Protect Yourself From Nightmare Clients

Yesterday I came across 2 posts about nightmare clients. The first, from ReelSEO, features a selection of quotes on video production from the site clients from hell. Check the source for all of them, but here are a couple of gems.

Video file by end of day

Video file by end of day

The second post comes from StarWipe MyAss and features an editor being torn apart by the worst client imaginable. Everything is extremely personal, and none of the rant is about the specifics of the work.

While both of these posts are pretty funny and a good diversion from a hard day of work, they highlight that many problems with production and post come from a breakdown in communication. Clients, producers, and editors speak different languages, have different skill sets, and come from totally different backgrounds. It's no wonder that things can get rocky.

What can we do to head off these sorts of problems and keep a new client from becoming a "Client from Hell"?

  • Stay away from jobs where the expectations sound unrealistic from the start. You have to listen to your gut here. If you are new to the business, you'll probably have to get burned by someone to truly this to learn this lesson.

  • Stay away from jobs where the client is paying an unrealistically low amount for the work at hand. These jobs often come with the promise that they will lead to future work. Most of the time they don't.

  • Outline project timelines, milestones, and deliverables in as much detail as possible. This forces both yourself and your client to consider whether the project seems realistic. If you both have very different perceptions about the amount of time things will take, then you can address things at this stage rather than after the work has begun. The more unfamiliar you are with a client, the more time you should spend upfront working through the timeline with them.

  • Keep the lines of communication open. Keep clients up to date on progress, signal potential roadblocks and delays as early as possible. If there are concerns about things like workflow, relationship, deadlines, etc, address them as early as possible. Most people like to avoid confrontation, but addressing problems early on keeps them from bottling up and exploding. Don't do all of this via email. There are times when phone calls and face to face meetings work best.

  • Educate clients on the process. Many of the people you work with know very little about video production. In the case of corporate or commercial work people's day jobs may be entirely unrelated to video. In this case, part of your job is teaching people about the video creation process and making them comfortable.

  • When reviewing material you should ask for specific feedback. Tell people the types of things they should be looking for, what type of feedback you want, and when you want it. Here is a guide we wrote earlier this year that you can share with clients.

  • Take feedback as constructively as possible. Try not to take it personally (although it's hard when the client is questioning your ability to attract the opposite sex as in the above clip) and focus on the message rather than its delivery.

  • Know when to stand up for yourself. You've been hired as a professional, and sometimes your job is to protect clients from themselves. If you are going to explain why something won't work, go into detail, and try to relate it back to the project goals and objectives.

  • Get a good contract and build a relationship with your lawyer. It will protect you in the event that things seriously run off the rails. When speaking with a lawyer, it always seems like they are paranoid and thinking of all the things that can go wrong rather than right, but that's what you are paying: This thinking will protect you if things go wrong.

  • Know when to walk away. Sometimes the best course of action is to find a way to extricate yourself. You may need to speak with your lawyer, but a clean break may be best.

If you've got any other tips on how to avoid nightmare clients or how to keep new clients from turning into nightmare customers, please share them with the community below.