How to Deal with Stupid Clients

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Have you ever had to deal with a client who was behaving so stupid that you could barely control yourself from slapping him? Of course you have… multiple times.

It’s not only you. All of us have had those clients from hell who make us wanna rip the arm off just to have something to through at them.

But you know, money is money and if there is a client willing to pay, we need to cater him/her. All we need to do is make the whole experience less annoying.  And we can actually do that!

Dealing with stupid clients is not that difficult if we just realize a few things and follow a few practices. Today I am sharing both of them. You’re welcome.

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I’ll be adding examples of client horror stories along the article from the famous tumblr blog. I’m using them as examples so that you’d know what you’re up against and prepare to combat the situation.

Spot the Stupid

The first step towards solving a problem is realizing the problem. So the first thing we need to do is realize whom to treat as a stupid. That’s because normal people need to be dealt with reasoning, honesty and clarity. They deserve quality.

Stupids, on the other hand, need not to be dealt, rather tackled.

Client: I love it. It’s just, the blue on the table, can it be more of a yellowish blue?

Me: You mean green?

Client: No! I don’t mean green! I mean more of a yellowish blue!

I open the color palette and ask him to point the color. His finger points at light green.

Me: That is green.

Client: NO! It is not! It is yellowish blue!

Once you have realized that your client is one the dreaded kind, switch gears.

1. Basics of dealing with stupid

When we are dealing with people who have common sense (which is a rare commodity these days), we educate them. We make them realize their needs, we tell them the importance of user experience and accessibility, and we do many other things. Those clients appreciate it because they consider us designers an authority on the topic. Stupid doesn’t think so.

When you are dealing with a stupid, never ever try to educate him/her. They will take it as insult.

Designers Life

You need to treat them with utmost respect. Make them feel that you don’t consider them an idiot. They will love you.

2. Don’t complete your work, finish it

One thing that is almost certain with these clients is that change of heart is inevitable. They keep finding stupid ideas and they keep throwing them towards you.

Naturally, in such a scenario, when things keep on changing you won’t be able to make one masterpiece. Even if you can, it is not going to be appreciated so it is not worth the bother.

Client: My colleague told me one page websites are really hot these days.

Me: I’m already half way through your current web design.

Client: No, make it one page.

I complete one page web design and send it over.

Client: My brother-in-law told me Google doesn’t accept one page websites.

Me: Google does accept them. Believe me.

Client: No, multi-page it is.

You don’t need to work on intricate details. Just finish the job. The quicker you finish it, the less annoying it will be and more likely you will be of getting paid.

3. Money first

We do it for the money right? But these clients are not always willing to see our side of the story. When they have a change of heart, they just simply refuse to pay.

You need to be prepared for that.

Client: The client is unhappy. People are not taking part in the campaign. We are not sure we can pay you since we are not sure they will pay us.

Me: What does this have to do with me? Everything I was responsible for works just fine.

Client: Look, we’re not too happy about it either, but that’s life.

If you know that someone can trouble you later on, always – I repeat, always – ask for an upfront amount enough to save you from losses. This is your insurance policy. If the client is refusing it altogether, don’t take the project. It’s just not worth it.

4. DON’T make them realize their needs

They don’t know anything about designing, but they believe that they do. And here’s the tricky part, if  you make them realize that they don’t, they won’t like you. You need to preserve their bubble.

Self Control

They will make outrageous mistakes. You will have to cope with it with patience. This is because is purely because you need the money. Don’t correct them, don’t teach them, just finish the job. They want a gradient of magenta merging into to ocean blue… just make it. Even if you do know that it will never be accepted, just do it.

Also, don’t teach them, inform them. Here’s an example:

Me: How about this font?

Client: That’s too modern looking.

Me: It’s from over 200 years ago.

Don’t tell him that the font is from 200 years ago. If he says it’s modern, that it is dammit. Just change the font.

5. Don’t leave anything on them

Leaving anything on clients is a big big mistake. Sometimes we do have to be but try to do it as minimal as possible.

Client: I received the 3 business card designs. Thanks.

Me: So which one do you like?

Client: I don’t know. I like all of them.

Me: *facepalm*

The above example is actually cute. In fact the designer can take it is a compliment. But not everybody is like that.

Client: We really, really, really need this done by 4:30.

Me: No problem. Once I get the feedback I’ll jump right on it.

Feedback doesn’t come in until 4:25.

Me: So, is the deadline pushed then?

Client: Why would it be?

If you do have to, just have to leave something on the client’s side… make sure that you properly follow it and stay updated with whatever is happening. If you leave anything on them, they will not do it, at least they won’t do it properly and you’ll get in trouble.

Conclusion

It’s getting late so I’ll conclude here. But if you like the topic, we can write more articles on similar topics. Please do comment and share your thoughts.

Getting back to the conclusion, here’s a checklist of the things we need to keep in mind while working with stupid clients.

  • Treat them with great respect.
  • Don’t try to educate them or correct them.
  • Work only to finish the project, not complete it. Do as quick as possible.
  • Be emotionless. Follow orders like a machine, even if you know the orders are stupid.
  • ALWAYS ask for some amount upfront.
  • Don’t leave anything on their side.

That’s it guys. That’s the juice of my 12 years of experience of working in the market. This is how I tackled stupid clients.

If you have any client horror story or you have any advice for me and fellow readers, please do share it.

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Comments
  1. Jordan Bell March 7, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    I can’t remember the last time I identified more with a segment. These conversation quotes could’ve been pulled straight from my email…… It’s insane. I want to share this with the world and shout it out… But, that’s not good for business…I think. Oh man I’m frustrated now. Great Article!

    1. Tayyub March 13, 2015 at 1:02 am

      You speak for many of us. We do want to cry out in the agony and just walk away, yet we can’t do that… not good for business.

      Thanks for the appreciation 🙂

  2. Leninha Peixoto March 16, 2015 at 7:29 am

    Olá,
    Adorei o post, parabéns!
    (risos…)

    1. Tayyub March 16, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      Olá,
      Muchas gracias 🙂

  3. Gani April 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

    Awesome and very useful post

  4. Phil September 14, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Great article, please provide more! how to deal with stupid people when they request unreasonable deadlines? so many questions on this topic, I find myself with my head spinning each and every day because of idiot clients. Is there a book you recommend?

    1. Ayaz Malik September 16, 2016 at 4:17 am

      Hi Phil, i understand. i will see if i can find something for you.

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