Finding the Wrong Clients


We've been lucky enough to work with some really great clients. It's always an awesome experience. An opportunity to remember why we do what we do, to align on goals, and to share the passion for creating something awesome. But, like anyone else, we've each had our fair share of problem children. From doubters and dinosaurs stuck in neutral to people who are just plain rude, we've seen it all.

Guess which types of clients see the most success.

It's no surprise to see great relationships produce great results. And it's easy to recognize when you have something special. But what's more difficult, and possibly more important, is knowing when to cut ties with a rotten egg. The first step to solving a problem is identifying that there is one. Here are some tips to help you detect a client that isn't worth your time.

1. Follow the 80/20 rule.
Usually, this is framed in terms success. 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your effort. So recognize what makes up that 20 percent, and figure out a way to maximize your efficiency. The same principle holds true for your headaches. Chances are, 80 percent of what stresses you out and keeps you up at night comes from 20 percent of your work. Sometimes, that entire 20 percent can be one terrible, miserable client. Recognizing that truth and then doing something about it can be a liberating experience.

2. Sense the indifference.
We like what we do, and we enjoy working together. Coming to work each day is fun. Why? Because we actually give a shit about what we're doing. When we start new projects, we want to detect that same passion in our clients. After all, what used to be their project is about become something we bring to life together. It's an exciting process, and it works best when everyone involved brings some positive energy to the table. You get out what you put in, and an indifferent, bored approach to a project is the first sign of an uphill battle.

3. Stop talking to the wall.
We're not always right. Like any relationship, we look for clients who make us better, who help us find the right solution after we experiment with tons of interesting ways to be wrong. In that sense, a little bit of disagreement is healthy, and it leads to personal growth and project success. But it's important to recognize when you know you've lost an argument before it even starts. When you're simply figuring out how to do damage control despite the fact that there's no real damage. When it feels like you're talking to a brick wall, save your breath, and move on.

4. Trust the drink test.
"Let's grab a drink." Whether it's a beer or a coffee, those words should create some excitement. They often present an opportunity for you to catch up with an old friend or get to know a new one. That feeling shouldn't go away because the word "client" is thrown into the mix. In fact, relaxing and shooting the breeze can be one of the most effective ways to form a strong working relationship. If you can't see yourself grabbing a drink with someone, chances are you won't enjoy working with that person.

5. Listen to your body.
Life's too short to be consumed by negativity. If you surround yourself with positive, like-minded people, you'll live a happier life. Why let go of that idea when it comes to business? At a certain point, the stress of an awful relationship will weigh on you. Pay attention to your body, and listen to its signals that are telling you to remove an enormous weight from your shoulders. When you do, even if you lose a big account, eventually, in ways you can't even really explain, it all works out for the better. Life goes on. Don't forget to enjoy it.

Matt Orminski is a brand strategy consultant based in New York City. He thoroughly enjoys problem-solving, storytelling, and the first bite of a proper cheesesteak. Get in touch.