A client sent me a couple of emails yesterday. In the last one, she began,
“I very much value your work and experience.”
A lovely sentiment, right? But it surprised me, because I had just fired her.
Yes, I fired a client. It’s not something I do often—or with any glee–and I won’t rehash her transgressions but in human resources–speak, I feel confident I terminated her for cause.
When she emailed me to take on another assignment this week, I reminded her of my previous experience with her—let’s just say it gave me metaphorical whiplash—”so you can understand why I will not be working with you again.”
How to be a good client
1. Know what you want and when you want it.
At the beginning, the most important information you can give me is the deadline. By all means tell me what you want me to write about, but if I can’t get it done on time for you it doesn’t matter how much subject matter expertise I have.
If I tell you I can do the work and we agree on a fee, that means I WILL do the work, on time and on budget. And if the first draft isn’t quite right, I’ll revise. I always build time for revision into my quotes.
3. Deliver on your promises.
Give me the information I need in a timely manner and I will wave my word-wand and turn it into the agreed deliverable. If I say I need your revisions in two days, or in a week, I mean it. Your timeliness facilitates my timeliness.
It’s not that difficult, just a little common sense and professionalism. Almost everyone I’ve ever worked with can handle it—and I bet you can, too.
Oh, and one more thing:
4. Pay promptly.
Everyone appreciates prompt payment, but that doesn’t absolve a client from following the other three rules. The client I just fired paid me the minute my invoices hit her in-box—but I value my sanity more than her money.
I’ve received glowing testimonials from a range of clients (see the home page for what Warren Buffett had to say about working with me).
Until now, however, I’ve never had a testimonial from a client after I fired her. She said I “turn around what [she is] trying to say with such grace and quality.” In fact, she has “not been able to find another” writer to do that anywhere near as well as I do.
That doesn’t surprise me. As I said in my final email to her,
“I am very, very good at what I do.”