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August 30th, 2021 × #Freelancing#Clients#Communication

Hasty Treat - Freelance Tips - Toxic Clients

Wes and Scott discuss signs of toxic clients for freelancers like unclear project vision, scope creep, poor communication, rudeness, and bragging.

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Topic 0 00:00

Transcript

Scott Tolinski

Welcome to Syntax. And this Monday, hasty treat, we're gonna be talking about bad clients, toxic clients, clients that will make you very upset at life, and we'll be talking about not only how to identify them, but what to do about them. And there's a lot of different options that we have in front of here, Even including even just straight up letting them go. My name is Scott Talinsky. I'm a developer from Denver, Colorado, and with me, as always, is Wes Bos.

Wes Bos

Hey, everybody.

Wes Bos

You are toxic.

Wes Bos

How does that Britney song go? Yeah.

Wes Bos

There's a little

Scott Tolinski

CSF. Yeah. Love missing Britney. Yeah. I love Toxic, dude. Toxic is great. Yeah. It's one of those yeah. Love Britney, but also love Toxic. Yeah. That it's a earworm song. That's one of those ones that just gets into your head. Yeah. That was that was a a very specific arrow of, like, just, Yep. Toxic all the time. So alright. Well, let's talk about toxic clients here. And before we get into that, let's talk about 2 of our nontoxic very excellent sponsors, Linode and Sentry. Wes, do you wanna talk about Linode?

Wes Bos

I do.

Wes Bos

Linode is cloud computing solution for hosting your project. Whether you're working on a small personal project or doing enterprise infrastructure, you deserve simple, affordable, accessible cloud computing. I take your project to the next level. They've got all kinds of stuff. Linux virtual machines. You can develop, deploy, scale your modern applications easier.

Wes Bos

Linode's got a pretty sweet deal for you. A $100 in free credit. So you wanna try it out? You could run your personal project on that thing for a while. So a $100 in free credit at linode.comforward/syntax.

Wes Bos

That's gonna give you a $100 free credit. They've got 11 data centers, 247, 365.

Wes Bos

Human support. No tiers or handoffs regardless of your plan size. That's pretty cool. And one last thing, you can use your $100 in free credit on s three compatible object storage. So even if you wanted to use that just to host a bunch of images or videos or anything, they are s three compatible, meaning that you can use your s three Node packages or whatever with it. So check it out, linode.comforward/syntax.

Scott Tolinski

Thank you, Linode, for sponsoring. This episode is also sponsored by Sentry at century dot Yo. Now Sentry is the perfect place to keep track of all of your toxic errors and exceptions out of your code because these things, they can pop up It happens to everybody. You know, there's always cases that you don't understand or thousands of browsers and well, just yeah. Thousands of browsers. Well, there's There's a lot of browsers. No. Maybe not 1,000, but there's a lot of browsers. There's a lot of different use cases, and there's a ton of different potential for errors to pop up whether that is server side, client side, Just about anything that you're working with. And Sentry is there to help by having the most amazing error and exception handling tools that allow you to see all of those errors, who they happen to, when they happen, what release they happened in.

Scott Tolinski

You can control that and and say, like, oh, attach it directly to a GitHub issue of, let's say, This error just popped up in this specific release. You can even see who made the commit that that followed this bug, so maybe you could follow-up with them and say, hey. We have a bug in prod, so let's go ahead and get you assigned to that task. You can fix it, see that deploy, and then mark it as resolved. So check it out at [email protected].

Scott Tolinski

Use the coupon code tasty treat, all lowercase and all one word, and you'll get 2 months for free. Definitely highly recommend. This is a tool that we've been using for a long time over here.

Scott Tolinski

So toxic clients, have you had Experience with toxic clients personally, Wes? Because I've had a at at least a couple. I think it's almost inevitable.

Topic 1 04:12

Freelancers often have toxic clients

Wes Bos

Yeah. Like, in my when I did a ton of freelancing, I had clients which I wish I had never taken on, and I also feel like I got a pretty good vibe for being able to avoid these types. And I I think, like, with freelancing, a lot of people tend to at least from what I hear, a lot of people who get into freelancing, they they always think, like, the cuss the The client is the worst, and they're they're dummy. And they don't know anything, and they wanna do all the stuff, and they have no clue. And a lot of what I hear from that is that you that's your job To manage the client and to, like, set expectations and to eke out information that is possible, a lot of the that is your job. But On the flip side, there also are sort of some red flags that get thrown that you can use to detect whether that person is going to not be worth working with or maybe you won't even get paid at the end of it. So that's what we're gonna go into today. Yeah. Totally.

Scott Tolinski

And, you know, I I've had clients that have been all sorts of the range of here of toxicity.

Scott Tolinski

And I would have said that maybe the majority of them happened earlier on in my freelancing career. Because I think as you go, you get savvy to the red flags that can pop up, and it makes it a lot easier to, you know, suss out a a toxic client from the beginning, which, Trust me. It's a lot easier to say, no thanks before the project even starts than halfway through have to figure out something. So What are some potential warning signs of a toxic client? A client that is going to be bad for your mental health, oftentimes your wallet even because As you'll see is that toxic clients many times demand way more much more of your time than it is cost effective.

Scott Tolinski

So I think one of the first would be somebody who doesn't have the project well thought out.

Topic 2 05:53

Clients without clear project vision

Scott Tolinski

You know, I I had somebody who they had all these These ideas, I think it's gonna be like this. And then when you click here, it can be kinda like this and kinda like this and kinda like that. But they weren't paying me to brainstorm their their project for me. They were They're paying me to to make the project. Right? They were they weren't paying me the the time to answer those questions. The the way that the agreement was supposed to be is that they were supposed Provide me with a way that it is, and then I build it that way. Right? Yeah. But a lot of the times, these people, they come in with a very vague idea of what they want to have happen. And it's important to be able to say, listen. It sounds like you have kind of an idea what you want, but not a full idea. Get back to me when you have this, like, a Completely figured out. Because otherwise, you are gonna be spending a lot of that brainstorming time doing it with them, and they're probably not going to pay you for that because They're just paying you to build it. Right? You're not, like, a consultant. Well, you you could be. Like, you could literally be like a a project manager where you have to, like, Take all the stuff out of their brain and put it into,

Wes Bos

like, mind mapping software and and really figure out what it is that they need. But In most cases, you're just gonna be the developer, and the client will have either another project manager on it, or they will be the one that is, doing it. And I found that early on. I had a couple clients. Specifically, one was, like, they wanted Facebook for nurses.

Wes Bos

I actually took them on, and we used, like, there was, like, a WordPress BuddyPress. That's what it was. It was like a a Social network built on on WordPress, and they would just, like, come out of nowhere with these ideas as to, like, alright. We wanna build it. And they had, like they just they just Facebook for nurses. That's all they really knew. And then, randomly, they would just be like, oh, how about we make this feature? Like like, it's just a switch that I can flip on. Like, let's turn on video chats, or let's turn on like, all these things are like, oh, that that's like a significant change as to how this thing works, And you're just throwing stuff at the wall and having these random ideas at at random times. And if you're building a social network, you really need a bit, more of a A better plan in place. It it is funny because oftentimes, they'll just be like,

Scott Tolinski

I was using Facebook today, and they had this Chat feature. Really great to add on a chat feature. Really? Yeah. I I don't think you've thought this out yet if this is, you know, where we're at. That's the extent of their research is just Using something else and being like, yeah. Make that, but in our version. Yeah. Yeah. Totally.

Scott Tolinski

That's only I came up with some names for some of these. You could do scatterbrain Jane for this one. Yes. That works. I have the next one as the scope creep. This is a client who adds a ton of new features, which is is kind of related, But this person does not necessarily understand the the the amount of effort that it takes to build in a specific feature or workflow.

Topic 3 08:40

Scope creep clients keep expanding project

Scott Tolinski

You know, sometimes people can be like, you know, we're doing maybe a brochure site.

Scott Tolinski

They could say, hey. I have this really great idea for another page on the site. And you can say, oh, cool. Just 1 more page. It shouldn't be a big deal. Is this like a brochure? So we already did, you know, a single layout. We can just do another single layout. Then they say, well, this page, what if it had An interactive map that had this and this and this on it. And then you're like, oh, that seems like it's not part of the initial scope. And we all have worked on projects that have gone gone over time, and the clients want to add things. Because let's face it, not everybody remembers everything or has things completely thought out as we've Talked about in the previous one. It's not always a bad thing to have somebody add something onto the scope, but the scope creep can often, like, not care about The time or budget to make these things happen and wants to just keep on adding stuff. I had a client one time who I didn't do a good job of saying no when they wanted to add things. But then once the project was overdue and they were paying me hourly and they were saying, okay, well, why isn't this done? I was like, well, The initial scope would have been done, but you added this thing and then this thing. So, you know, those things take time. We have to figure these in. Now the the scope's been pushed back. Well, I've been paying you hourly to do the well, okay. Well, you shouldn't be adding on things if you know that you're pay paying me hourly. Right? So the scope creep can definitely just keep on adding in stuff here left and right. I found when I was doing freelance that that one Could be avoided in a lot of cases with a very clear

Wes Bos

contract that laid out what is included and also what isn't included. Oh, yeah. In my proposals, I would always put, like, what is not included in in this type of thing, so it'd be very cut and dry. Otherwise, like, early on, Facebook for Facebook for nurses, scope creep Philippe is gonna come right out of the the bushes there. Scope creep Philippe. Oh, that's great. Scope creep Philippe. Oh, that's great. Yeah. I was just googling words that rhyme with creep. Yeah. And I was like, scope creep, Philippe. That is good. Sorry if you're if you're named,

Scott Tolinski

Jane or Philippe. I'm sorry. But I should say at the end of this, we'll have some tips for some of these things, and I agree with you, Wes. I think so many of these can be avoided by a Just a a good work agreement between the 2 of you. The next 1 is the ill communicator, which ill communicator, yeah. That's that's a funny wrap thing if you know that. If not, no worries.

Topic 4 11:00

Ill communicators contact at odd times

Scott Tolinski

Communication in general is probably one of the hardest things in dealing within freelancing in general. Everybody has different communication styles, communication modes, things that work best. Some people are really great communicators, Wes. I know you in particular.

Scott Tolinski

Almost anytime we want to write emails to sponsors or anything, I find myself saying, man, I wish Wes would do this because he is way better at emailing than I am. Email, Not one of my necessarily strong suits. I'm just I'm not great at putting words together. I have some dyslexia issues, so, you know, I often miss miss common things and stuff like that. So Wes, on the other hand, writes the most amazing emails. I I sometimes get his emails, and I'm just like, oh, man. I wish I could do that. It's just so good. Yeah. Yeah. We've done we've done, like, a podcast on emails, but I don't specifically know what that is. Like, I took a couple classes in university as to, like, how to write

Wes Bos

memos and things like that, and I think that that was sort of the basis for it. Like, get it across. I also feel like I have a pretty good Vibe for be coming off as brash or, like, sometimes you get emails from people, and you're like, are they mad? Or Or the flip side where they just write you a, like, a a book, and it's like, I'm not gonna read that. So Yeah. Your emails are always very direct, but they're also very, very friendly. They come across as being, like, very personal.

Scott Tolinski

It it's so funny because Courtney, my wife, is just an excellent writer. She writes nonstop for work, but sometimes she writes these emails. I'm like, I'm pretty sure, like, artificial intelligence wrote this, not because she's a bad email, but because they're, like, they're very, like, nonpersonal in that way. And I kinda have to, like, f. Sprinkle in some, like, niceties in there or like a smiley face or something to lighten up. One exclamation mark. Yeah. You don't wanna be an ill Bill Or an ill Jill. Yeah. An ill bill, ill Jill communicator.

Scott Tolinski

So these people I've had I've had these as well. I've had I've had just about all of these. These these people can contact you at odd times.

Scott Tolinski

You know, they send you an email. You haven't replied. They send another one. It says, why haven't I heard back from you? What's going on here? And it hasn't been, you know, 48 hours. It's been less than a day. Yeah. There's also somebody you know, people who contact you in inappropriate ways, and I don't mean, like, the contents of the messages, but, like, via text message Or Yes. Certain social medias that will find you on Instagram and start messaging you on Instagram.

Wes Bos

I get this all the time where somebody will like, It's like a Saturday afternoon, and somebody will send me a book of a question about their, like, life about being in tech. And it's like, I'm not gonna sit here and, Like, try to motivate you and type this huge thing through Instagram. Or they'll they'll send me an email, and then they'll send me a Twitter DM and Instagram DM. Just say I sent you an email, and then they'll send it on, like, a Friday afternoon.

Wes Bos

And then, like, a Sunday morning, they'll get mad that I haven't replied yet. Like, You can just tell that those types of people like, I'm not not working with them, but I can just tell, like, that's not somebody I would like to work with because, Clearly,

Scott Tolinski

your communication skills are poor. Yeah. Right. Clearly. And then there's also the other side of that where somebody is The opposite side where they don't contact you in a timely manner and there's blockers, right? Maybe potentially you're saying, Hey. I need the following things to continue and you give them maybe a week, but then they take 2 weeks and maybe you sent a follow-up and still nothing. But meanwhile, you're sitting here blocked. And that can be a big problem. Those types of people are you know, I'm probably one of those people, to be honest. I'm not very good at replying to emails. But Definitely is a a thing you need to be aware of that some people need an additional push, and some people maybe like an additional push to say, Oh, hey.

Scott Tolinski

Just following up here. What's the status of this? Lastly, there's the jerk.

Scott Tolinski

They, I'm trying to think of another name because I keep Coming in with Jane, I was thinking Johnny jerk, Johnny, and Jerk Kirk.

Scott Tolinski

Kirk the jerk. Kirk the jerk. Kirk the jerk. Yeah. Sorry, Kirk, If you're listening, these are just the rude clients. Right? Some people can be rude. They think that because they're giving you money, they can talk to you in any way they want. They can just be Aggressive. They can be just not nice at all. They can be not the type of person you would work with in a normal setting, and they can almost act like your boss in that type of way. So These types of people, they're they're out there, and you can deal with them in lots of different ways of which we'll get into in a minute here. But I think you asked you have One more. The, the, downtown

Topic 5 15:33

“Downtown Donovan” brags too much

Wes Bos

Donovan downtown Donovan here. Which one is that? The trying to be flashy up top? Yeah. Yeah. That's That's another thing that when I worked in Toronto, I would often, get taken for beers or, like, a nice lunch, which I totally, enjoyed, but the trying to be, like, flashy upfront seemed to be I don't even know why, but it Seemed to be like a a red flag for the type of person that they work with, and often those types of things fizzled out because they had Some great start up idea, and they wanted to get me on board to build the thing. And they're gonna make 1,000,000 of dollars, and they've sold companies in the past. And all of those types of people ended up being hucksters, and it's a really interesting sort of, like, Subgenre, the huckster chuckster

Scott Tolinski

is, or no. Downtown Donovan. You already named this one. I did. Yeah. That's okay. You know what? They it is funny because you do get a bit of an an eye or an ear for this type of thing when when somebody really starts getting a little bit too far at the The bragging context of things. I've done this, I've done that, whatever.

Scott Tolinski

Yeah. And like, okay. Well, then maybe you should have context for the like, where were your normal developers that you're working with. What's the situation there? Why why do you not currently work with the same people who built you this thing or whatever? You know? Like, we got

Wes Bos

to be on Syntax. We get these all the time.

Wes Bos

Request to to be on the show, and these these people said so this this guy sends us this, like, video. Dude, I would I Send you a I sent you a a Slack message immediately just being like, what is this? Oh, no. He sends a video trying to pitch us to be on the podcast, And he's going on about how this guy has sold multimillion dollar companies, and he just got back from Richard Branson's island. And, like, oh, If there's any red flags, it's that, like, somebody else is contacting us, and you're trying to brag about, Like, the work that you've done, and you're just hanging out with Richard Branson casually. Like, you just drop that. Like, it's not a big deal, And, like, come on. That was, like, a red flag. So if they're hanging out with Richard Branson and then they wanna come on your coding podcast, it's probably

Scott Tolinski

A red flag. It's so funny. There there were so many red flags over the course of the 4 emails that this guy sent us in about 5 days or so. One of which included the video that was just so weird. I I was just like, oh, I really hope Yeah. You don't have access to my personal home address. This is just weird. Yeah. The whole thing was very odd.

Scott Tolinski

Oh, so what do you do about toxic clients, Scott? Well, what do you do about these toxic clients? Well, we gotta clean up these toxic clients, and I I really think a lot of it can come down to if you're if you want The experience to go well, if you get adrift of any of these types of people, it's the type of thing that you wanna spell out early on in the project, Especially in, like, a work agreement or even just clear guidelines about how you communicate and who you are. So I work best This way, I work best the following wave. You give me these things, I do this, it gets done.

Scott Tolinski

You act like you've been here before type of deal. Right? This is how it works with me, And this is how I expect it to work. Also, let them know, the rate at which you'll be communicating with them because sometimes, again, that can reduce some of those weird communication issues you could say, you know, I I batch my emails. I check it every 3 days. I check it out every Monday or whatever. So if you don't hear me from 48 hours, I'll beginning into on these following days or give them even, like, an expectation. I will email you every Friday. You know? I will do this on these dates. So that way, they're not Confused about what the guidelines for communication are. That way, if they send you a message on Instagram,

Wes Bos

you can feel good about just ignoring it entirely f. Early because they have the guidelines in which Yeah. You'll be contacting. Yeah. They know. They know. Yeah. It's it's true. Like, sometimes people are contacting you because they honestly Don't know if you got it. Maybe it hit their spam or whatever, and Yeah. They're honestly concerned about you seeing it or not. But if you say, hey. Like, listen. I I have notifications turned on every every couple days. I'll go through it. These dates are based on 2 revisions, and that's assuming that if I You get back to me within 24 hours of me emailing you and, like, just having that nice and clear saying, like, if we wanna hit this deadline, we can do it, But, I need you to be on your game. So when I email you, we keep this momentum going. Otherwise, that thing like, once you blow through a deadline and it doesn't seem to matter, then those Concerts can drag on forever.

Scott Tolinski

Oh, forever.

Scott Tolinski

Like, 6 months over deadline. I've had I've had somewhere the clients just are not responsive, and you get some of that deadline, and you're just like, okay. Yeah. Whatever.

Scott Tolinski

I'm gonna work on this on on their time. And then when it's done, I'm just never going to think about it ever again Because it does. It takes up more and more of your time. The projects bleed into your other contracts.

Scott Tolinski

Gotta gotta be very clear about that. And and I think I mean, you definitely mentioned having this stuff in a contract is is so good. So if you get everything in writing in a working agreement in a contract that says, I will be giving you one revision. You can pay me x amount of hourly afterwards.

Scott Tolinski

Whatever that is, if you have it in writing, you'll always have a sign to point at when they Start, asking you for more things or or scoping into the project. You can always just tap the sign and say, you agreed to this. This is what you agreed to. These are the things that And and if the person is rude about that, and then you could say, well, you know, then maybe we move on to the next step, which is essentially firing a client, which We've had to do at agencies.

Scott Tolinski

I've had I don't fire many clients because, typically, I'm the type who can just put my head down and work through it. But you can fire clients. And typically, most contractor agreements that you write has a clause that's saying that I could fire you for any reason, Especially if you're you're not following these guidelines of this project.

Scott Tolinski

And that is a very important strategy because, Listen. Not all of these people are worth the time and effort that you're going to be putting in. It's going to cost you more money. So if you say, well, I'm gonna lose out on this Contract. Yeah. Well, you might be losing out on money if you keep this contract, if you think about it. And so you can fire a client, and it's actually not very hard. You just have to say, listen. I I don't feel like we're a good match for this project. Be canceling the work agreement moving forward. Please reach out to me if you have any questions about this. Good luck on your project.

Scott Tolinski

Keep it short and sweet. Yeah. Cancel the project. That's it. And then take a deep sigh of relief because toxic clients can truly have such a huge impact on your mental health. I mean, I've I've lost sleep over some clients being angry or upset or Or potentially even, not communicating clearly and, like, me concerned about the deadlines and things like that, you can lose sleep over these toxic clients. They can become a real big problem.

Wes Bos

I have done that as well. Usually, what I'll do is I'll just wrap up that leg of the project and then say, hey. Like, I'm not able to work. I have no availability or not able to work with you going forward. A Happy to pass it off to somebody else, but in that case, I will almost never recommend somebody unless it's my mortal enemy.

Scott Tolinski

Yeah. Especially if you get the if you get the vibe of some of these toxic clients, you can you can prefire them for somebody else by just saying, yeah. I don't have anyone to suggest. Sorry. Nobody.

Wes Bos

Alright. I think that's it. Hopefully, that was helpful in identifying toxic clients. We should say, in most cases, Clients are great. And Oh, yeah. Also one thing I found is the better the paying the client, the the better it was to work with them. It's funny. Like, I saw a tweet the other day where I was like, client with a $500 project. They send you a huge book, and you have to chase after them and and whatever. And A $20,000 client says, here's the work it's done, and they say, thanks on your you send your invoice here. Like, it's just the the better the clients, The better the paying they are

Scott Tolinski

and the smoother things get. So if you can work on your skills, then you also will level up in the types The clients you get to work with, and they are not all this awful. Yeah. It is funny. The the fur the higher up you get in terms of your hourly and the types of clients you're Seeing in the type of output you're working with, you're always gonna be working with more professional clients. And that's really truly why I think the majority of people hit the The toxic clients earlier on in their career because they don't have the work experience to be able to pick and choose that much, but they also don't have the work experience to say, hey. I can recognize that this is not going to be a good project.

Scott Tolinski

No. Thank you. You know? So Yeah. Yeah. Totally.

Scott Tolinski

Alright. I think that's it. Anything else to add, or should we wrap it up? No. Nothing else to add. I just wanted to say thank you for, Bringing bringing that Britney toxic at the beginning of this episode, Wes. That was,

Wes Bos

I'll I'll lead us out here. Ready? Yes.

Wes Bos

CSF. I'm on a ride. You're a toxic. I'm slipping under with the taste of poison Guys, I'm addicted to you. Don't you know? I don't even know. Yep. Thank you for tuning in. Peace. Peace.

Scott Tolinski

Head on over to syntax.fm for a full archive of all of our shows, and don't forget to subscribe in your CAS player, or drop a review if you like this show.

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