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Customers that should be fired, the sooner the better

Updated on June 10, 2014

Based on an Hebrew article written by Yael Sela Shapiro


Sometimes the client requires you to spend more time on an already finished job - adapt, edit again, rearrange.
Sometimes he's right, sometimes not. But a small investment on your part would give him a good feeling and make him a regular (and recommending) customer.

But what to do when you have a "Leech 2.0" type customer? (This type sucks time instead of blood).

I'll provides some rationale why you should get rid of him, and some ideas on how to do it - from indirect to direct approaches.

An email received from a fellow translator: here's the story in a nutshell

Client sent a job. In this case - a translation, but it can be any kind of work.

After the translator has finished the job, the client announced that they have to meet: the job is not done right. The client does not intend to pay for the meeting's time, since - of course, the fault lies with the translator.

At the meeting it became clear that the work is indeed wrong, but only because the customer has changed the source (the text to be translated, the software specification, the structure's requirements as the Architect specified - you name it).

During the meeting, client constantly undermines the translator's expertise, demands explanations of every step (because client is ignorant of the subject matter, but considers himself an expert). The meeting lasts couple hours.

Client now demands another meeting - to last a few hours(!)

It is therefore clear that this type of leech customer is a time black-hole, who leeches unpaid time, thinking that since he pays you, you belong to him.
Remember, especially those self-employed among you - your most precious resource is your time. A client who siphons this resource without payment not only does not make you money, but actually losses you money.


During the time client wasted, you could have worked and earned money

Client will never be satisfied, and therefore might bad-mouth you.
Because he is not satisfied, the chances that he'll becomes a returning customer are slight.
All the time invested in this client is now down the drain because he will not return for more jobs, and as most of you eventually will lose patience with him, he will not become a loyal customer.


How to minimize damage from a leech client?

  • Raised rates - raise next job's rate. You can even make the raise absurd (tell client that from now on all prices will be multiplied by π, for example). You have nothing to lose: either he will disappear forever, or he'll agrees to pay, and the new outrageous rate will make it worthwhile despite the aggravation.

  • Ration your time - client calls? No problem. After five minutes on the phone tell him you must enter a meeting. Client wants to meet with you? No problem. Restrict the meeting to half an hour. Set limits and stick by them. This will work, by the way, only if you actually do set a meeting you must keep, because most of us are not particularly good liars. So, schedule anything - pedicure, movie, nose hairs trimming: doesn't matter. The main thing is get up and leave after the time you have set is expired.

  • Be confident in yourself - you are the expert. This does not mean you never make mistakes, but it is very important that you exudes professionalism. You are willing to listen, adapt, and be flexible, but you will not allow anyone to implant mistakes in the text you translated, or to make unwarranted criticism of your work.

Best case scenario

The actions you took will convince the client that you are professional and in demand:

  • He might still waste your time, but only infrequently, and with some trepidation.
  • He won't be able to take more of your time than you allow for.
  • He will infer that if you are in demand, it means you are a pro, meaning that it is he who makes the mistakes, and will stop pestering you about every word in your work.


What if a leech client cannot take a hint?

If the client does not catch the hints you give him, and continues nagging, consider getting rid of him:

  • Stop being available - the polite approach is to promise the client you'd return his phone call, and then not call him for a long time. Or when he tries to give you more work, say you are busy until after Memorial Day. Memorial Day 2020.

  • Raise tariffs - see above.

  • Find another sucker - agree that indeed this fellow who works at the leech client, who spent two years backpacking abroad (and who inserted the text amendments that made you tear your hair) probably speaks the target language fluently, and suggest, for economy sake, that client let this fellow do the translation work next time. As client pays fellow a salary anyway, why should he have to also pay you?

  • Be frank - lay your cards on the table and tell client you two have unbridgeable gaps, and perhaps client should find another translator. If you're especially mean, you can refer client to a colleague that you absolutely cannot stand, and let them harass each other. Than you could sit back and enjoy their interplay. (And if they happen to like each other, you may not enjoy gloating, but both will be in your debt, which is not a bad thing).


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