FAQS: How Do You Deal with a Client Who Only Wants to Buy a Piece of the Pie?


Balance, control

My partner, singer-performer Theo Bleckmann, gave me a great analogy: He said that it’s like saying to a singer, “You sing only the high notes. I’ll take care of the rest.” In other words, it’s as though your client were saying, “I want to get it as cheap as possible, and I don’t care about sacrificing your integrity, creativity, or talent in the process.”

A Few Examples

Invitations: The client wants to buy invitations from you but hire someone else to do the calligraphy for less money. Danger: You lose control of the quality of the final product.

Flowers: The client loves your design but has a cousin or uncle who can get the flowers wholesale; so, you’re hired only to do the arrangements. Or, as in yesterday’s blog post, someone else can get flowers cheaper. Danger: You might get poor quality flowers, or the flowers may arrive late. You lose control over the process.

Music: The client likes your band but wants to bring in a cheaper DJ. Danger: Regardless of how great the musical entertainment is that you provide, if the DJ sucks, that’s the only thing guests will remember. You and the terrible DJ will be linked in everyone’s mind.

Planners: The client loves your planning ideas and talent but only wants to hire you for the day of the wedding. Danger: I do not understand how a planner can manage to do in one day what normally takes months to plan. In fact, I think this is a huge mistake, and I will address this in Thursday’s “Common Mistakes” blog post.

Caterer: The client likes your food but, in order to save money, strips your menu down to only the bare minimum and asks for minimal staffing. Danger: The client will get what he or she paid for, poor service and small portions.

Linens: The client likes your monogrammed napkins but wants to buy the napkins from his or her own sources. Danger: Because of chemicals, you should wash a new napkin before using it. Also, be aware of the possibility of late shipping.

Planners or designers: The client loves your idea for favors, which work wonderfully with the design of the event. However, to save money, he or she wants to have a friend or relative shop around and put the favors together at home. Danger: As much as I love the loving gesture, I hope and pray that the final product looks exactly the same as your design.

Photos: The client wants to do his or her own prints, after making selections from the photos you took. Danger: Good luck with this one.

Cake: The client wants to use fresh flowers to decorate the cake instead of using your beautiful sugar flowers. Danger: The guests might end up eating the thorns and chemicals that are in some flowers.

First and foremost, I am always extremely respectful of all of my clients’ budgets. At times, there are going to be clients who can not afford certain design elements, and they will certainly try to stretch a dollar as far as it can possibly go.

However, besides the obvious fact that you might be cutting into your profit, I strongly discourage these practices for a few very simple reasons:

Ultimately, you are responsible for the end result. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have agreed to this type of scenario, only to then have something go terribly wrong. And guess what? The client and their guests will blame me and my company for the final result, good or bad.

Here are a couple of suggestions for dealing with clients who want to go this route:

1. Get it in writing that you are not responsible for the final outcome. (Not that this matters much, because guests might still leave thinking it was your mistake.)
2. Explain to your clients why it’s very risky to involve additional sources or vendors when you are trying to give them the best service and product possible.

Most of the time, you should try and accommodate your clients’ budgets. However, you also need to be cautious and ask yourself at what cost to my business and my reputation am I doing this?

Have you ever experienced a similar situation with a client? How did it work out?