We love our clients.
They’re the reason Lemonade Stand, our sister company, is thriving. They’re the business owners who let us get creative building, growing and managing their digital presence every day.
A primary reason for the recent success in our digital agency is based on our team becoming hyper focused on finding the right clients… and not just clients. A lot of us come from freelancing or small-business backgrounds, and we know how time-consuming and stressful a nightmare client can be.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of 5 reasons for a web agency to immediately turn down new business. It’s never easy to turn business away – but if you see a few of these signs, consider walking away before you sign a deal.
1. They “have an idea”
If anyone ever tells you they want to build the next Facebook, RUN! Anyone working in web design, software development or any other code-related industry knows this client. They’ve got a plan for the next big thing – you just need to build it. From scratch.
We love entrepreneurship, but we’re not in the market for a partnership. Chances are, neither are you. You just want to build a website or an app and make your client happy. Too often these types of clients have no real business plan, no capital and no plan to pay you for your work. They try to offer you equity in their “business” or promise to pay you down the road. Erm… no. We’ve never seen this work out the way someone promised.
There’s an easy way to deal with these people: just quote them honestly. Let them know what it would take to build their idea. Chances are, the quote will be high, and they won’t waste your time any longer.
2. They promise to send you referrals instead of checks
“I know everyone in this town,” the would-be client tells you. “If you do this right, I’m gonna send so much business your way.”
Sounds great, right? Here’s the catch: they want to send you clients in lieu of payment.
Referrals are a wonderful thing. If you do good work, people will tell their friends and colleagues, which could lead to lots of new business. You should go out of your way to show your appreciation if a client sends you a lead.
Here’s the thing about referrals, though: they’re not bartering chips. Worthwhile ones come from clients after they’ve worked with you for months (or longer) and come to trust your team. Promises to send business your way before you start working with someone are just that – promises.
If a potential client tries this tack, it’s best to let them know that you always appreciate referrals – but they should probably pay for your services first before pitching it to others.
3. They want to haggle over every price and detail
Look, business is business. For the right job, you’d probably lower your rates a bit. If someone really wanted to work with you, they might be willing to pay a bit more. That kind of negotiation is natural, and you shouldn’t worry about it happening now and then.
On the other hand, if a potential client fights with you over every price – and, by the way, needs you to go above and beyond your normal scope of work – it’s a sign of a bad relationship in bloom.
Things aren’t going to get any easier when they’re paying you regularly. These are the clients who will call you at all hours of the day asking you to do tons of work, and then complain when you quote them extra for it.
There are two ways to deal with these types of clients. You can walk away, or let them know micromanagement doesn’t come cheap. If they want to micromanage your every move, fine – but they’re going to have to pay for it. (You should obviously find a nice way to say this… so that you don’t get a negative review.)
4. Their values don’t align with yours
This one’s easy to explain. We’re a family company, so there are some types of clients we just won’t take on. Remember: Your reputation includes everyone you’ve ever worked with. If you’re uncomfortable adding someone to your roster, there’s nothing wrong with politely turning them away.
We’ve run into this situation a couple of times, and it’s actually easy to solve. We just tell the would-be client it’s not a good fit and direct them to a couple of our competitors who might be able to help them out. They appreciate the honesty, and we move on.
5. They don’t trust you
Look, you’re the expert. You don’t go to the dentist’s office and start telling him how to drill a hole in your teeth. But for some reason, everyone thinks they’re a designer or internet marketer. They say they know how to do it themselves… or that they could learn how to do it themselves but they “just don’t have the time.” Well, no duh. Anyone can learn anything if they’ve got the time. I could learn how to drill on teeth if I really wanted to (But I don’t really want to.)
Seriously though, you want to work with companies that trust you to do your job. They’ll give you good initial feedback and insight into what they’re trying to do in their business and then leave it up to you to figure out how to make it happen. If you don’t have that kind of trust, respect, and autonomy… it’s probably not going to work out because you will have had all of the creative juices sucked out of you. This kind of situation is a recipe for eventual failure, so if you perceive that a potential client has these sorts of tendencies from the get go, it might be wise to nicely point them in another direction.
This has been one of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around when I was running an agency. I used to try to figure out a way to take care of everyone even if they weren’t a good fit for us. But that happened one time too many. We resolved to make our decision to work with them as important as their decision to work with us. We weren’t just happy to work with someone. We were happy to work with the right someone.
And that has made a huge difference to our bottom line and our quality of life.