Sometimes, you have to fire the client.

I know a lot of DJs are willing to put up with anything to make the sale. But I’ve come to realize that there is such a thing as a “bad” client. Don’t get me wrong, demanding doesn’t equate with bad. Some of my best clients have been my most demanding ones. What makes them my best clients? Some of my clients with the highest expectations have become my most fervent advocates. They insist that their friends and family use my services because I promised the moon, and delivered. On the opposite side of the coin, if you find a client that seems like they just can’t be pleased even if you deliver the moon, and throw in the rings of Saturn as a “show special,” you aren’t doing yourself any favors by working for them.

This topic came to mind because of a bizarre incident with a potential client at a recent bridal show. I should have seen it coming. He rubbed me the wrong way from the moment he introduced himself. It was a very loud show with hundreds of vendors in an echo-filled convention center. So when this soft spoken guy came up to me and introduced himself, I misunderstood him. I though he said his name was Tim. I leaned in a little closer and said, “Tim?” I was about to comment on the fact that we have the same name. I was going to crack a little joke about it or something. You know how it goes when you’re trying to make small talk. But then he lowered his chin slightly, and in an exaggeratedly slow speaking voice, he said “No, you are Tim. My name is Tom. Your name is Tim, and my name is Tom.” He was enunciating each syllable as if he was trying to talk to me through a pane of glass. Then, he pointed at me with both index fingers, then back at himself with his thumbs as he slowly said “Tim, Tom. Got it now?” I immediately made a mental note. Either this guy’s personality lends itself to being too comfortable with strangers, or he’s the type of guy to give a waitress a hard time just for the satisfaction of it. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and continued our conversation.

Twenty minutes of abuse later, not only did I regret giving him the benefit of the doubt, but I began to regret waking up that morning. All of his questions involved laying out his low opinion of me and my profession, then asking me to defend myself. “I don’t understand why I can’t just ask one of my guests to make a few announcements, and have another guy play music. I mean really, how hard can it be? You don’t need a degree to do this, do you? You just switch songs and speak into a microphone a few times. Anyone can do that, right?” When I told him that I would provide a veteran entertainer’s perspective to the team, I would keep everything flowing smoothly, coordinate with other important vendors, and use my many years of experience to keep things on track and entertaining, his response went something like this… “It sounds to me like all these things you say you do, are responsibilities that overlap with other [pause] professionals I’ve hired. I wouldn’t expect my photographer to need a DJ to hold his hand so he doesn’t miss any shots, and my fiancé has hired a wedding coordinator. It seems like you get to twiddle your thumbs while other [pause] professionals do the work, but I still have to write you a big, fat check.”

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh snap, Tim! No he didn’t! I would have sent him packing!” So I feel the need to explain that I never turn down a client on the spot. I’ve had plenty of "difficult" clients turn out to be my best advocates. I’ve had clients tell me they didn’t want me to play even one song that you would normally hear at a wedding. I’ve had clients ask me to practice making scripted announcements in a foreign language. I’ve even had a client ask me to help clean up because they only had 30 minutes to get out of the hall. All of that is fine. I took those gigs, and I would gladly take them again. Those clients were not being difficult for difficulty’s sake. They considered me a part of their team, not the opposition. I always sleep on it before I turn an event down because I need to differentiate between the ones who are just trying to make a prudent decision the best way they know how, versus those who simply enjoy harassing “the help.” Tom was definitely the latter. Tom hasn’t called yet, but if he does, I’m booked. Whatever date it is, even if it’s three years from now on a Wednesday morning, I’m booked.

Posted on February 2, 2010 and filed under DJ Industry.