When to Fire a Toxic Client

When to Fire a Toxic Client


Letter of Agreement

If you want to get paid for your work, before you start a project, you'll send your client a Letter of Agreement that clearly spells out exactly what s/he going to get for a given price, i.e. hours, people, tasks and gear.

The LofA also spells out costs for extra hours of shooting, editing and other production services... states when fees are due... and what happens to the project if fees are not paid.

Consider the LofA less a legal document and more a summary of conversations you've had with the client that features a concise list of services, time limits to complete each phase, personnel list and gear list plus payment schedules; it's your last chance to spell out what you are going to do for a given price and to clear up any misunderstandings.

Having said that, if the unspeakable happens and you have to take a client to court to recover unpaid fees, the signed LofA is the strongest protection you will have. This is why I don't write a single word or shoot a minute of footage until the LofA is signed and the first check clears the bank.

Finally, if I have strong concerns about the client ignoring my advice and making critical missteps, I clearly (but diplomatically) state those concerns in the cover email that accompanies the LofA. I include a statement that I will nevertheless agree to the client's wishes and will continue to attempt to help in any way I can. I end by saying I hope the finished project will meet the client's expectation but it is important to understand extra charges will apply should the client want reshooting, rewriting or reediting.

Occasionally, a client may request a change or clarification to the LofA, which is fine.

However, if they want extensive revisions, this is a client 1) who has been burned by video crews before... in which case you might be able to capture a longterm and grateful client by delivering a pain-free production and polished product or 2) who is attempting to write in language s/he can use to delay or avoid payment, or sue you afterwards for failure to deliver on promises made. If this is what my gut… or a couple of research calls tell me… I tell these clients I'm not the right guy for this project, thank them for considering me and tell them goodbye.

Guess what? I always get paid and clients always come back.

You don't show your professionalism and expertise by agreeing with clients who have unrealistic expectations and are destined to fail.

Instead, you show your value by helping clients succeed.

Do this by carefully listening and taking notes… clearly communicating with them in person and in writing... giving them honest advice on how to complete the project on time, on budget and in an esthetically pleasing way ... steering them away from failure by making decisions you need to make and allowing them to make decisions they need to make... and always delivering more than promised.

Let me know how this works for you!

Good cautionary article !

Great read for sure and I agree with Tom's suggestions for at least an Letter of Agreement if not a written contract that spells out as much of the pre-production, production and post production costs and services to the best of your abilities and with extra costs if client makes changes that are not in the agreement /contract that causes more time in shooting or editing especially. There are many good articles in Videomaker that can help here. Mark of www.newuniquevideos.com since 1985....:)