Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:
Enough is enough: When to say no to clients
I think I’m a generous and caring person, as well as a good businesswoman. I always try to surprise and delight my clients by giving them something extra, exceeding their expectations by going a bit beyond what was specified in our scope-of-work agreement. And I try to be gracious when they request small changes, so that I’m not nickel-and-diming them for every little thing.
But sometimes enough is enough.
I have a former client who keeps asking for freebies. Former, as in the project I did for him was completed almost 2 years ago. But he keeps coming back, asking for this and that, nothing major, just a lot of little nibbles at my time. And up until now, I’ve provided what he has asked for in the interest of good customer relations, “service after the sale,” with no mention of charging him for my time. (And no offer on his part to pay a reasonable rate for my assistance, either.)
But the other day I finally put my foot down and said “I’d be happy to help you with this at my regular rate for custom work. Or I offer tutoring if you’d rather learn how to do this kind of thing yourself.”
In other words, I said no.
It was absolutely appropriate. And definitely way overdue. So why do I feel guilty? Why do I feel like a curmudgeon?Sometimes it’s hard to know when to say no to clients. But asking an entrepreneur for free work, or even free advice, is like asking a retailer to give away their product for free. No one would think of doing that in a retail store. It’s not appropriate there, and it’s not appropriate when dealing with a professional service provider either.
And while I’m on a soapbox about this, I’m also surprised whenever I get “attitude” from clients who request major changes to their project but don’t want to pay extra for the changes. Like I said, I bend over backwards to give good service, so I frequently don’t charge for small changes. And while I try to learn something new from every project, I won’t bill the time I spend learning it to your project budget. However, if something you request takes me more than 15 minutes to accomplish, then I will charge for it (after informing you in advance and getting approval to proceed). There are costs involved in running a business, and in order to survive I need to make a profit over and above those costs.
What I’m selling is my time and skill — it’s how I make my living. I’m not trying to cheat you! So please respect that — and me — by not asking for or expecting freebies. And I promise that you will always get more than you pay for.