They say a business partnership is like a marriage. And a bad one can have repercussions that lasts for years. So, just like a marriage, you ought to make sure the qualities and characteristics of your business partner are compatible with your values.
A bad client is more like a bad vacation—miserable but not life-threatening. Still, it’s a good idea to avoid them whenever possible. And the best way to do that is knowing what a good one looks like. So here are 7 Qualities of a Good Client.
Good Clients Have a Realistic Budget
I’ve written before about the “magic number” I always seemed to encounter: $300. It was what most people thought a website should cost.
The average client is most likely clueless about the cost of a website. But good ones understand that they must spend money in order to make money. They realize that marketing is an investment not an expense, and are willing to spend money if they’re convinced of a good return on their investment. Bad clients focus exclusively on what they must spend.
Good Clients Rarely Haggle on Price
Good clients rarely haggle on price. While they expect good value for a fair price, they also realize that under-paid vendors seldom provide quality service.
For some people, however, no matter how cheap you are, the price of doing business with you will simply be too high. It always amazes me when people who are in business to make money can’t grasp the concept that we’re in business to do the same.
Good Clients are More Concerned About Finding an Expert They Can Trust
Good clients are more concerned about finding an expert they can trust than about getting the cheapest price. That’s because their biggest fear is picking the wrong person for the job. Prove you’re the right man or woman, and they won’t hesitate to hire you.
A bad client’s biggest fear is paying too much. That in itself doesn’t make them bad. But have you noticed the cheapest clients tend to be the most demanding? That’s what makes them bad. Very, very bad.
Good Clients Are Willing to Take Advice
In a perfect world, all business owners would have mission, vision, and value statements, a brand strategy, and a unique selling proposition (USP). They’d also have a clear idea of how they’d like their website to look and how it fits into their overall business objectives.
Welcome to reality, where “doing quality work at an affordable price” is what most business owners think sets them apart from the competition.
I’ve found that good clients are only too eager for some unbiased advice, because most of them aren’t savvy marketers. Oftentimes, consultations about website strategy turns into a discussion that helps the client in all aspect of their marketing. The questions you ask during your needs analysis should inspire your client to start thinking about value statements and brand strategies—especially if they have none. I think that’s called “added value.”
Good Clients Have a Single Point of Contact
Ever have a client website designed by committee? In his humorous cartoon, How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell, Matthew Inman describes how a client involved his mother in the feedback process because “she designed a bake sale flyer back in 1982”.
Good clients may ask a spouse or business partner for feedback. Bad clients will show your mockup to their entire staff.
Good Clients Participate in the Process—but Not Too Much
Even the best of clients will struggle to deliver content on time. Kelly Goto, author of Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow That Works, quite accurately writes that receiving client content on schedule is “perhaps the most difficult and least-predictable part of any Web project.” She goes on to say:
Clients often have an unrealistic view of what they ‘already have ready to go’ and also what items they need to create. The myth is that the content will arrive on time. The mystery is that no matter how organized both you and the client are, the content will inevitably arrive late.
A client who’s late with content isn’t necessarily a bad one—just an overworked one. But good ones will deliver content in a timely matter, respond to phone calls and emails, and do their part to ensure the project is completed on schedule.
Bad clients will do none of the above. But they will open your mockup in Photoshop and redesign it.
Good Clients Pay on Time
Client who engage in all the bad behavior I’ve described above, and then don’t pay you on time are really, really bad clients. Try to avoid them at all costs.
Unfortunately, you can’t often tell ahead of time whether a client will turn out to be a bad one. But once you’ve had a few, you’ll begin to spot the early warning signs. Remember, every bad client is a learning experience. Don’t let them go to waste.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so feel free to add to it in the comments below.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.