The Perfect Client – Group Presentation 2nd Feb 2018 – Severn Valley Business Group

The Perfect Client – Group Presentation 2nd Feb 2018

| Posted in Breakfast Meetings

What stresses us out at work nowadays? One would hope it’s the not the actual work itself and we enjoy the work we do. After all, shouldn’t we enjoy what we do for a living?

If it’s not the work that’s stressing you out, could it be the people you work with, or customers perhaps?

For our presentation we wanted to take a look at how different members of the group who work in different industries react to problems  and issues with customers, and if indeed the problems we all have are the same. Hopefully we would all learn something and take away some useful tools to help us in our businesses.

Purpose: Get people thinking about how / why they deal with different clients in different ways and to discover the best way to deal with difficult clients & manage expectations.

Wouldn’t it be great if all our clients / customers were perfect? That would make our jobs easier! But what would make a perfect client? In our creative industry a perfect client would be:

  • One that gives us all the information we need from day one, a full and explicit design brief
  • One that gives us clear and concise answers to any questions we may ask
  • One that gives us a realistic timescale to work to
  • One that appreciates our skill and expertise and understands the benefit and cost involved in our services

Now, it’s probably unrealistic to have a client that meets all the criteria above, and unfair as most of us are only human. So, if not perfect, then generally speaking, clients fall into one of the categories below. Before we describe these categories, we need to make it clear these category names are not meant to be defamatory in anyway – some clients are unaware they fall into these categories – we understand the world doesn’t stop for us and they have other priorities with their own jobs. However, there maybe a few that are just those awkward people we have to deal with in life from time to time…

1. The Penny Pinching Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • Wants a ridiculous amount of work for a derisory price.
  • Doesn’t understand the value of what we do & that we are here to help.

We probably all suffer with this type of client. We live in a world where you can always get what you want cheaper elsewhere or online. It’s a competitive market out there.


With online website build solutions becoming more and more common, it’s easy for people to get the wrong budget in mind when it comes to the cost of website design. Because “you can build your own website for just £99, or even free” with these online builders, people can often undervalue the cost of a professional website, and don’t realise the implications of an unprofessional templated website until it’s too late.


For us, the solution for this type of client is one of the easier ones to deal with. We believe in you get what you pay for, and once we’ve explained the pros of our service and expertise, clients quickly realise what the realistic cost actually is.

When the group discussed this, the main point that was made was we have to be confident in ourselves and the prices we charge. Don’t undersell yourself just because the client has not understood that your expertise comes at a cost – and it is worth that cost. For years we used our strap line “Where design is an investment, not a cost” – if you can get the client to understand the value in why you charge what you charge, they are more likely to be understanding rather than you having to defend yourself for being too expensive.

2. The Tantrum Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • Wants everything and they want it right now
  • Constantly changing mind
  • Think they’re you only customer


This client can send constant emails, and make many phone calls daily chasing their work. They need their work doing now, or by the morning.

In the past when we have decided to pull out all the stops and get it done for them as they seem so desperate, it’s only to find out the client then turns into a Ghost customer (discussed later), or to subsequently get a response similar to “Oh sorry, we didn’t need it urgently after all, panic over”, or even “we don’t need it now, something else has happened”.


With website projects we set milestones, to keep the project running on time, so everyone knows what to expect when. We also set up a contingency plan just in case someone drops the ball.

When the group discussed this, it became apparent that most would not bow down to these demands and let something interfere with their structured work flow. Unless this client is prepared to pay up front and above the normal cost, then their unrealistic request should be treated as so. Clients need to understand it is necessary to set realistic deadlines that both parties can work to. If you customer-service focused, interrupting your already busy work flow, won’t be in the best interests of your other clients who already have work booked in.

3. The Know It All Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • Think they understand exactly what we do and tries to ‘interfere’.
  • Ignores advice only to be corrected later.


Sometimes when we get a specific design brief, the client may not realise there is a better way of doing what they want.


Sometimes when you get a client who refuses to take your advice, you have to make it clear that your price does not include any additional work that maybe required subsequently, if said additional work could have been avoided if they had followed your original advice. A tongue in cheek saying in our creative industry is “Everyone’s a designer!”

4. The Wishy Washy Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • They are indecisive
  • They can’t decide or explain what they want or need.


Part of our job is to get out what is in our clients head, on to paper / on screen. However, clients can sometimes struggle tell us what they want in terms of design. When this happens, they could end up paying more in wasted design time.


Our solution to this type of client is a process of elimination – if they don’t know what they want or like, start with what they don’t want or like.

5. The Ghost Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • This is a client who places an order and then goes off the radar for weeks / months at a time and then potentially reappears looking for 101 other things for you to help with on top of the ongoing project you already have.


These clients will disrupt your schedule on other projects, workflow & cash flow. For us, this can be our most common type of client. As mentioned above, they don’t necessarily do it to be awkward or difficult, they have other priorities. That said, when they do emerge from the mysterious place they disappear off to, they generally need whatever they need doing straight away as they have left it too long to get back to you, and subsequently could turn into a Tantrum client. And the world continues to turn…


We find that because this situation happens far too often, that the only way to deal with this situation, is to make sure you always take a deposit. This will minimise the disruption to cash flow, and ensures you are covered if the project is cancelled due to it not being required any longer due to missed deadlines etc.

6. The Angry Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • A client whose expectations have been managed (with proof), are happy throughout the whole project until it reaches the end when they get the finished product and it’s “not what they expected”.


An awkward one to speak about. Unfortunately, these are the occasional clients who, no matter what you do, it will never be good enough. There are people out there who are just never satisfied. Fortunately, as far as we are concerned, over the last 14 years, there have been very few.


Simple. Don’t work with these people. They are not worth the stress and anxiety they cause. And you probably will end up losing money on trying to satisfy their unfair demands. Politely indicate that you may not be the best fit solution for their needs and open the door for them as they leave wishing them luck. Never burn your bridges!

7. The Perfect Client

Our presentation concluded with the surprise announcement that the perfect client unfortunately does not exist.

There is no such thing as a perfect client, just perfect relationships that are made by how we manage the client & their expectations. Communication is key.

Presented by Nettl of Kidderminster aka Pixel Design –


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