How to Deal with Cray-Cray Clients

Every business owner’s had them. They are the bane of the entrepreneur’s existence.

Those cray-cray* clients.

Those clients who want your product on a shoestring budget. Those clients who think they are your only client. Those clients who sit on approvals, even at the risk of missing deadlines.

They drive us nuts, but if they are also paying clients, it’s hard to know what to do with them. Here’s what I’ve learned so far from my share of cray-cray:

Set the tone.

Before you even learn the hard way that you are working with a crazy client, do your research. Have a couple of meetings/calls with your prospects. Go to their office. Meet their employees. If something is off, ask yourself if it’s worth doing business with them, and go with what your gut is telling you.

Once you’ve mutually agreed to move forward, make sure you get everything in writing, hopefully in the form of a contract – start of the project, scope of the project, services to be offered, etc. Sometimes (or most of the time) a handshake and a verbal “OK” is not enough to seal the deal. Having a contract also shows that you mean business.

Set expectations.

This ties in with setting the tone, but it is something you will need to do every step of the way as you move your client’s project along. You constantly need to both gather and set your client’s expectations.

Ask clarifying questions…:

“When do you need this by?”
“How urgent is this task/deliverable?”
“What are the priorities for what we need to get done for you?”

… And make clear statements:

“I will get this to you by the end of the week.”
“I will give you up to 3 concepts to review.”
“We will need your approval by end of day tomorrow in order for us to make your deadline.”

Set boundaries.

This may be more of a dream than a reality for a small business owner, but hey, one can aspire to be able to accomplish healthy boundary setting (and suggestions are welcome in the comment box below!). In order to not go cray-cray yourself, you need to draw the line for what you will and will not do for your client. Examples:

“My office hours are 9 am to 5 pm.”
“I will be on vacation the first week of September.”
“Sorry, we don’t offer that service, but I can refer someone who can help you.”

If, after all this, you can’t stop the madness, you may conclude that you just have to cut your losses and try to move on from your client. Host a post-mortem meeting with your team, explore out what may have gone wrong from your end, and try not to repeat the same mistakes with new clients. Crazy clients may be part of the entrepreneurship package, but so is the freedom and joy that good clients/good projects bring.

Have you ever had a crazy client? Share your experiences and resolutions below.

In case you spent the whole blog post wondering what “cray-cray” means, here’s what the authoritative Urban Dictionary has to say:

Steming from the term “Crazy”, when Referring to someone as “Cray Cray”, signifies their craziness to a whole other level. The ultimate second power of crazy. This person can either be insane in the brain. Or simply, TOO DOWN. To the point where [it’s] not even cool anymore.

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