When you’re running your own business, there are times when you will not be able to satisfy your client. When those times occur your job will be to either:
Identify those people in advance and steer clear or
Do everything in your power, and within project spec/scope, in order to satisfy them before cutting and
Admit that the project isn’t a match and then cut them loose.
One thing that I like to do is to share with people my past mistakes so they can hopefully glean something from them and go forward armed with new tactics of what not to do in a no-win situation.
About four years ago, a client contacted me and asked me if I could listen to a video clip he sent me from “The 10 Commandments” and imitate the voice of God speaking to Moses. As a voice over actor, I will occasionally get straight-forward directions like this where the client has a clear idea of what he needs me to sound like. This is usually a good thing but here it didn’t quite go as planned.
The first thing I did was to listen to the clip several times and record an audition in order to confirm that I was suited for the job by giving the client an idea of what he could expect from me. Sometimes clients will have an idea of what you can and can not do but it may not be entirely accurate.
The client responded and told me the audition was great so we moved forward with the project. However, after sending the client three takes of the same script he told me that he didn’t believe I was trying “hard” enough. After this, I spoke with him again and asked him to give me further directions on the project and made sure I asked questions of him.
I didn’t argue with him or tell him that he was “wrong” and that I was in fact doing the same kind of impression that he said I was great at during the audition. I just spoke with him a bit more to find out where he was coming from.
After, I went back and listened to the original audition clip in order to compare what he wanted originally, to what he was saying about my work now, so that I was sure I didn’t miss something. I recorded three more takes and sent them off trying to match my original audition as closely as possible, which I already thought I had been doing.
One again he told me the voice wasn’t quite, “right.” So I offered him a simple concession: he could direct me personally via SourceConnect or even Skype so he was sure he was getting what he wanted. Every word I spoke, from this short piece, he could critique live.
At this point he said he wished to cancel our contract and look for another artist. I was completely ready to agree with him because it appeared there was a miscommunication taking place. Early on in my career and up until this point I had never had something like this happen before. I wasn’t about to allow myself to fail when he seemed to have liked my audition enough to book me.
At this point I went a bit beyond what I’d normally do for a client and gave him his directions back again as I understood them.
Once again I sent him more takes of the script but instead of 3 takes I sent 6 and once again he told me it wasn’t quite what he was looking for and he’d like to end our relationship.
So one last time, just to satisfy my curiosity I went him the original audition he approved after adjusting the amplitude of the audio. It’s an old trick I learned from a friend for people who don’t quite know what they want. The way to verify that they don’t know what they want is to send something close to what they originally liked and see if their feelings are the same.
He said it was terrible and worse than any of the other takes. He did not, however, recognize it as something he liked originally.
It was then I had an “ah-ha!” moment and realized either this guy was yanking my chain or he might actually be someone that I shouldn’t bother to deal with.
So let’s go back and analyze the situation:
Confirmed I Was Suited for the Job
Asked for Further Directions & Made Sure I Asked Questions
Offered A Simple Concession to Make Things Easier for the Both of Us
Reiterated His Directions To Them To Him to Make Sure I Understood Them
You more than likely won’t have a client that doesn’t make any sense more than a few times in your career. When they do happen the main thing to realize is that you shouldn’t bother to waste valuable time and energy attempting to make sense of a situation where they are determined that you will come out the loser.