Monday, August 25, 2008

"We Do Not Negotiate With Terrorists"

The customer is always right. Or are they?

There's been some discussion recently among resume writers about how to handle true "PITA" (pain-in-the-ass) clients. I'm not talking about your average client, who may be extremely needy in the short term in making changes or "pushes back" when pressed to provide initial information to develop the resume.

I'm talking about the client that orders the service, receives the resume (maybe even starts using it) and then demands their money back, saying it wasn't what they expected ... or that it's not getting results (when asked what they've done to further their job search, they say they posted the resume on Monster, or blasted their resume to 1,000 companies).

I haven't had a client like that in a long time ... although I've certainly had some of the "annoying" brand of client ... but I've had a couple of clients that have made me cry over the last 12 years of writing resumes through my business.

The PITA client isn't just annoying .... they are a menace. They threaten to report you to the Better Business Bureau ... or worse, they just contact their credit card company and request a chargeback. Even if you win the battle through meticulous recordkeeping and documentation, you're out your time ... and it causes a lot of stress and aggravation. They may even cause you to re-think writing resumes -- and believe me, this industry can't afford to lose any more good writers.

So how can you avoid working with PITA clients? I've come up with a couple of guidelines. If you have other "warning signs," feel free to post a comment ... or e-mail me.
  • They try to barter with you on price. You are always welcome to negotiate your prices with prospects, but at your discretion. PITA clients, in my experience, usually complain about the price, even as they agree to the service.
  • If you ask them about their current or past resumes, and they mention a bad experience with a resume writer, probe deeply. That's not too unusual in my town, as there are two non-certified resume writers who I often hear about (not in a positive way, either). But listen carefully if they describe their experience and have a lot of negative comments about the resume writer that are based on their dissatisfaction with the document itself. It warrants probing deeper before taking them on as a client. Was the problem with the resume writer, the resume itself ... or the client's expectations? Clarify before proceeding.
  • You're not actually working with the client -- you're working through an intermediary. (Or its corollary ... you're being paid by someone other than your client.) When you're not working with the client directly (for example, a wife that calls for her husband) or when the client isn't paying the bill (a parent is paying for a college student, for example), be careful. You must clearly define the relationship for both parties involved. ("Jane, I really need to talk to Bill directly to gather this information.")
  • The client has been unemployed for a significant amount of time (more than 6-9 months). Working with these clients can be a challenge because many of them have lost their self-confidence. You're not only working on the resume; you may have to work on their self-esteem. And they may have been employing poor job search habits over the last 9+ months, meaning the results they will achieve with the resume you write may be the same as the resume they wrote themselves -- if they're using the same tactics. When they "blast" their resume out to a couple hundred contacts and don't get any results, they'll get mad at YOU, not at themselves. So beware.
Remember -- when working with PITA clients, "don't negotiate with the terrorist" -- remain firm and calm. Offer to work with them to obtain reasonable mutual satisfaction, but remind them of your contract guidelines. If continuing to work with them isn't an option, offer a partial refund, if you feel that will get them out of your hair permanently.

Your best protection is to clearly state the services you provide (in writing), what is expected from the client (and from you), and to ensure that you keep a record of all communication with the client throughout the process (preferably via e-mail).

We can't weed out every PITA client, but we can try to minimize the damage they cause on our businesses (and self-esteem) as much as possible.


  1. Hi, Found your site on a search for copywriters in Omaha. I am a web developer - this post could pretty well be a profile of my PITA clients too...Keep up the good work!
    I am an Omaha Search Engine Optimization and Google Adwords Specialist

  2. Thanks Search Engine Guy!

    Maybe you could write a guest blog post for me -- not for how to handle PITA clients, but on how to use SEO if you're a resume writer...