Client Type: Penny Pinching

Everyone loves a bargain. Of course they do. But beware penny pinching behaviour because it will make life really awkward, These ones quite often self-filter I find. They get in touch, we talk, I give them prices, they run away. Job done. If I have suspicions, then I give them higher prices – you can always negotiate down but getting prices back up is a real challenge. It’s usually not the ones that can’t afford it that are the problem, it’s the ones that can afford it but just have an innate need to be as tight as a nun’s knicker elastic for the sake of it.

I had one client (briefly!) and I did some onsite work for him. He had me send back a windscreen wiper blade because in the time it took to arrive he’d changed his car. This chap lived in a very nice part of London, car 1 was a BMW, car 2 an Audi. The windscreen wipers cost about £12. Me, I’d just chuck them if no one else could use them. He had me call the garage, arrange to post them back, actually post them back, then chase for a credit note. It must have cost him more than £12 in billed time & postage to have me do it, what on earth is the point? This is the kind of thing that if it hadn’t been early on in my adventures I would have been waving red flags “tight bastard alert, run”. I didn’t, I assumed he was a total plonker of course. But it didn’t raise alarms. It certainly would now. It is penny pinching behaviour to a ridiculous degree. Because it isn’t about the £12, I don’t like waste or losing money either, it’s the total inability to look at the bigger picture.

The same with clients who regularly question how long it takes you to do things. If you are going to spend your life agonising over 3 minutes on a timesheet you are probably not right for me. I am actually a very fast worker so if I am questioned (and it’s very rare) I know there’s an issue. Could I do things faster? Maybe. Could I do it faster and have it at a fabulous standard? No, not always. Don’t get me wrong, on certain jobs it is helpful to have a time estimate or a maximum because some tasks you could carry on with forever, especially research. In those moments, it’s worth having a conversation along the lines of “Shall I do half an hour and let you know where I’m at?” or “Can you spend no more than an hour on this?” But the minutiae of each task, no no no. You are paying me to think, I would hope, how can I think if I’m wellying along at a million miles an hour?

For me this is a 2 pronged annoyance and it kind of bashes against my values in an unhelpful way. Firstly, if you take on a supplier you pay for the best you can afford. If you want cheap, go cheap, but know that the standard might be a bit dubious. If you decide to buy quality then pay for it. Would you take a Mulberry handbag up to the cashier and start haggling to get it at £50? No? Well some of these folks actually might – this is that type. They can’t help themselves. Not that I am a Mulberry handbag, but neither am I a knock-off that is being flogged on eBay for £20. I’m perhaps a Radley bag? It doesn’t matter. I’m just saying, you get what you pay for. You commit to paying for what you agreed, if you want more of it, you still have to pay. Ask for a discount if you are buying 20 handbags, maybe. But not for one. Or doing that thing where you ask for a free keyring or something. It annoys me. I can’t work with people like that. Not only as a supplier to them, but it is a total nightmare dealing with their suppliers as they will expect you to behave the same way to get free stuff, cheap stuff and generally stretch the boundaries of working relationships and common courtesy to their limits. And they will be the first to complain when whatever it is they have scrounged on the cheap or for free isn’t up to standard. Or worse, make you do it. Beware of those always after something for nothing!

And there is the second issue of trust. Clients I work with I want the kind of relationship where they trust me. By saying “did it really take that long?” that is heading towards “I don’t believe you”. In these days of electronic time recording, I am not guessing, I am clicking in and out. If it has taken wildly longer than expected then there will almost certainly have been conversations about it, but that rarely happens. Thank goodness. Because to me missing trust is bad.