As an SEO professional, you are always on the prowl for new business relationships. There are many great people out there to work with. But there are also many “problem clients” who for whatever reason turn out to be more of a hassle than they are worth. These type of clients will disrespect your contract or call you at 3:30 am with random questions about some minute issue. How do you stay away from the bad clients and keep the good guys on the bus?
Here are some tried-and-true rules of thumb to separate the wheat from the chaff (or the curd from the whey or whatever other metaphor de jour you want to use to describe this process):
1. Eyes out for red flags
– Does a new client keep you on the phone for 30 minutes to talk about her dog? Red flag.
– Does the client repeatedly reschedule calls/meetings for arbitrary reasons? Red flag.
– Does the client complain to you at length about a previous writer or partner – and his complaints make absolutely no sense? Super big red flag with sugar on top.
2. Listen to your “spidey sense”
Do you get a strange intuitive sense that something about a business or client is not quite right? 99 out of 100 times, this is but the tip of the iceberg. Don’t waste time hooking a fish that’s going to die once you get it into the aquarium (sorry, again, a pretty weak metaphor there).
3. Incomplete references or credentials? Bad news
Everyone on the Web is in some sense flailing. This medium is so very new, and we all wing it to an extent. That said, sometimes a leap of faith is just jumping off a cliff. Protect yourself. Check references and credentials whenever you engage a new client (or have questions about an existing one!)
4. Get it in writing – and get it clear.
Set clear expectations. Tell the client precisely what you will deliver and when and how you will deliver it. Remember to keep expectations low and then over-deliver too.
5. Baby steps.
Don’t do $5,000 worth of work before getting your first check. It’s okay to spec out on what might ultimately only be a $50 assignment. But before you invest too much time/money/heartache into a project, make sure that the client shows you the money!