Digital nomading is great, but there comes a time in each nomad’s life when he or she gets a problem client. And we all know the term “problem” is really mild for these people. They are going to demand you 1k things at the same time, then leave without paying because they “feel” you weren’t fit for the job. They are going to torment you and call you at any time, any day, demanding full-time attention.
Unless you had problems with a client you can’t call yourself a digital nomad! They are like the baptize for us, so you need to be able to identify one from a long distance and run as fast as you can before they catch you.
The “job” of a digital nomad is the only one which allows you to swear by the “client is king” rule, but “fire” your client at the same time. You don’t have to stand up to the bad clients – after all, you are a nomad and you can always migrate to greener pastures. And if you are like me, you’ve given up your full time job to be able to enjoy a flexible schedule, one which fits your personality better and have enough freedom to refuse stressful tasks.
To be able to identify a problematic client you have to know the symptoms and how to cut the badness right from the root.
A problem client is disrespectful
The first sign you’ve come across a problem client is the lack of respect; if that guy doesn’t respects you, he will become a trouble. And this will happen really soon!
If your client is talking to you on a rude, demanding tone, you’re better out of the collaboration. If your potential client is asking you to reply immediately or asks for 24/7 attention, you definitely don’t want to work with him. Things will go even worse after they will consider you their “employee” – this is how they will see you, an employee, not a collaborator! – so you need to do the wise thing and let them go, no matter how great the opportunity was.
This is probably one of the few problems which can’t be discussed or negotiated – a disrespectful person will never change, no matter what, so it’s better to get out of this toxic partnership as fast as possible, preferably before it even becomes a partnership.
Lack of signed contracts or agreements
As a digital nomad a lot of the discussions and meetings you have are virtual, on Skype and on the phone. This is great, as it makes up for face to face time, but you also need to secure a written agreement of the discussions. This will be a sort of contract, which will act as a safety net for you and your partner. Each time one of you is unsecure, you can go back and read the contract or the agreement and settle any dispute which may arise.
If your potential client refuses to give you the written agreement, you should back out on him. This is a strong signal of troubles: if the client refuses to settle the terms of the working agreement in writing he might have hidden intentions, which are always regarding the payment. In other words, if the potential client is afraid to put it in writing, he might want to get away with not paying you.
Another huge warning sign you have to pay attention to are violations of the agreed terms of work. This won’t be as straight as a traditional violation of the terms of contract, so you won’t be hiring a lawyer soon, but you have to move quick and act on cutting the losses. When your client is not serious about the contract, he or she is acting unprofessional. Do you really want to work with someone who can’t be trusted? No, so confront your client and ask for a new clause or let him go ASAP.
The client who never pays on time
Digital nomads have to face a lot of problems, but they don’t have to face one specific problem: not being paid on time for their timely work. This is a classic sign of a problem client: if you deliver the work in time and according to their specific requirements, you need to be paid on time. Every single slip from this rule triggers an alarm. Of course, there are special situations, but they don’t happen monthly! If the client is not willing to commit to paying you on time – or generally, paying you for the work – it’s best to call it a day and move on. However, you can first try to mend things and find a solution to make the partnership work. When your client is delaying payments change the terms of the collaboration and ask him for upfront payments or milestone payments. If this doesn’t work, let him go.
Demanding is good, too demanding is not good
Having a demanding client makes you work more and this is a good thing – to an extent. Sometime, the client jumps the shark and pushes you too much. If you come across impossible deadlines, unreasonable demands and a huge number of adjustments which simply push you too far, let him go. Some digital nomads do put up with such clients, in the effort to overcome their limits. If your body and mind are fine with this, go ahead, but these arrangements can become toxic really quick. When this happens you can walk away or first try to negotiate and see where it goes. Clients are also humans and sometimes they might not be aware they are pushing you too much, so just remind them to them, politely and professionally.
When the client is high maintenance…
Remote workers come across a wide variety of people, some good, some bad and most of them in the middle. When your potential client is asking for a lot of information, it’s not necessarily a bad thing; but if they are asking for work updates five times a day, you have a problematic client in your digital hands. There are many people who had never worked with a digital nomad before and they are going to ask for a lot of info, but you have to know when to draw a line. If you have to guide the client and spend hours emailing and chatting with him, you’re not working, which means you’re losing money, which means you might not have a meal on the table.
This is a bleak picture, so when you come across a potential client who needs too much guiding and maintenance work, try to solve the problem by talking to the client and explaining the consequences of spending too much time chatting instead of working. If you can’t reach an agreement, just let him go.
These are the most common signs problematic clients and potential clients show. When you notice some of these signs you should let the client go and invest the time and resources in other projects and clients who can really help you evolve as a professional.