Dealing with difficult clients during creative projects

As a creative project manager, you may have encountered a difficult client who needs more hand-holding than others. This blog post will discuss some strategies and advice for dealing with such clients and explore ways to improve the working relationship and overall productivity.

The Problem: Disorganized Communication and Reluctance to use your client management tools.

The main challenge with difficult clients is their disorganized communication, often through lengthy email chains containing scattered requests and tasks. This can lead to missed requests and misunderstandings, negatively affecting both the project manager’s confidence and the client’s satisfaction.

One potential solution to this issue is providing them access to a client portal to streamline communication and easily submit their requests. However, some clients may resist such changes, fearing having to alter their entire process to accommodate the agency or production studios.

Adding Complexity: Cognitive Disabilities and Bipolar Behavior

Sometimes, a client may also have a cognitive disability or exhibit bipolar behaviour, which can exacerbate communication and project management issues. While patience and understanding are essential when working with such clients, drawing the line at abusive behaviour is crucial.

Possible Solutions

  1. Pro-active project management: One possible resolution is for the PM to take full control of the situation, transcribing email requests into a project management tool and billing the client for the extra time spent on this task. However, this may result in additional hours of work for the project manager, which might not be desirable.
  2. Billing for Project Management: It is essential to account for project management time in your initial contract and estimates, either as a separate line item or as an additional percentage (e.g., 20%) of the project cost. This will ensure you are fairly compensated for the time spent managing the project.
  3. Email-to-Task App Integration: Forward task-based emails to a task app like Asana or Trello so that you can track and organize tasks more efficiently. This helps prevent losing important tasks in the sea of emails.
  4. Reevaluate the Scope of Work: If the initial scope of work has been completed and you are now working on an ongoing basis, consider increasing your rates to account for the added complexity of the project. Be transparent with the client about these changes and the reasons behind them.

Dealing with difficult clients who lack clarity and exhibit poor communication can be challenging. Implementing some of the abovementioned strategies can streamline communication, improve task organization, and ensure you charge reasonably for your work.

Remember that it is essential to maintain open communication with your client and find a balance that works for both parties. However, if the working relationship remains stressful and unmanageable, it may be time to consider ending the partnership and seeking more compatible clients. As a project manager, your mental health and overall well-being should always be a priority.

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