Clare asks: I’m fed up with one of my clients. Not sure what happened but suddenly they’re a nightmare to deal with. They have unrealistic expectations and small budgets for some of the video they are thinking of having us produce. Can you offer advice or tips for recognizing these types of clients beforehand? We’ve only been doing this for a little under 2 years and don’t have the “street smarts” yet.

Answer: There are many reasons why clients suddenly go from being profitable and pleasurable to draining and daunting. It happens to every creative business, and I think it is happening more frequently to video production houses of all sizes do the misconceptions on how “easy” video is to produce now thanks to the internet. What has accelerated this trend?

Bad clients use up a lot of company resources, like to play God, stifle creative ideas that are commercially viable, feel they could easily run the project themselves, behave unpleasantly and aim to pay lower fees project by project. All of us live with clients which display a couple of these traits, but if clients exhibit all six, they can destroy profitability and morale.

In the course of our work, we’ve come across many a bad client, here’s some interesting traits to look for:

  • Get it up quick” attitude, wants to shortcut the project scoping and planning process, wants a video quickly on social media up for the sake of having a video on social media.
  • Has not given thought to the business objectives of a video, what the content should be and how it should be organized (e.g. no script or storyboard)
  • Describes the project’s objectives in a vague descriptive manner like “clean and fun, better than my competitors”, without knowing what the content should actually be.
  • Small budget, big expectations, unrealistic timeline e.g. “I want a video that is just like that commercial I saw during the superbowl, to launch by next month, and my budget is $3000″
  • Indecisive, changes mind frequently, requires constant changes to design and content without end because the client has not done initial planning or not sticking to the plan.
  • Unable to make decisions or give approval. Not responsive, does not email or return phone call timely.
  • Expects swift delivery on all requests but does not do the same in delivering content, providing feedbacks, sign-off and approval to the project manager.
  • Does not make payment on time.

If all of the above sounds familiar and reminds you of a client or a new client, it’s not too late to put out a safe “we’re booked up for work at the moment. I can take your name and number and get back to you.”

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