As WordPress professionals, we deal with certain constants: The havoc a missing semicolon causes, the panic of hardware malfunction, the seemingly never-ending parade of updates.
However, some commonalities take the form of humans – both clients and acquaintances. For the most part, our jobs wouldn’t exist without them, and they keep our time behind our keyboards interesting. The trick is dealing with them while remaining professional, polite and productive.
Here are ten people that every WordPress professional will encounter at some point in their life, and the best way to deal with them without losing them as a client.
1. The DIYer
This client wants full admin privileges so he can tinker under the hood a bit. However, when he inevitably messes everything up, he won’t pay for fixes. You wind up with a disgruntled client, lots of unbillable hours and a site you have to scrub from your portfolio.
How to deal: Head this situation off at the outset. Include a clause in your contract specifying that you will charge an hourly amount to repair mistakes that you have not made. This way, when your client unintentionally breaks something when tinkering, you can reference the clause and not be out of pocket.
2. The Minimizer
This prospect thinks that moving his WordPress site to a different host is simply a quick FTP job – just a matter of downloading all the files, then uploading them on the new server. He has no idea about database serialization, though, so you have to forgive him for this common misconception.
How to deal: Explain that WordPress is database-driven, with intricate relationships that will break if files are simply moved. It’s a good idea to have an arsenal of resources that you can give to the client to support what you’re saying. Offer site relocation as a separate service.
3. The Uninformed Business Owner
How to deal: As with most problems, your best tool to tackle this is information. Tell him about the advertising and credits that free hosting mandates, along with limitations in function – including the funky URL his site will likely have, and how it could impact his business. Explain that, for these reasons, WordPress.com and other free hosts may indeed be fine for just a personal blog. However, for a business site for which credibility, flexibility and scalability are important, he’ll have to fork over the big bucks for hosting. And by “big bucks,” we mean as little as $10 or so for the garden-variety small business site.
4. The Big Picture Fan
The images this client sends are in high resolution, and he insists they stay that way on his site – after all, visitors to his site want the highest quality possible. A week later, he calls to ask why his site is loading so slowly.
How to deal: Explain that resolution past a certain limit is a hindrance, not an enhancement. High-res images load far more slowly than typical images – and that will cost him site visitors. Reassure him that resolution is relevant only in print, and you can provide images with high enough resolution as to not impact his visitors.
Show him previous examples of optimized images that you’ve provided for previous sites – you could even show him the methods by which you optimize images.
5. The “Budget? What Budget?” Guy
This prospect reacts negatively when asked what his budget is – or worse, has no idea – and believes that all WordPress sites require the same amount of work, aside from content.
How to deal: Explain that you need at least a rough number so you can tell him what that amount will buy. Doing it the other way around – developing a proposal without a target number – wastes everyone’s time.
In your first exchanges with clients, ask about budget this way: “Please tell me the purpose of your website, what you want visitors to do, and what your budget is so I can then tell you what services I can provide for that amount”. Reassure him that this approach ensures he gets the most value for his money. The mentality should be: “I have $5,000 to spend. How much of what I want will that buy?”
Bonus: This also helps weed out clients who aren’t clear on what they want their sites to accomplish.
6. The Project Manager Who Thinks WordPress Is a Word-Processing Program
This person thinks WordPress is just for blogging on WordPress.com, or worse yet, confuses it with Microsoft Word. (Yes, this really happens). Worse yet, he doesn’t think WordPress developers are “real” developers at all.
How to deal: Educate him. Explain that WordPress powers some big-name sites, from BBC to The Harvard Gazette. Send him to the WordPress Showcase. Automattic does a fine job of explaining WordPress, too. Showing him your portfolio is also a great way to emphasize your skills and what you as a developer can achieve.
Because he may be thinking that “free” means substandard, enlighten him on the term “open source” and what that means for WordPress users – constant development, security updates and an enormous support community. Using WordPress means that he’s essentially leveraging not just your talents, but also those of hundreds of brilliant coders.
7. The Cheapskate
This client is hellbent on using a poorly coded free theme that’s full of malware (such as Base 64 injections), sneaky credits in the footers, and customizations coded right into the functions file rather than as plugins. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t understand the problems this causes, all he sees is the price tag.
How to deal: Explain how these issues can affect site performance and produce embarrassing gaffes that erode credibility. If he insists on picking his own theme, direct him to some reputable premium theme providers.
8. The Wannabe
A little client education is part of what we do. After all, WordPress is popular for its usability, among other things. It’s no bad thing when a client can add posts and make minor changes on their own. However, this particular client asks questions – a lot of questions – in a barely disguised (and misguided) attempt to learn the skills that have taken you years to hone. His ultimate goal is to go the DIY route because, hey, it’s “just” WordPress.
How to deal: Answer minor questions and concerns, of course. However, for more complicated issues, for instance, “What’s the difference between a hook, a filter and an action?”, it would not be rude to politely send him to the WordPress Codex. If he’s going to jump in himself, he’s going to have to do it without a free life preserver. However, remember the DIYer and ensure you have a clause in your contract for if your client jumps in and breaks any code.
Great big caveat: This does not apply to your fellow WordPress professionals. Part of what makes WordPress so great is the community that surrounds it. If you can help out, you should.
9. The Elitist
How to deal: If drawn into a conversation with him, explain that you are an efficiency expert who prefers not to write the same code over and over again. Why reinvent the wheel when a secure, SEO-friendly, extendible platform like WordPress already exists? Using WordPress is not cheating; it’s bending proven code to do your creative bidding – and that’s just smart.
With clients such as this, it’s best not to get drawn into any conversations of this ilk, or you run the risk of upsetting and potentially losing the client. If you can avoid these specific topics, do so.
10. The Generalist
This character isn’t unique to the WordPress world but is so ubiquitous that he deserves a mention. He thinks that, since you “work in computers” you can fix his, from a simple browser issue all the way to hard drive issues.
How to deal: Just say “no”, but keep it nice. Humbly explain that you’re “just” a designer/developer, hardware just isn’t your thing, and you’d hate to give him bad advice. Point him to (a) Google, or (b) the Yellow Pages, and get back to work. Bear in mind that if you accidentally break his machine (or if your client thinks you have) you could be in for a lot more repair work.
Dealing with people is simply a part of your job as a WordPress professional, and doing so in a way that doesn’t alienate clients and prospects is vital to any WordPress business. Your best bet is always to try and educate your client, with in-depth resources.
Have you encountered a particularly difficult people problem? How did you deal with it? let us know in the comments!