What do you do when a client asks for more than you’re willing to give? You believe in their brand's mission, you’ve set your rate or retainer and you’ve established expectations, but now the client wants 24-7 support on a part-time budget. You’ve already extended yourself as it is, but the budget and your own boundaries aren’t flexible enough to even entertain the notion of extra overtime.
Often, the consultant is courting several, not just one client. An extra service can turn into many. Consultants are jugglers in a circus of daring entrepreneurial acrobats, but if not careful, they can find themselves having dropped the balls and swinging with the daredevils in an effort to keep up. So here are a few key tips on handling the over-asking client:
- Say no. Startups are often on a frenzied schedule. Now they want you available on weekends and after hours to accommodate that crazy schedule. Sometimes it’s due to the business being new or them being new to the business. Other times, it’s the nature of the work they do or service they provide (say, they work with clients in a different time zone). Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not actually necessary to mimic the harried and overworked behavior of a client in order to be effective. Unless your contribution to the team contractually requires you to be on call at all hours, working extra is not necessarily working smart.
- Know your purpose. The client retained you to help them. You’re the buoy. A buoy bobs in the water but it doesn’t move with the boat; it saves the drowning. So fulfill your calling. Stay true to what you’re hired to do. Establish firm ground rules of mutual respect when it comes to time, talent and technique. It may be uncomfortable at first, but standing your ground will ensure you avoid feelings of resentment for taking on too much. Your approach just might be the breath of fresh air a client needs and your client will respect you for it.
- Define emergency. Offer alternatives to being at their beck and call. Suggest a method of communication that won’t impede on your personal and family time. For example, no calls or texts on Saturday unless in an emergency. Then, define what emergency situations would necessitate a call. Let the client know that an email will suffice if replies can wait until the weekday. Don’t leave anything to the imagination. Be clear and communicative.