Help, My Client Is Trying to Cheat Me!

March 24, 2010

Designers reading the above title are thinking of a particular client in their heads right now. Someone, somewhere at some time is going to try to get over on you the business owner.

It’s almost like an entrepreneurial initiation! Nevertheless, a client trying to swindle you is not only unfair, but can frustrate and discourage you. How does a self-respecting, kind-hearted entrepreneur combat this? I have a few clients that have treated me unfairly. Standing me up for consultations, not paying on time or at all, and sometimes saying or doing things that I felt were inappropriate. When that happens, the first reaction is to call them up and tell them just where to go … (we’ve all had those fantasies of telling off those annoying clients). But a good business owner understands the importance of customer service and dealing with difficult clients is a part of that. So here are several suggestions on how to deal with a client that is trying to cheat you out of your time, money or services. Sleep on it Your client just made you so mad that you want to drive to their establishment and threaten to (fill in the blank). While that may initially feel great, it might not be best for your current and future business relationships. Whatever that client did was wrong and feeling upset is justified, but acting on anger never solves anything. Stop all communication with that client for the day if possible, and take the night to cool off. Once you get up the next morning, you’ll be in a calmer state of mind, and better able to make a rational decision on how to handle the situation as a smart business owner, not an angry victim. Write it down When standing up to someone who has wronged us, we sometimes say or do things that we later regret. Saying the first thing that comes to mind might not always be best, but getting those words out may be essential for you to deal with and work through the situation. Instead of saying those not-so-nice things directly to the client, try writing a letter or an e-mail draft. Get out everything that you want to say (the deep down ugly stuff) and don’t hold back. But don’t send it! After you’re finished tuck the letter away, throw it out or delete the e-mail. You’ll feel much better after being able to actually say what’s bottled up, and the client won’t even have to be involved. Find common ground Most of my clients are small business owners just like I am. Each one is different and their ways of thinking can vary. They might not understand why I might be upset or feel slighted after they’ve done a particular thing, but in order to explain it so that they can understand, I have to find a common ground. A good analogy always works. I might use an example of a situation that would affect their business, product or service. I’ll speak in terms of their money or time and if a similar situation happened to them, ask how they might feel about it. It’s important that this type of approach be a dialogue. Let the client voice their opinion on how they would handle the situation. You might find out their motive for doing what they did was something you didn’t consider. But most importantly, it should lead them down the road to understanding. Once they start thinking in terms of their own resources, your viewpoint becomes a little clearer to them. Be Firm You did the work, but your client didn’t pay. You got a great deal on catalog printing, but your client went with a different printer behind your back and refuses to honor the bill. Whatever the case, your client owes you and they’re not paying up. There is nothing wrong with telling your client that you can no longer service them. Not honoring financial obligations is unacceptable. This same client could repeat this unethical behavior in the future, and it would be wise to protect yourself. If they question you, simply state the reason why you’re choosing to no longer work with them, and leave it at that. Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with turning someone away or speaking up. One of the best perks to being a business owner is that you’re the boss! You can pick and choose the clients that you want to serve. Having standards pays off in the long run.

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About Valerie Thompson

Anonymous's picture
January 07, 2016 03:21 am #

Thank you so much for this info clients trying to cheat you. I've had several former clients not only in this business, but also in another(including family members) who have done this. I love your advice on what to do. I would also add that sometimes those particular clients that you have let go will try to persuade others not to do business with you. So you need to be careful with whom you do business with in the first place. Ask around about their integrity, I'm quite sure they will ask about yours. 9 times out of 10, they have done this before and it's a habitual pattern with them. Be careful.

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