What Level is Your Design Business?

Design Biz Live: Business Can Be Thunderstorms and Chickens; Hard Truths, Hard Lessons

Episode 399 of A Well-Designed Business®
399: Design Biz Live: Business Can Be Thunderstorms and Chickens; Hard Truths, Hard Lessons

Welcome to another Design Biz Live! We have the gang all together again to have a very candid conversation regarding a difficulty to which most of us can relate…how to handle a difficult client. Judith Neary and Corey Klassen join LuAnn once again and today, Judith shares a personal experience she had with a very difficult client last summer that rocked her confidence, made her life very horrible and the project was very challenging to get through. It shares the message that being self-employed is very hard and it takes a tremendous amount of grit and fortitude to power through the rough times. It is a significant message because Judith is a seasoned entrepreneur, showing how it can hit any of us at any time. You’re definitely going to want to catch this episode, so be sure to tune in.

Show highlights:

  • Designers are real people, too, and experience a myriad of emotions.
  • Judith shares about a couple of episodes she experienced last summer that rocked her from her zone of genius.
  • Judith shares that a difficult client crushed her confidence and made her question her own abilities and value.
  • The client was satisfied with work being done one day, and unsatisfied the next, which was very challenging for Judith, the contractor, and other workers.
  • Judith shares that the client’s demeanor drastically improved once the spouse came home.
  • Corey shares that he and other people he knows have had similar experiences, and tried to understand why those types of behaviors were happening in order to avoid misunderstandings.
  • LuAnn expresses that because a client had personal difficulties, doesn’t mean we should feel that we aren’t confident and capable, but should self-question in order to have better conversations with the client in the future.
  • LuAnn says that even when we have difficult clients, we still need to remain professional and meet their needs in the best way possible.
  • Judith says she is still affected by what happened last summer and felt like she was in a hostage situation.
  • LuAnn and Judith discuss the importance of diffusing difficult situations in professional ways.
  • Corey jumps in and says that sometimes a text or e-mail tone may differ from the in-person tone.
  • Judith says through the experience, she knows she has to filter what is going on rather than absorbing it herself.
  • LuAnn says it’s important to manage difficult situations so that we don’t become non-productive.
  • Judith says that as a creative, you may perceive and sense the world differently and that when she has a client, it becomes a personal relationship.
  • When Judith’s inner dialogue told her the client had personal issues and that she was not responsible for the negative behavior, it was still hard not to absorb the negativity.
  • LuAnn says that each person has something within that makes them react in a particular way.
  • LuAnn also points out that a designer’s relationship with a client may last weeks, months, or longer, which can be taxing when dealing with a client exhibiting erratic behavior.
  • Regardless of the difficulties Judith experienced with her client, she had a positive result at the end of the job, and hopes her client is enjoying the home.
  • Judith moves on and shares about another difficult client situation and how she had to fire a client.
  • Judith terminated the relationship with her client because it was just not working for her.
  • Judith shares how she terminated the relationship and about the follow-up phone call that confirmed she had made the right decision.
  • Judith shares that the client crossed the line with her, and she respected herself enough to let him go.
  • Judith shares how the two difficult clients made her bucket very full and she didn’t pay enough attention to it before it overflowed.
  • LuAnn says before we reach the level of wanting to terminate a client, maybe we should remember that it is a business transaction, rather than a personal relationship.
  • Also, LuAnn applauds the way Judith used two methods so it would leave no doubt about the situation.
  • LuAnn also says Judith did a great thing by invoking some “wait time” before responding to the client’s request for a phone call.
  • LuAnn suggests that we each need to figure out ways to keep our buckets from becoming too full. ie. a walk/run, dinner/conversation with family or friends, reading, etc.
  • Corey says he has switched from having business hours to appointment hours so that he takes appointments when he can be productive and be his best.
  • Judith suggests that designers may want to contribute time to a non-profit so that they can contribute to causes outside themselves.
  • LuAnn says to watch for signals from clients which may indicate difficult behavior. Know you can’t change the person, but you can change how you react/respond to them. Have mechanisms in place to deal with this type of client because you will encounter them.


Corey Klassen Interior Design

Judith Neary – Roadside Attraction Studio

LuAnn’s 3rd birthday party for the podcast is coming up and Kravet is hosting the party! It will be on February the 5th at the Kravet Showroom at the D&D Building in New York City. Please RSVP through the Event-Brite link at Luann Nigara.

What Level is Your Design Business?