Finding the Right Match: Getting Choosy With Clients

Finding the Right Match: Getting Choosy With Clients

It’s fifty-five minutes since the phone call started. You know, the one that your client said was just to discuss a few minor, last minute concerns. But you’ve long since put those to rest, and the discussion has deepened and veered into a meandering analysis of color schemes…or legalities…or life goals.

It’s not that you don’t want to be discussing these things, nor that you don’t care about your clients, who are most often a source for inspiration and whose input is essential for getting the job done. It’s that there’s a lot on your plate, and fifty-five minutes is fifty minutes too long.

So, how exactly can you bring the best out of your clients and mitigate the bad so that you’re both happy with the work you produce together? By knowing just what types of clients are out there, for starters. Here we break down the top six most common client types we’ve seen in our work at Alt Creative, and propose a few ways to approach handling them.

1. The Price Hound

When a client is hyper price conscious, you’ll know about it from the very first phone call. That’s because the first words out of his mouth will be, “What are your prices?” This person is likely to haggle, even when you say you have a fixed price, and is always searching for some kind of financial incentive. Price is the very first gate; if the financials aren’t right, they’re not stepping through to the things you know actually matter.

How to work with the Price Hound: It may be a behemoth task, but whenever possible, do try to move the price hound away from numbers as a first discussion. While their concern is understandable — there really isn’t any point in having a long conversation if your products or services are way out of their range — you’ll produce better work if you start with the clients’ goals, business model, and targeted audience before working back towards price. Not only does this produce better work, but it also produces work that actually matches what the client needs, rather than a generic solution.

Ironically (and this is something you can tell the Price Hound in your sales pitch), starting with the lowest price solution first, rather than the right solution for the client’s needs will generally lead to more money spent. The client will generally require more add-ons, edits or even complete overhauls as they are disappointed with lower cost solutions.

2. The Boss

For this one, picture Meryl Streep playing Miranda Priestly  in The Devil Wears Prada, though make the actual eye for design strictly optional. The Boss knows what she wants (or thinks she does) and is just hiring you to get it done because she doesn’t have the time. Don’t even think about proposing solutions she hasn’t already thought of. She is, after all, THE BOSS.

How to work with The Boss: Know your place, and set your expectations accordingly. You’re not going to win any industry awards for breaking the mold with this one, so don’t try. If you’re just starting out, doing a good job for the Boss is a great way to open doors, as she likely has great connections.

3. The Blurred Visionary

This client either has a lot of ideas or none at all, sending you first this way and then the next as you try to determine just what it is they want and need. In Alt Creative’s work, we’ve found these clients often have deeper doubts or confusion about their business model, and are turning to a website as a Band-aid solution. But it won’t hold unless they gain clarity, specifically when it comes to the written material on their site.

How to work with the Blurred Visionary: Don’t. Or at least, don’t yet. This person actually has a lot of potential; in fact, she may just be in the early brainstorming phase of developing a transformative business. You can potentially have a wonderful working relationship with her…after she works with a business coach, to whom you can provide a referral.

4. The Absentee Ballot

Though this client may himself be a boss, he is not The Boss. He knows he wants something done, but he’s not going to actively participate in the process and do the things you need him to do. Maybe he really doesn’t care, or maybe he’s an entrepreneur and simply overwhelmed. Regardless, projects with him often extend far past their due date and tend again to lead to pretty cookie cutter work.

How to work with the Absentee Ballot: Set deadlines and automatic reminders. Charge more for any extra or rushed work you have to do because he lost track of what was going on. And then, well, be patient.

5. The Time Blackhole

No hyperbole here. Time goes into this client, and never comes back. She tends to be hyper involved, needing feedback on every aspect of the process and worrying about very minor decisions. She’s also most like the client from our introduction, and is likely to be an inbox inundator as well. She really is a time blackhole.

How to work with the Time Blackhole: Believe it or not, this type of client is potentially one of the best to work with, as she’s mostly likely to take your feedback. What this client really needs is clear boundaries and validation. You might, for instance, answer her emails in a block at the end of the day. You can also inform her that any calls over five minutes will have to be paid for, or you can just set that rule for yourself and then nudge her towards upgrading her package after five minutes have passed. It’s a delicate line to walk, but if you do hold on to her and make her feel like you’re listening and respect her concerns, you’ll likely get not only repeat business but many referrals, too.


So, who’s the best client of all? The one who takes the time to educate themselves on basic concepts that relate to your services as well as to clarify their own goals. (Or, one who’s willing to have you take him through this education process). This knowledge helps not only to inform them, but to help them understand how much they don’t know. With this balance, they are able both to articulate their own needs while trusting in your expertise. This also makes them more invested in the process, so they’ll get you what you need straight away.

And they won’t bargain you down to a slave wage.

Are you a small business owner, solopreneur, or someone who otherwise works in a client facing position? Let us know the types of clients you usually encounter in the comments below, as well as your techniques for developing a productive working relationship.

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