We all say people are crazy, but this client has to win the award for the biggest nut job. I will be avoiding saying whether this was a male or female so be ready to read “the client” a lot. Why? Nut job still follows what I do and will know I am speaking about them in this post. By offering no distinguishable facts about the client I avoid problems.
I will say that all of this could have been avoided if I had cared less about what the client and my friend thought and been more focused on the respect that I deserved.
Lesson #1 – Do NO Favors
I was a noob, no doubt about it. I had done a lot of side work nationally and decided I wanted to focus on more local work. I was doing some work for a guy I considered a friend and he said he had some friends that had a good business in my town. He asked if I could just do them a favor and give them a deal. (Always say no to this; if you are good there should be no deals. People pay for your knowledge and experience).
I thought that this business could open some doors for me and introduce me to some other influential businesses in the area. So I went to the meeting, met with the nut job, reviewed their options and gave them the cheapest deal on the planet. Why? Because I am stupid and I was hungry to grow my business.
Lesson #2 – If they have had problems with multiple Web people in the past this is a major warning sign!
This person explained that they had horrible fights with multiple web designers and marketers in the past. I thought this person must have gotten a raw deal. I was wrong. This person was nuts.
Since this experience I have learned that some people you just don’t want to work with period. They will be nothing but a problem and trash you no matter how great of a job you do. The money isn’t worth the stress. At this point I can tell by reading a first email from a potential client or listening to their first phone message whether or not I will work with them.
Nice Turned to Crazy Real Quick
I worked with the client and was attentive. We planned on a WordPress template design (because they didn’t want to spend money on a new site), created a plan to optimize their product and moved forward. The client instantly started reading everything about SEO and WordPress and questioned me on everything. The client then hired an additional person to set up hosting for them without speaking to me. The client asked this person for all kinds of things, gave them a hard time, required tons of work and demanded the money back.
The client then became like a stalker. This person called me constantly (daily, multiple times) with questions, emailed all the time and called me nightly on their long ride home from the gym. Another disturbing development, remember the friend that asked me to do a favor by working with this client? Well the client started talking trash about them. They told me all kinds of family secrets and information about the family’s income and siblings. WHY??? Holy crap!
There were always compliments on how smart I was and how amazed they were that I knew everything that I knew. I felt stuck. I was trying to do this for a friend. I should have walked away, but felt I couldn’t get away so I told myself to hurry and finish the job. I worked hard, site was up and pages were ranking fantastically for all the products.
I informed the client that I was leaving for a conference in a few weeks (Thank God).
Client says “I want to learn SEO like you” and buys a ticket to the conference. I am not lying. This freak followed me to the conference! The conference people had a networking system set-up for people to network before the conference. The client was all over it and introduced themselves to everyone I knew or was connected with.
At the conference I tried hard to avoid the client and I hung out with people I knew. This person would come up all the time, “I met so and so, have you???”. It was awful.
The funniest/scariest thing was Kim Kraus-Burg and Kate Morris were on a panel and Kim actually called me up and shook my hand. The client let out a real angry sound and slammed down their conference book and walked out. When did this turn into a competition? This nut job knew nothing at all and there was absolutely no reason for anyone to know who this person was.
I did begin to distance myself at this point and didn’t have to feel bad because there was obvious tension.
Client’s “Knowledge” Destroyed the Site
So this client is playing with all kinds of things. Changing content, meta-tags and playing with redirection plugins. After creating pages that ranked both locally and regionally (which was their target market) for each of their products the client then hires someone to create an automated system for the products that the search engines couldn’t read. WTF?
Rankings are dropping and then one day the site broke because client was playing with the redirection plugin. What the client didn’t know is we had a tracking plugin going and could see what they had been playing with, but couldn’t tell exactly what the client had done. I asked the client to tell me so I could fix it quick and not spend hours going one by one through things. Nut-job client has a fit, “You are accusing me of doing this?”
“Um, no. I am telling you that you did it and I can see it so please tell me what you changed so I can fix it.” At this point I was totally done and didn’t care if we ever worked together or spoke again. Well, the client then lost their mind. Called me everything in the book, emailed the entire planet trashing me while including me in the email and all the while trying to explain how completely intelligent they were.
Note to nut jobs, people that are really intelligent have no reason to try and explain it to people. Knowing is enough.
Oh and remember how I said the client was telling me all kinds of secrets about my friend? The client emailed the friend and told the friend that I had told the client all the things the client told me about him (I hope that makes sense). Friendship basically over.
So Nut Job tried to trash me in my local area, but takes it way farther. Nut job contacts Rae Hoffman-Dolan and tells her that I ripped the crazy person off and didn’t know what I was doing etc. Nut job acted like such a nut job that Rae had to get tough to get them to go away. The ultimate nut job then contacted several other people in the SEO industry and lied, lied and lied.
The Nut Job also contacted iThemes, the actual developer of the theme we used and trashed not only me, but also the person that set up the automated system (who was going crazy with this client, the client’s crazy behavior and the client’s insults as well). I had to contact the crazy client (& their company) and threaten to sue before some of it died down, but it didn’t for a while.
Then the extreme nut job went to Bruce Clay for SEO training and now advertises themselves as an SEO and social media expert. So the extremely mental nut job really knows nothing at all and it is painfully obvious with their “SEO” and “social media” efforts. I am sure the nut job didn’t listen at Bruce Clay’s training at all and just sat their believing they knew more.
Well there are many and I hope that the hell I lived through can help you avoid a similar hell in the future. Lessons learned:
Never do a favor for a friend – You need to be on equal footing with every client and be comfortable saying no and walking away.
If a potential client can’t work well with others they won’t work well with you either – If there are a good number of people in your industry (or really any industry) that have had problems dealing with the client you need to walk away. I would even suggest calling previous companies they worked with if you even feel slightly uneasy and ask how the work relationship functioned. People will be shockingly honest and helpful.
Any excessive communications / stalking means the business relationship needs to end, immediately – Clients that have to make a “friend” out of people that work with/for them have issues. If you are their only friend there is a reason why.
No amount of money or boost in business recognition is worth high levels of stress – This person caused me so much stress it was crazy. It wasn’t worth it and not one positive thing came out of the relationship. I lost major money on the deal when you consider time spent dealing with the whack job.
Crazy is crazy and crazy shouldn’t be messed with – You see the news, right? God only knows just how crazy people can be. I think this person has the potential to do horrible things. I should have run at the first sign of whackadoodleness.
Clients that want to understand things are fine, those that feel they have to know more than you are not – I major warning sign is someone that questions you in a condescending manner and/or the ones that feel they have to learn every possible thing because they want to be on equal footing with you. You don’t need to justify everything, so just walk away.