Good vs Bad Clients - Red Flags

Kenny's Tip of the Day - Good vs Bad Clients - Red Flags

There’s nothing worse than having a bad client. It can easily ruin your day, your week and even your month. I used to work at a studio that set aside 6 weeks for a client that never showed up. No deposit. Nothing. This was a fairly “famous” client so we didn’t think we would get stiffed. But we did.

Some other bad clients I can think of at that time were the ones that would come in and ask for a rate for booking a full month. Excited about the prospect of being booked a full month, we would give them a great lockout rate.

Then we’d get a call the next day saying that they just wanted to book a few days for now, and they would do a huge lockout sometime in the future. But they still wanted this great rate for these few days. Of course.

These are what I would call red flags. Clients that are really not going to be your bread and butter. Keeping your lights on. Who come back, year after year and create a great relationship with you. They want to get something and cut and run. They’re probably doing the same thing to many people as soon as they’re done with you. Or at the same time.

I had one artist that wanted to hire me to produce 4 songs and help him get a record deal. Luckily, we charged for what we were doing but we found out later he was hustling every producer in our area to produce one song for free. On spec. To “try them out”.

He had about 12 finished productions that he was shopping all over town and it really confused the labels. And us. We were hearing about songs we never heard of and we were getting calls from other producers asking why we were ALSO producing their artist. Huh?

Don’t get me wrong. I admire “hustlers” in this business. They do tend to get things done. But they also tend to drive their career off of bridges when the labels smell what’s cooking.

I remember about a year later this same artist finished another demo and we asked some labels what they thought about it. They told that they had zero issues in even listening. They didn’t care. They never wanted to hear his name again.

But getting back to your situation. You need to establish a client base that respects you and respects what you do. They value your input and they can be honest about their situation and their budget.

I’d much rather work with a highly talented artist that says he has no money than one with an investor that I have to track down for 6 months and take to court. I’m not in the money chasing down business. If you can’t afford me, tell me that and I will work with you on that situation. But liars can’t be trusted. So when I see those red flags, I run.

Another guy I worked with was an an incredibly talented R&B writer and producer. So good, that I built a second studio just for him. He could come and go as he pleased and I would shop his songs and try to get production deals on his behalf.

One day, I found an R&B artist that would be perfect for him. We got a few songs together, and we set up a schedule to produce this artist. After cancellation after cancellation on his part, I told him that we absolutely need to record this song tomorrow.

He agreed. He called an hour after the session started (11AM) and gave me an excuse why he was running late but he would be there soon. OK. An hour later, I call him again and again he has another excuse. This went on all day. He shows up to the session at 8PM and he gives me the mother of all excuses. That some people broke into his house last night, shot a family member and that’s why he was 9 hours late to this session. All of his earlier excuses didn’t seem to line up with this particular one though.

I sat him down and said that I only see two options here. Either he was the most unlucky guy I ever met (based on all the excuses that happen to him daily) or he’s the biggest liar I ever met. And in picking either of those options, I don’t want him around anymore. Move out of the studio tomorrow.

There comes a time where you know when a partner or a client isn’t going the way you expect. And every minute wasted on those situations takes you away from working on the things that you do believe in. The the things that do deserve your time and will likely lead to long term relationships you can depend on.

Things to look out for:

Clients who can't communicate what they want and what they plan to do. Clients like this tend to change their mind constantly, don't plan well and could easily want something wildly different tomorrow. Now I'm not saying NOT to work with these people but it is a red flag.

Clients who challenge your price in a negative way. Questioning how good you are or how good your equipment is. Rather than appealing to your generous side, they want you to feel worth less. Another red flag.

Client wants you to work on spec. I wouldn't say you should NEVER do this. Especially as you're learning. But people that want you to work for free, will generally find another poor sap to work for free next. Rather than paying you.

Client wants you to work without a deposit. Again. We're not in the money chasing business. At least half up front and half upon completion is normal. Or you can charge by the day. But don't run up a tab for client that you don't know very well.

Client talks about their bad experience with previous studios or producers. If this happens quite often with them. They may be the problem. If they seem to be difficult when you meet them, chances are they will be 10X worse later. Avoid them.

Keep you eyes and ears open. There are many red flag and dead end situations out there. Don’t create a business that relies on them. It’s not sustainable and it actually chases away good clients. Move away from that type of situation as soon as you can.

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I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia