I enjoy reading the Clients from Hell blog (clientsfromhell.net). I’ve been in a few of those situations, and some of them are hilarious.
But there’s something common to many of these stories – and the authors either don’t appreciate it or aren’t being honest about it.
They are working at the extremely cheap (ie price sensitive) end of the market.
Their clients consider $100 to be a lot of money, and will query every last second that they try to bill them for. And that’s just a fact of accepting clients at that price point.
If you’re a student working from home, or you’re a sole operator targeting the low-end market then these clients can be your bread and butter, but you need to understand that you’re going to get these clients. Complaining about it is good for stress relief, but it’s your customer base!
Open-source software providers face this problem, even when it’s high quality software. People look sideways at things they can get for free, even when the features vastly outperform alternatives that they have to pay for.
Their concerns about it may be a support contract issue, other times it’s a perceived value issue (if it’s cheap, it can’t be good). In these cases, companies need to demonstrate the value that they bring, outside of the immediate product. Value-based pricing around expert services is the skill to master.
It’s a continual battle to demonstrate the value that you can bring to a project, and why your cost is justified. But my rule of thumb is; never, ever get in a price war. Otherwise you’ll end up posting in the Clients from Hell blog.