I’d have to bill for that time as I’d set it aside and couldn’t work on other projects. I ended with “I’m glad things are fine.”
I’m still working for this client. The other guy? Nowhere to be found. The difference in our reactions is what’s been cited to me – indirectly – for why I remained on board and he didn’t. I left the emotion out of it. I stuck to the business impact of the client’s tardiness. No one wants to hear – from their contractors, least of all – that they’re big screw-ups who can’t organize a phone call without a committee.
Occasionally my client will miss a call or forget an appointment. No problem. I simply add that to the next bill. And if that call comes in an hour, or even 30 minutes later, it goes to voice mail. I’m usually in the middle of someone else’s project. I can’t drop everything twice in one day. Most clients get that.
Then there are the clients who haul out emotions and guilt tactics to make their point. That’s your cue – walk away. Anyone who thinks it’s okay to negotiate rates with righteous indignation or with the sappy, “But it’s a labor of love for me! I don’t have the money…” is not your client. That’s an anchor about to go around your neck.
When was the last time you had to forgo the emotions and stick to the facts? How’d that go?