When working with clients, patience is an essential quality and a delicate balance. Of course, you’ll want to be cool and calm when training a client or explaining the details of a project. That is just an expression of good manners.
But there are situations when you can be a little too patient. There may be points in a relationship where patience enables bad behaviour.
Therefore, it is important to learn how to balance your good intentions with the possibility of being taken for a ride.
Today, we will look at some situations where patience is called for and when it is time to say “enough”.
Don’t force yourself to be patient
I will admit that I am usually a very impatient person. It is something that has been a constant struggle. I often remind myself to be patient, even when I don’t want to. While that’s great for keeping clients happy, it also opens the door to being taken advantage of (which I was).
This mindset allows certain types of clients to get away with things. For example, you may never apologize to a client who is late paying an invoice. Or you might end up providing a free “favor” that costs you time and money. Throughout it all, you are acting against your own better judgment.
The result is a serious negative impact on your business. Not only will you lose money, but you can also be stressed out as you dread your work. You probably didn’t sign up for it.
Where to Draw the Line
Don’t get me wrong, a little patience can be a good thing. When a client sees that you are patient, it means that you are approachable. They can feel free to ask questions without fear. Because of that, your projects will have better results.
But designers still need to set healthy boundaries for what can and cannot be tolerated. So when is it time to declare yourself?
When a Client Will Not End the Deal
Entering into a work agreement with a client is not a one-sided business. It’s just a laundry list of your duties as a designer.
Clients also have their own responsibilities. Tasks such as paying invoices, meeting deadlines, and providing you with a clear understanding of requirements are part of the deal.
It is important to understand that we are all human. We make mistakes and are not always able to deliver. But when a client shows a chronic inability (or lack of interest) to do their part, we can’t let it slide.
When They Don’t Respect You
There are many ways to ignore a client. They may never answer your questions. Or they don’t seem to value your opinion on anything related to the project. You might even get yelled at or talked down to.
In this case, showing patience is just letting someone treat you badly. That can get old pretty quickly and puts the long-term viability of your relationship at risk.
Whatever the issue, the status quo is not worth maintaining. To see change, you must act.
How to Handle the Situation
Once you’ve decided enough is enough, it’s time to resolve the issue. Keep in mind that it’s still important to maintain a professional tone (even if you prefer otherwise). The goal is to fix what is broken and try to continue the relationship, if possible.
Every situation is unique. But some general guidelines can help:
Choose Your Words Carefully
Communication is the first step towards a solution. Think about what you want to convey to your client. To better explain the issue, include any relevant examples of behavior that support your claim.
You don’t have to be accusatory – just stay calm and matter-of-fact. In some cases, your client may not even realize what they are doing until you bring it to their attention.
Leaving a case open ensures that your issues will continue indefinitely. Instead, set deadlines for clients to take the necessary action. This creates a sense of urgency to get things done.
Also state what the consequences of inaction will be. Most importantly, keep your bottom line! Otherwise, your words are meaningless.
Find commitments in Writing
There are times when you need documentation that clearly states what your client promised to do. This is especially important when dealing with people who habitually fail to deliver on their word. Again, this enforces the idea of being accountable.
Don’t Offer Any Special Deals
If being too patient helped create the problem, the solution available is not more of the same. Any attempt at concessions will keep the vicious cycle going. Be friendly, but don’t be a doormat.
Patience is a virtue…with Limits
You may be under the impression that clients benefit from your kind nature if you have patience. Despite the above examples, this is not the case. Doing business with the vast majority of those you will work with is a great experience.
But the reality is that some people need more patience than others. Sooner or later, we will run into someone who usually doesn’t pay bills or who always makes our jobs more difficult.
That’s why setting proper boundaries is vital. Most clients will never cross them. But when one does, you will not be in an endless cycle of problems. You will have the necessary skills to correct those small issues before they get out of control.