Bad Client Series : The Mute

Bad Client Series : The Mute

The Mute doesn’t talk much but expects you to just know it. Wonderful

Have you ever had a client that doesn’t communicate well or often ? They give you a very summarized summary of what they want you to do and you hardly hear from them. These kind are The Mute.

Good communication is a very critical part to the success of any project. It should be a two-way channel between the client and the freelancer. When either part is not communicating properly and as when needed the project would most likely fail.

Communicating with the mute is so difficult even when your empathic skills are good. You spend time trying to understand clearly or in details what they are saying to no avail.

Here is a story of a typical mute and confused client ….

I was asked to create a website for a large fundraising event for my internship. It seemed simple enough, until…

Client: I need you to add some things to the website.

Me: No problem, just send me the information and I can have it up in no time.

Two weeks later:

Client: Hi, sorry, I thought I said to have this up? Why isn’t the website done? We are running on a timely schedule.

Me: You didn’t send me the information, so I didn’t have anything to put up.

Client: Oh, ok.

Me: …So are you going to give me the information I need?

Client: I don’t have it right now. Just do what you can to the site.

One week later.

Client: I don’t see any changes to the website.

Me: That is because I don’t have the information to make the changes you asked for.

Client: You’re supposed to get it from the Event Planner.

I email the event planner. One week later:

Event Planner: I don’t know what you want. Ask the Supervisor.

So I reach back out to the client.

Me: The Event Planner says you have the information.

Client: What information?

Me: …The info for updating the website.

No response. A week later:

Client and Event Planner: Have you made the changes to the website?

This went on for three months. I got an email two weeks ago. They cancelled the event.

Another story …

Me: Okay, since we’re crunched for time, I need you to prioritize these changes. Give me the most important change first, the second most important change second, etc etc. That way I can do what’s most important in time.

Client: Okay.

I pushed through until deadline, targeting the key issues and getting everything essential done in time.

Me: Here’s my final version to push to live.

Client: What are you talking about? You haven’t finished half of our first priorities?

Me: I asked you to list your top priorities in order — I worked to your list.

Client: Yeah, that didn’t work for us, because EVERYTHING was top priority. We just gave you an alphabetical version.

For the record, of the 117 “top priorities,” they wanted:

  • Setting backgrounds to a slightly different color
  • Shifting Headlines 5px left
  • Changing Button Colors …

One of the best ways to avoid this kind of communication gap is to outline, from the initial discussion of the project, all the information you will need to successfully pull off the project. If you notice an unreasonable amount of delay with receiving the information you need, call or send an email and notify them.

If that doesn’t get them to give you the information, you can walk away politely and professionally. Use your time for more productive activities.

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