One of the absolutely worst things about working for yourself is dealing with customers. As a person who interacts with customers on a day-to-day basis, I have had extensive dealings with customers. While most of my customers have been honest and reliable there are some that have given me a really difficult time, and a few that actually ripped me off.
When it comes to dealing with costumers I have learned the hard way that you have to be very careful in the decisions you make, and always remember that the decisions you make need to be business decisions, not personal.
1. Clients are not friends
A challenging component of interacting with clients is the tendency to think of them as friends. I have had some really nice clients that I get along well with and some of them I have even met in person. I learned the hard way that considering these people as friends is dangerous, because every so often one of them will take advantage of you.
This happened to me with a client that I had been working with for about six months. She had an urgent order for me and asked me if I could bill her afterwards. As a general rule I always take payment up front, but in this case I chose to make an exception. The order was quite a big one, and the client kept giving me excuses, then abuse, then finally stopped answering their email altogether.
2. Make rules
When it comes to working with clients, being consistent is a good idea. Having a set of rules in place helps you treat each client in the same way. Perhaps more importantly, rules help to make sure that you don’t respond emotionally to the demands of clients.
What rules people use differ from one person to another, and are strongly influenced by the type of online business you are engaged in and the type of client you deal with. For example, if you work with professional companies on a regular basis, you may find that getting payment after your work is necessary. However, if you are sourcing clients through word of mouth, Craigslist other types of advertisements, getting payment up front is normally a safe idea.
3. Be flexible
While you may have rules for the way that you interact with costumers, it is important to know when to stick to these rules rigidly, and when to be flexible. For example, I frequently give repeat customers a discount on orders, or allow them a little more flexibility on payment. For example, some customers may pay me half up front and half right before I send the order. Others pay me after they have seen a draft version.
Although these approaches to payment are not the general method I use when dealing with customers, sometimes they are necessary depending on the temperament of the individual.
Don’t be afraid to say no. At the end of the day, if a customer looks like they are going to be too much work, simply do not take their order. You have the right to refuse service, and some clients are simply to unreasonable to handle.