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I’ve had some questions in the past about dealing with mean clients so I thought I’d share how I handle a client who’s not as nice as I hoped they would be.

The truth is anytime you are going to have a business, it’s going to happen. Some people like my husband can just shake it off but us creative people, especially us creative women, will feel sucker punched right in the gut.

Here’s the thing: if you’re truly a creative person, you create for yourself, but you’re also creating for the masses. You’re a people pleaser who wants people to love your talent and buy your stuff.

So most creatives are horrible with boundaries and terrible at saying no. Maybe you can relate?

Look, saying NO will free you. No is actually a complete sentence, and the truth is you don’t owe anybody an explanation. When you own your own business, guess what? You get to make your own rules. So if you have a mean client that you do not want to work for … you don’t need to give them any explanation on why.

So how do you handle a mean client or someone you just don’t want to work with? Well, I’m going to give you a couple of boundaries that I use in my business to keep my sanity when dealing mean people. You can use these or find your own, but you need to have some because without them your gut reaction will be to please and a lot of you are going to want to bend over backward and kiss your own tush to try to make things right. Having boundaries and rules gives you the ability to draw that line in the sand. The self-respect to be able to say no. Have respect for yourself, and your clients will respect you also.

Jennifer Allwood how to say no to clients

With that thought in mind, I went ahead and put the following boundaries in place a few years back.

  1. First, I decided to say no to jobs that required me to travel more than 30 minutes from home. I’m not doing it, and I don’t care how much they’ll pay me. Fact is I’m a creative person who forgets things all the time and is always running back home. I can’t run back to get forgotten items if when I’m driving 50 minutes one way. I’d never get anything done.
  2. I also decided not to take jobs that are less than $800. Now I know some of you are going to want to punch me, but I was taking small $300 or $400 jobs that had me running my butt all over. At the end of the day, after I paid the girls who painted for me, paid my taxes, paid my tithe, the amount left over just didn’t make it worth it. Here’s something to remember, just because you can do a job doesn’t mean you should do the job.

Along with those two boundaries, I made these couple of rules.

  • If people have only one piece of furniture for me, then they must bring it to me. I no longer go to their houses to do it. I don’t have time to be running everywhere for something that could easily do at home. It just doesn’t make sense.
  • When dealing with clients who give me red flags I use what I lovely call: the Irritation Factor. Like most businesses, I have a formula that I use for bidding home projects. If during this process my Spidey senses kick in, say they are complaining about all past contractors, then I HAVE TO up the price of my bid because I know they’re going to be pistols during this job. There’s nothing wrong with adding a little more, so it’s worth YOUR extra effort and added TLC. There’s been times when I’ve done this to cover my booty, and the clients have turned out to be some of my best clients. There’s been times when I couldn’t shake that bad feeling, so I’ve just told them I’m going to pass on that job and that’s okay to do. Love yourself enough to make your time worth it or back out if you have to.
  • I don’t do things in my business that I no longer want to do. Just because I’ve always done some type of work, doesn’t mean I HAVE TO continue. I’m a creative person who likes to do many creative things. So if a client wants me to do that work I no longer do, I’ve learned to say no.
  • I keep set business hours and only return calls and emails during that time. In the past, when I’ve made myself too available I’ve had clients text me at 10:00 p.m.!!! By allowing them to do that, they just kept pushing until I’m on 24-hour call! Don’t make it so easy for clients to have access to you; make them go through the proper channels during your set hours.

So there’s just a few of the boundaries and rules I’ve used and shared with my Inner Circle. I also tell them they have permission because maybe nobody has ever given it to them, to take control of their business and time by setting boundaries and rules. Believe me, it’s okay just to say no.

I know that’s so much easier said than done, you will HAVE TO start doing it just because otherwise you’re going to be so mad at yourself. You’re going wonder “What is wrong with me that I can’t draw a line?” What is wrong with me that I can’t tell her it’s not okay for you to treat me that way? What’s wrong with me that I can’t say, “You know what? Take your buffet and have somebody else paint it. I’m not going to do it.”

Boundaries are important for you to put in your own life, not only for your client, but for you as well. You CAN DO IT!


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