When It Rains….

As I’ve become so fond of saying on this blog, there’s an old saying. “When it rains, it pours.”

Anyone who’s ever, well, lived, knows this is true. When things go wrong, things tend to go really wrong. Often multiple things at once. In the most extreme of cases, this can lead to the flat out failure of your business. But that doesn’t always have to be the case, and in fact shouldn’t, so today we’re going to talk about ways to avoid that.

The first thing to remember is do not panic. This is the worst thing you can do. Someone in the midst of panic is far more likely to make rash, unreasonable decisions, and that just won’t be any good for anyone. Remember, things go wrong all the time. Things have probably gone wrong for you in the past. Things will go wrong again. It’s an undeniable fact of life. It is not worth freaking out over. It’s going to happen, it will happen again. So first of all take a deep breath, clear your head, and start attacking the problems one by one until they’re all solved.

To get a little bit more specific, we’re going to focus more on those of your operating businesses that involve you providing a service directly to a client. This is in my experience where things can go the wrongest, as so much is completely out of your hands.

So let’s say as an example, you’re contracted to do work for a client. Could be anything. Home renovations, graphic design, web design, anything. You provide your client with a quote, work begins, things seem to be going well, and then the proverbial human waste hits the fan.

Like I said, don’t panic.  This happens all the time. Your client may decide they want a complete redesign of your work. They may have a million edits that fall far out of your purview. They may have decided that the materials your purchased for their renovations aren’t what they wanted after all and that they want something else.

None of this is your fault. Remember that. It’s all on the client. Of course the client doesn’t see it that way, and often expects you to do the extra work either pro bono, or pay for the new materials out of the initial budget. This is unacceptable, can leave you in the hole, and in general take a big chunk out of your Personal Independent Earnings, if not eliminate them for this job entirely. Again, unacceptable.

Unfortunately this means you will have to have a little sit down with your client and discuss with them that because of the extra work and expenses, your original agreement is going to have to change. There isn’t really any way to avoid this (unless you like losing money, and if that’s the case, why are you here?).

You need to calmly and professionally explain to your client exactly what the problem is. Why certain things are not what you were contracted for. Why changing materials halfway through the job is going to cost more money, and that money should not be coming out of your pocket. It is best if you come into this meeting with all of the numbers necessary to explain to the client as calmly and clearly as possible why this is going so wrong.

And then comes the hard part. You have to ask them for more money. Under no circumstances should you ever be expected to pay out of pocket (or lose money out of it) for things that are no fault of your own. If it is because of your own mistake, then yes, you should own up to it and take responsibility. But if it’s not, then it’s on the client, not on you. Of course, don’t say it quite like that. As I said, be calm, cool, and professional. Show them the numbers. Show them exactly where things went wrong. Don’t flat out say “this is your fault, I need more money.” That’s a bad thing and will probably make them very angry.

It is my personal experience that if you go to a client with all the numbers in order, and approach them in a cool, businesslike manner, they’ll be more receptive to your (not at all unreasonable) requests. Maintain a professional demeanor, but by no means give in. Many clients will try and force you to complete the work anyway, regardless of how much money you’re going to personally lose. There’s a word for people like that, but as I try to keep this blog as PG as possible, I won’t repeat it here. I’m sure you can all think of at least a few words that would apply here.

Stand fast. Stand firm. While this is absolutely not a negotiation, some of the advice given in this article can apply here.  Do not allow yourself to be lowballed. Stand firm. But also don’t try and gouge your client for more money either. You’re only after what you need to finish the job, and maintain your profit margin. That’s it. Anything else, well, some of those words you all thought of a minute ago will apply to you too.

There will be times where a client will flat out refuse to pay you what’s necessary to complete the job. This happens. Don’t stress out too much over it. In this case, it’s probably best to walk away. Where possible, remove any unpaid work (easiest for graphic and web designers), pack up, and move on to the next client.  However, a reasonable client will understand that problems do arise, and work with you to make sure the job is completely correctly. These are the kind of clients you want. They often turn into repeat customers, and repeat customers means more PIE in your pocket.

As I linked earlier in this post, from an article way back when, sometimes your endeavors will fail. This is unavoidable. But do your best to work with your clients to see the job through, and you may just find that while it may  rain, it doesn’t always have to pour.