When I went freelance nearly four years ago I promised myself that from then on I’d try to only work with nice people. Life is just too short to be bullied, harassed or otherwise made to feel rubbish by people you work with. I’m not saying that my previous life as an agency staffer was miserable, only that in an agency you can sometimes end up stuck working for people that don’t make your life much fun.
Since then the whole ‘only work with nice people’ thing hasn’t always worked out, but I’ve made a point now I’m in control of my own destiny to avoid working again with anyone who hasn’t treated me with basic respect and politeness. It’s a very nice position to be in.
You could argue that agencies have the opportunity to take the same stance with their business and institute a Nice Clients Only policy – but as with unpaid pitches, working insane hours to turn something last minute around or 100 page RFIs, if they won’t play along, some other agency will. Is it better to keep all their staff busy but unhappy or risk not having enough work to employ them all?
I’ve heard about one London research agency that part-solves this problem by regularly rotating staff working on one major client’s business as they’re known to be so difficult to deal with. I wonder if that particular client has twigged yet why their account team changes so frequently…
I recon for agencies it all comes down to creativity and effectiveness. If an agency consistently turns out brilliant work that has tangible, measurable business benefits then clients will be queuing up to work with them. And how will they manage that? With a happy, motivated, retained workforce and a working environment that attracts the very best people. Which you won’t get if they’re working for clients-from-hell.
So you could say that the short term pain of telling pain-in-the-bum clients to shove off would be worth it for the long term business benefits that come from better work. But don’t hold your breath on that front.