Dealing with difficult people is not an option; it’s a human dynamic we all face, sometimes daily. Next in this series, I want to address a type we all deal with, especially in lean times: the cheapskate client.
There is a big difference between being frugal and being cheap.
- Maximize resources
- Optimizes opportunities
- Value quality
- Understand priorities
- Not afraid of spending on the right tools and opportunities
- cut corners to save a little
- sacrifice outcome or quality for the bottom-price deal
- do not value quality
- under-resource their organization
- see where they can save but seldom what they can gain
Early in my career as a creative director/designer, I was hired by a former college teacher who was cheap…very cheap. I should have known my challenge when he hired me to develop a book cover. I remember seeing him buy a small soft drink with no ice and a free large “ice” and pouring the contents of the small drink into his large cup of ice in order to save the extra 30 cents it would have cost him to order the larger drink. That’s not being frugal. That’s being cheap.
At the very end of the long book cover design process, he asked me to output film for the printing presses (for those of you who are digital natives, film was used to create the plates for the printing press). I remember telling him that the color proofs were going to cost $120. He balked at the expense and asked why we needed proofs. “Because if something goes wrong during the film output, we can catch it,” was my reply. He thought for a second and decided that the printer would pull a proof as well and that would be good enough. I protested, since I was not comfortable about going to press without a guide. But nonetheless he prevailed.
You know where this is going. The printer did not pull a proof before printing the 5,000 book covers, and there was a major issue with one of the plates. A very obvious, big, and ugly output error. It was neither a design fault nor a printer fault. He tried to blame everyone: me, the printer, the people who outputted the film–everyone but himself. He “saved” $120 in production but lost thousands of dollars, created havoc for everyone, delayed the release of the book, and burned bridges with everyone involved in the project.
After that episode, I developed a strategy to work with cheapskates: minimum requirements on projects that are not negotiable.
Unless you know where you cannot compromise in price, quality, and resources, you’ll end up giving in. The project will most likely fail and you’ll be blamed for lack of performance, and to make matters worse, you might not get paid after all.
Take if from someone who learned it the hard way: know when to say, “I’m sorry, but that’s outside my ability to provide the quality of product I know you want. What I proposed is the minimum I can do.” Stand your ground. If he’s not willing to pay, then walk away. Trust me, you’ll thank me latter.
What has been your experience with the cheapskate?