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Author Topic: Saying No to the client??  (Read 6263 times)

Zorki5

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Saying No to the client??
« on: January 15, 2016, 04:31:29 pm »

I quite like The Art of Photography channel, mainly for its retrospective videos on various photographers.

Recently stumbled upon its HOW TO SAY NO video; the title got me interested and, even though I'm not a pro photog, I watched it... WOW. I'm quite sure that, these days, the very last thing pro photographers (especially newbies) need is this kind of advice.

Comments to the video were almost as hilarious (or sad, depending upon your perspective) as the video. This included some "example answers" provided by an "experienced management consultant"; this got "Good advice!" comment from the author of the video:

Quote
"Mr. or Mrs. Client, it doesn't sound like you're really open to this and my experience here is that you're continuing to push for more than I can afford to give you at these rates. I think we are probably not a good fit to continue working together."

Yeah, right... Telling the client "you're ... not open", "you're continuing to push"...  Just (facepalm). Instead of simple, "Yes, sure, my pleasure. It will cost you $xxx". In case of a serious a-hole on the other end, that xxx can be a prohibitive price. And mind you, they are advising photogs that desperately need some work.

Interestingly, the most (if not only) sane comment to that video, by some Peter Duke, got zero likes.

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David Eichler

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2016, 07:38:14 pm »

I quite like The Art of Photography channel, mainly for its retrospective videos on various photographers.

Recently stumbled upon its HOW TO SAY NO video; the title got me interested and, even though I'm not a pro photog, I watched it... WOW. I'm quite sure that, these days, the very last thing pro photographers (especially newbies) need is this kind of advice.

Comments to the video were almost as hilarious (or sad, depending upon your perspective) as the video. This included some "example answers" provided by an "experienced management consultant"; this got "Good advice!" comment from the author of the video:

Yeah, right... Telling the client "you're ... not open", "you're continuing to push"...  Just (facepalm). Instead of simple, "Yes, sure, my pleasure. It will cost you $xxx". In case of a serious a-hole on the other end, that xxx can be a prohibitive price. And mind you, they are advising photogs that desperately need some work.

Interestingly, the most (if not only) sane comment to that video, by some Peter Duke, got zero likes.

I think that learning when and how to say no is one of the most important things anyone in business for themselves needs do as early on as possible. As far as the author's comment you cite, that is something you do after you have reached the conclusion that, for whatever reason, the client will never be a good fit for you. Sometimes you arrive there after giving them a lot of different options and trying to work with them, and sometimes it is obvious from the initial contact with the client.
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Zorki5

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2016, 09:18:11 pm »

Sometimes you arrive there after giving them a lot of different options and trying to work with them

And what happens after you give them all those options? They say "No" to each of them? Alright, that's fine. The point is, they said "No", not you.
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razrblck

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2016, 03:02:46 am »

Sometimes you meet the clients and they are very supportive of your work and happy. They even pay you what you asked in advance. But then, just after you deliver, they start to use all kinds of excuses of "why was this done that way?" or "I look fat" etc, just not to pay you the rest of the money and get all the work for free.

Or maybe they are willing to pay you just as much as you asked, but the few interactions you had left a really bad taste because they are people that you just can't stand.

If you need money so desperately, you can find plenty of jobs to survive that don't make you go through hell for a few bucks.
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Zorki5

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2016, 09:42:50 pm »

They even pay you what you asked in advance. But then, just after you deliver, they start to use all kinds of excuses of "why was this done that way?" or "I look fat" etc, just not to pay you the rest of the money and get all the work for free.

Then next time request that all the money are paid in advance. If they say "No", OK, so be it.

Or maybe they are willing to pay you just as much as you asked, but the few interactions you had left a really bad taste because they are people that you just can't stand.

How many clients like that are there? If just few, and you can afford it, set prohibitive price next time. If many, well, maybe some very different questions need to be asked...

If you need money so desperately, you can find plenty of jobs to survive that don't make you go through hell for a few bucks.

And gain, for some reason that is completely beyond me, we're talking about "few bucks" for going "through hell" here... If it's "going through hell", then charge appropriately. If they say "No", alright, move on.
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Colorado David

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2016, 11:43:55 pm »

There was a small, one man agency here who represented a car dealer and a handful of other businesses. Everyone one in town has done some work for him . . . once.  No one will book a job for him a second time.  After having gone through everyone, he buys his own equipment and now he's an agency/photographer/videographer.

GrahamBy

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2016, 08:24:53 am »

I'm not a pro photog either, but I did have a statistical consulting business for a few years... and I have friends in the building, metal fabricating, motorcycle repair and other businesses. All will tell the same story: there are clients that will cost you money, or worse. The reason professional indemnity insurance is so high is that many people will cheerfully sue the consultant to try to make up money they lost through their own incompetence elsewhere. There are the ones who offer above-average rates to suck you in because they have no intention of paying. There are the well intentioned ones who will simply never be satisfied, but are so egocentric that they will always see that as the other party's problem. There are the ones who will pay and then tell everyone how bad you were.

With these people, your expected earnings are negative.

There are also those who are simply trying to drag down the price, below what is sustainable. That is a problem with any industry where the entry costs (in the broad sense of skill aquisition, as well as equipment purchases) have fallen: my father was a printer, and back in the 70's a lot of the small jobs (printing wedding invitations for eg) were disappearing as people put a photocopy machine into a shop-front... I hardly need to refer to the issue for photographers. It's a global phenomenon of technology re-structuring the world into very high incomes for a few and marginalisation for the rest. That's a whole other problem that has already been thrashed in this forum multiple times.
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Zorki5

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2016, 10:27:51 am »

GrahamBy, you're right, BUT I never said people should take every job, and yet every reply so far (with one exception) tries to persuade me that there are clients that should be avoided. Yes, I know that, I deal with clients (companies' reps) daily. My point is that there are means of avoiding the client (or making them behave) without literally saying "No".

There are the ones who will pay and then tell everyone how bad you were.

And what do you think those ones will tell everyone about you if you explain them, in detail, how bad they are as the quote in my first post (advice by an "experienced management consultant") suggested?
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David Eichler

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2016, 04:25:18 pm »

Sometimes you meet the clients and they are very supportive of your work and happy. They even pay you what you asked in advance. But then, just after you deliver, they start to use all kinds of excuses of "why was this done that way?" or "I look fat" etc, just not to pay you the rest of the money and get all the work for free.

Or maybe they are willing to pay you just as much as you asked, but the few interactions you had left a really bad taste because they are people that you just can't stand.

If you need money so desperately, you can find plenty of jobs to survive that don't make you go through hell for a few bucks.

So, when the client asks "can you give me what I have asked for, for $X less than you quoted?", what do you say. "That is the best I can do" is just another way of saying no.
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Zorki5

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2016, 06:29:13 pm »

So, when the client asks "can you give me what I have asked for, for $X less than you quoted?", what do you say. "That is the best I can do" is just another way of saying no.

If going down on price is not viable, just keep insisting on the price that makes sense for you. Or propose to decrease both price and the amount of work. That is not necessary a "No"; who knows, they might as well agree to it.

Please note that I practice what I preach. I have a set of written rules for my managers, and it is expressly prohibited to say "No" to a client that comes up with an "impossible" request (which does happen every now and then). Instead, they must come up with a viable solution, and present a set of alternatives (BTW another rule is that, when asking a question, whenever possible suggest a list of possible answers).

Suppose a client wants to implement N features using team of M developers by day D, which a manager sees as an impossible task; his job is then to propose ways out:
a) either drop a feature or two,
b) or increase a team by a developer or two (thus increasing running rate),
c) or to shift the deadline (thus increasing overall cost),
d) or do some combination of the above three items

and then let the client decide. If I just said "No" to every "impossible" job I faced, I'd be out of business.
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David Eichler

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2016, 12:48:25 am »

If going down on price is not viable, just keep insisting on the price that makes sense for you. Or propose to decrease both price and the amount of work. That is not necessary a "No"; who knows, they might as well agree to it.

Please note that I practice what I preach. I have a set of written rules for my managers, and it is expressly prohibited to say "No" to a client that comes up with an "impossible" request (which does happen every now and then). Instead, they must come up with a viable solution, and present a set of alternatives (BTW another rule is that, when asking a question, whenever possible suggest a list of possible answers).

Suppose a client wants to implement N features using team of M developers by day D, which a manager sees as an impossible task; his job is then to propose ways out:
a) either drop a feature or two,
b) or increase a team by a developer or two (thus increasing running rate),
c) or to shift the deadline (thus increasing overall cost),
d) or do some combination of the above three items

and then let the client decide. If I just said "No" to every "impossible" job I faced, I'd be out of business.

Of course. For a lower budget they get less. By all means, if it is client that you believe you can work with, trying whatever you can to make the sale, short of giving away something for nothing. I am talking about after all that. Or, as mentioned above, you have a signed agreement with the client and the client keeps trying to get more for the same money, to the point that it is interfering with the work you have agreed to do. Or, the client and you are simply temperamentally unsuited to working together, but the client doesn't realize this and keeps trying to get you to work with them. This is not simply selling a product or basic service. It often involves a working relationship.

This video from the ASMP may help to understand freelance photo work: http://www.asmp.org/strictlybusiness/2009/04/if-you-sell-yourself-cheap-you-will-never-get-out-of-that-hole-barbara-bordnick/#.Vpx8H_G7GzE
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GrahamBy

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2016, 05:24:27 am »

Such délicatesse ! Yes, I can see the logic of not upsetting the potential client...

Otoh, I used to live next door to a builder, and I was able to over-hear his business discussions (despite a closed door), carried out via cordless phone while pacing vigorously about his back yard. Phrases that were often used were "I'll break your f**** legs" and "Look, you M*** F**** C***". There were also detailed descriptions of how one's legs might come to be broken.

I wonder what deal he got on his wedding photos?

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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2016, 12:52:48 pm »

I think it is less important whether you ultimately say "no" one way or the other. What matters is how you conduct the negotiation. If your goal and attitude is to prove you are smarter than the client, to prove them wrong, that your arguments are superior, etc., you might succeed, yet lose the business. I used to ask my consultants: "What's your goal here: to prove the client wrong or to make money?"

A simple, non-judgmental, non-angry "no" would ultimately suffice. That should come, of course, after all other options, as per Zorki5's suggestions, are exhausted.

PeterAit

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2016, 05:05:36 pm »

Unless you are truly desperate for work, saying no to clients, new or existing, is essential. Of course you do it in a professional and non-insulting manner. In my 15 years as a consultant in the pharmaceutical industry, I have done so many times over issues of pay, schedule, and terms. And I have also "fired" clients which can be a great satisfaction!
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Zorki5

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2016, 05:40:42 pm »

Otoh, I used to live next door to a builder, and I was able to over-hear his business discussions (despite a closed door), carried out via cordless phone while pacing vigorously about his back yard. Phrases that were often used were "I'll break your f**** legs" and "Look, you M*** F**** C***". There were also detailed descriptions of how one's legs might come to be broken.

Been there, done that :) One of my clients was the guy who sold his construction business, took two-year (!) journey on his yacht, and then bought IT company that later became our client. Good guy, always liked him, even though his communication skills... let me put it this way: always had strong vestiges of his past.

But he was by far not the most "interesting" client I ever dealt with. Here, let me share a story, which IMHO would wrap up this discussion quite nicely.

They year was 1989, four years into perestroyka. I was just promoted to head of "IT laboratory" (common name for an IT dept at the time in the USSR) in one of the very first private companies. One of our "salesmen" just sold two "turbo PCs" to a factory (state-owned, of course), and a day later we got a scandal on our hands -- general manager of that factory called us and demanded his money back. BTW, I put "salesmen" in quotes because just a year or so ago these were no sales to speak of (other than black market), there was essentially distribution instead of sales, so these people were just starting...

So, I had to go to that factory as a "chief technical specialist" (since that general manager's problem was... err, of technical nature) and fix it. That particular "salesman" was almost 2x older than me, but, after talking to him briefly, I figured he didn't have a clue  what to do (and, much more importantly, what not to do), so I told him to keep his mouth shut whatever happens in the meeting. I told him that, even if he wanted to ask me what time, or about weather, he would have to write that on a paper and show me that paper. We checked that he had pen and paper, and off we went.

OK, we're finally in the meeting with the general manager, listening to him going on and on about how we sold him very expensive computers that were going to break very soon, etc etc etc. You see, the Problem was that that general manager was told by his "technical specialist" that PCs with so-called "turbo processors" (10 MHz instead of usual 4.77MHz of the original IBM PCs)... wear out much more quickly. Higher CPU frequency meant faster wearing out in his mind.

I listened to him for I think no less than 5 minutes (which felt like an hour), w/o interrupting. Then, when he finally paused, I said: "Your technical specialist is exactly right, there are indeed turbo-CPUs that cause higher than normal wear. But, you see, our turbo-CPUs were made in Germany and they <blah blah blah>. Besides, there is that [Turbo] button that can be pressed to get to normal clock speed when high performance's not needed. Besides, <blah blah blah>... "

Those PCs stayed at the factory.

Now, I'm not saying I'm a slick salesman... In fact, I'm not a salesman at all, and never worked as such. I just happen to have pretty low expectation of people -- in that I fully understand they are going to try to do what is good for them, they may not have a clue about technical side of things (at least, IT side, while they could be experts in other areas, where I know zilch). Or they just may be misled. Or there can be a ton of other reasons. More often than not, they just need to be educated (which could mean different things in different situations) -- w/o ever hurting their feelings.

There are very few people whom I'd call naturally mean or... err, evil. Selfish, yes, that's more common. But not mean. And yet when I read photographers' accounts of their experience with the clients, one scene from Spaceballs the movie invariably comes to mind -- Dark Helmet: "I knew I was surrounded by assholes!" Well... if that's what you see on a daily basis, you should probably consider fine arts sales through agencies, but not client work... Seriously. Better for your karma.
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Zorki5

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #15 on: January 20, 2016, 05:44:32 pm »

If your goal and attitude is to prove you are smarter than the client, to prove them wrong, that your arguments are superior, etc., you might succeed, yet lose the business. I used to ask my consultants: "What's your goal here: to prove the client wrong or to make money?"

+1

In fact, that's a succinct version of what I wrote in my previous post.
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Zorki5

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2016, 05:46:24 pm »

And I have also "fired" clients which can be a great satisfaction!

Finally, we have explanation of the real reason here  :D
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Jim Pascoe

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2016, 09:15:15 am »

I did watch the video, but not all the comments following it.  I would say the video gave very sound advice

Jim
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petermfiore

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2016, 10:11:18 am »

In my illustration days when a client called about a project that was an "issue" (read as a pain in the ass), I would talk about the project, money and then deadline...if the job was not going to work for me, I would say "right now I'm swamped with work"...Very clean and made the deadline the bad guy.

Peter
« Last Edit: January 22, 2016, 06:42:23 am by petermfiore »
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Zorki5

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Re: Saying No to the client??
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2016, 12:38:13 pm »

if the job was not going to work for me, I would say "right now I'm swamped with work"...Very clean and made the deadline the bad guy.

Also works, and leaves the door open -- just in case.
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