7 Ways to Deal With Difficult Clients

They say “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. Well, I’m thinking “they” never worked in the service industry.

I’ve been in this business a long time and have had the privilege of working with many different types of people – both the great and the not so great. Here’s my approach to ditching difficult clients and acquiring awesome ideal customers…

#1 – A Happy You Means Happiness for Them Too.
No matter what you encounter, endure or experience always remember that life is short and should be full of positive experiences. While serving your clientele, do not forget to service yourself as well. If you feel compromised, disheartened, or negative in any way, chances are you are giving too much of yourself. I’ve always believed that if I am happy with all I do, then others will be too. I practice this concept daily with my own business.

#2 – The Client Relationship…It’s Kinda Like Dating.
In today’s world, the dealings you have with your clients are no different than any other relationship you may encounter in your life. To begin, both sides have expectations and standards with which they conduct themselves. These, of course, are not always similar. In order for a relationship to work it needs to be one of equality where each party feels mutually satisfied. So be sure to align yourself with fantastic customers and, just like any relationship, ask yourself whether you are getting what you want from them. Several bad clients will offer dysfunctional work satisfaction, hurt your business ethics and essentially suck the life out of you and your business. Drop the damaging clients and keep those that let you shine. You wouldn’t accept anything less when dating, why should your business be different?

#3 – Your Time Is Worth It.
Have you ever had a client that expects superstar status without paying the celebrity price tag? Sometimes it’s difficult to see this type of customer coming (could it be the Dolce Gabbana sunglasses they’re wearing?), but should you encounter a freebie-demanding client remember to stand your ground. Make very precise agreements on what the scope of the project or order is and do not be embarrassed to charge for the extras. Your time is worth it!

#4 – Here Comes the Discount Diva.
Just like the client who wants everything for free, we cannot ignore the Discount Diva. This customer will not rest until she has scored the ultimate deal. Luckily there are a few things you can do.

The first is to actually offer her a great deal, but make sure its one that is worth while to you as well. For example, you might throw in a “free gift” with her order. To the client she has received a wonderful freebie, but in reality, it might be an item you can sacrifice from last year’s stock that really isn’t selling any way. Another solution may be to ask that she purchases the order at full price now and then offer 20% off her next order.

Another approach is to stand your ground. I often will pitch this to my Discount Divas: “Thank you for your request for a discount. At this time I offer high quality service at the lowest possible price and, because I do, I cannot offer any further discounts on your order. I look forward to working with you and thank you so much for your understanding”. More often than not the invoice is paid in full the same day.

# 5 – Its OK to Say “No!”
Some clients love to be involved… not polite, helpful involved but more like meddling Mother-In-Law “involved”. Let’s just call them controlling, for lack of better words. This type of customer will slow your work process down, degrade your expertise (why’d she hire you anyway if she could do it better?), and increase the demands on the free time you just don’t have. You may have to tolerate the initial project/experience, but don’t be afraid to say “no!” for any additional orders she may place. Remember, its best to conduct business at the level you feel comfortable with. You might just be better off without her.

#6 – Commit Already!
Perhaps the most frustrating client is the one who refuses to commit. She’s nice, polite, professional, interested and so incredibly hard to turn away. Yet she consumes every last minute of your already insanely busy day. A commitment phobic will cost you time, money, sanity and potential clients. Decide how far you are willing to go to pursue a client and do not allow temptation to entice you across that line. A worthwhile customer is one that has proven their value.

#7 – The Deadbeat
There is nothing more insulting than the client who does not pay. You’ve work your butt off, delivered a quality product/service and poured your heart into superior customer service. In return you’ve received zero, zip, nada! While our first instinct is to get mad, and maybe a little even, please remember that no matter what others do your reputation, both as a person and a business, must always remain professional. You can threaten legal action, karma retribution, or a visit from bad Billy Bob but, unfortunately, not even these will force a deadbeat to pay. So chalk it up as a lesson learned and from that point on only accept payments in full before any service or product is released to the client. After all, you cannot leave a retail store without paying in full, nor can you shop online without first paying before your shopping transaction is complete. Today, this is the only way to shop AND the safest way to ensure you get paid every penny you’ve earned.


Remember that you created your business with hard work, passion and complete dedication. It’s yours to cherish and enjoy. With that thought do not let the negativity of others destroy what you have built. Take every negative experience as a learning opportunity and meet your business success head on.


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Kim Timothy. Boutique By Design

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