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Client Horror Stories

Christmas Specials: Changing perspectives can shed light and optimism on a terrible situation

Christmas Specials: Changing perspectives can shed light and optimism on a terrible situation

This article was based on Episode #22: Rick Schirmer’s sort-of-client-horror story that left Our Beloved Host, Morgan Friedman, and us, with tons of valuable lessons. Please watch the complete episode here!


“It’s almost like she was an influencer sommelier.” – Rick Schirmer

Since our stories began, we have already heard many horror clients coming from our sharers. We have learned a lot of lessons from them, and we also shared laughter and tears with them. There were also a lot of remarkable stories that had great endings, but most of them were really horrific. 

But this time, because the spirit of thanksgiving is within us, our story is still about a horror client, but it became a lovely lesson with understanding and a shift in perspective. So grab your pen, take down some notes, and let’s listen to Rick Schirmer’s sort-of-client-horror story about his inexperienced client who became an influencer sommelier in less than 2 months.

Rick Schirmer works in Viral Brands, and he has gone through many horror stories during his 20 years of working in the digital industry. He will share his post-pandemic experience about a client he had who kept on pausing their work. But it was already expected last year as many startups had been stopping and starting unexpectedly because of the adjustments due to the pandemic. 

Rick added, “Pause was the biggest word of 2020 when it came to marketing campaigns.” Rick also shared that they had a lot of projects that were paused because of the pandemic. So Rick had a particular client last year, a new client, who asked for help from his company, the Viral brand. 

Let’s name this client Jess to avoid confusion. 

Rick shared that Jess kept on pausing their contract, but it wasn’t a big deal for Rick because he understood the situation. But he can’t deny that his working relationship with Jess was stressful. It was stressful because even though Jess told them to pause, they still needed to finish all her required demands. Even if Jess hit the “pause” button, Rick doesn’t know when Jess would hit that play button and ask for the things she required. 

Rick described Jess as “a client from hell” because of the pressure while working with her. Rick added that Jess was from a big-name company. She always wanted to make a deal with Rick. It is common in the business industry, especially in the digital marketing agency, that people who keep making deals become the worst people.

Rick can attest to this because the main star of his story, this nightmare client, made a deal with him that was the reason for his client-horror story. To begin, Rick saw an opportunity from this nightmare client, and he was willing to support her clothing startup. 

Again, to avoid confusion, let’s name this nightmare client, Anne. 

Now Anne made a deal with Rick, and the Viral Brand began advertising Anne’s clothing. Rick’s company advertised Anne’s clothing by using influencers. Rick had been doing this for a while now so there were a lot of influencers waiting on his doorstep for work. 

When Anne and Rick made a deal, Rick launched a campaign and asked random influencers to advertise the shirt. But to his surprise, one influencer voiced out because there was no t-shirt for his/her size. This wasn’t really a problem, and for Rick, he could have solved this issue easily. 

Rick told the concern to Anne, but she didn’t take the news lightly but instead, Anne gave Rick a nasty email stating that Rick’s campaign would make her clothing startup go sideways. Rick was shocked when he read the email, but he wasn’t worried about it because he actually had thousands of influencers on board with his campaign. Rick didn’t mind the email, and he solved the issue by customizing a piece of clothing for that one influencer just so that they could wear the exact size of the t-shirt.

Before we head on to what happened next, let me point out the first lesson that I got from Rick’s story so far.

1. Be cautious around people making huge and impossible deals.

You have to trust your intuition when you meet a client who keeps on making impossible deals because if my theory about them is true, then these people are cheap. They make unbelievable deals and ensure that the odds are in their favor. Like even to the slightest opportunities, they still want to make a deal out of them. 

Everyone wants a reasonable price, but the ones that keep on pressuring you for the agreement to be made are the cheapest people. These people are also very hard to please. After all, no matter how good the results are, they will still not be satisfied because they think there are cheaper ways to get the same results, even though there are none. 

But let’s make this clear; not everyone who pays less is mean. 

2. If possible, check your client’s financial background.

This is particularly significant for clients who are just starting in business. In Rick’s case, everyone knows about Viral Brands, and entrepreneurs are aware of the company’s potential to promote other people’s products. When a small business approaches Rick about promoting their product, it implies that they are willing to put their business on the line to have their product marketed by Rick’s company. 

Although $10,000 may seem insignificant to Rick, it is everything for the small company, and they trust Rick to do whatever he can from that $10,000 budget just so Rick can advertise their products. So to avoid inequality and to avoid becoming someone’s client-horror story, make sure to do your due diligence first, specifically on the financial background of your client. 

So going back to the story, everything was settled with the influencer after Rick gave her a customized t-shirt with her actual size. Rick continued the campaign, and the influencers also continued to advertise Anne’s shirt. But because it was still in the middle of the pandemic, there were a lot of stops and pauses. 

The influencers also had a rough time advertising the clothing because stores are closed because of the strict guidelines. The situation delayed the advertising of Anne’s clothing, and influencers need a lot of time before they can post their pictures. Also, influencer marketing was relatively new to many people in the marketing industry, so only a few truly understood its process. 

Rick wanted his client, Anne, to understand the concept of influencer marketing, and Anne got a glimpse of the idea. Rick hoped that Anne understood that the concept was complex, but even though Anne only knew a little, she requested that she choose certain types of influencers to advertise her clothing. Rick didn’t know what came into his client’s mind, but she pursued choosing specific influencers to market her clothing. 

This became a problem for Rick because of the situation of Rick’s contract. His contract was supposedly made general, but Rick would have to change his contract if Anne wanted to have specific influencers. Rick felt like Anne was trying to drive through the holes of his contract until it reached the point where Rick couldn’t deliver their best performance.

3. Don’t hesitate to create a new contract specifically for that client.

Contracts are essential. Always remind yourself about this because when it all comes down, and everything seems chaotic, the contract will remain stable. 

Even if you delivered what was asked for you, if the payment is not stated in the agreement and your client is a rude and unethical person, he will use that contract against you and will not pay you. Even if you file a case in the court and show them proof that you worked for him if you signed a contract by mistake saying you will do all the work free of charge, your client will definitely get away with it. 

If you can sense that your new client is trying to look for loopholes from your contract and is taking advantage of it, stop everything and create a new contract specifically for that client. Rick sensed this from Anne, and because of that, he acted immediately to prevent future legal problems. 

What he did was that he started documenting every zoom meeting that he had from Anne and also from his other clients. Rick did this so that when his clients could successfully find a loophole on his contract and take advantage of it, he would have a video documentary as his reference for legal purposes. 

If I were Rick and I had to do this to my client, I would immediately consider this a red flag. If the working relationship reaches that certain point, that simply means that you lack trust in your client. If your intuition is correct, then there is a huge possibility that there would be problems, such as on the payments, later on.

4. No matter how specific your contract is, there are always bad people who will look for loopholes in your contract, making you bend over to them. 

Another thing that I want to point out is that no matter how good your contract is, if the person is literally bad to the core, they will really look for loopholes in your contract. Even if your contract is 30 pages long, they will literally look for loopholes so they can take advantage of you. 

This is where your legal team comes in to save your contract. Your legal team would immediately detect any anomalies and have a countermeasure plan.

Right after Rick’s documentation plan, he immediately created terms and conditions for all of his clients, and he placed them on his website. Their contract was 15-20 pages long, and Rick figured that his other clients wouldn’t want to read 15-20 pages of pure words, so he decided to put it all on his website. 

Rick continued working with Anne, and the supposed six-week campaign turned into an 8-month campaign. The project became extensive, and Anne’s attitude got worse and worse in every month that passed by. 

Anne kept on grilling on Rick, and she even meddled with his methodology to think that she didn’t have any knowledge about influencer marketing when they began their working relationship. Anne also dictated to Rick what they should be doing so that their campaign would become more successful like she was an expert in that field. Rick added, “It’s almost like she was an influencer sommelier.” Rick has been in the influencer advertising field for over 20 years, and Anne had only known about it for two months prior, and she was already acting like she was more capable than Rick.

If only Rick had taken note of the warning signs, his relationship with Anne wouldn’t have gotten to that point. Anne looking for loopholes and being budget conscious should have been enough warning signs for Rick to back off, but he didn’t. 

Rick also added that she also had a nasty attitude besides Anne’s hidden schemes. Rick shared that Anne talked bad things during one of their zoom meetings, and she called one woman influencer “not flattering or nice.” Anne told Rick that one of her influencers is ugly and that the influencer’s body build was perfect for sports modeling and not for her clothing. She said many things, but Rick didn’t continue listening to her because it was too much.

5. Take note of people, clients, or a professional who talks negatively to others. 

The things that come out from a person’s mouth are the exact representation of their inner beauty. You have to be cautious around people who say bad things to other people when they aren’t around because if they can do it to someone they are close with or they established a working relationship before, how much more to those who didn’t work with them. This was also another red flag for Rick, but instead of leaving the client, he confronted Anne’s behavior and changed the course of this story. 

Rick didn’t like the idea that one of her influencers was maltreated and insulted. Rick spent 20 years working in that industry, and he spent some of that time in Hollywood, so his tolerance for people who insult and belittle other people is really low. 

Going back, Rick wasn’t happy about Anne’s insults, so he confronted Anne through a zoom call. He told Anne, “What you said was sad and it really offended some people on my team, including myself.” Rick also pointed out that his team heard the insults because they were working with his team when Anne called him, and she was on loudspeaker. Rick also added that he had recorded everything that Anne said. Anne was shocked and replied that she didn’t know it was recorded. 

6. Learn how to correct bad doings, even if they are your client. 

What Rick did was commendable because some would not dare voice out to their clients because they might lose them. Rick didn’t let it slide, and he confronted Anne about what saddened him. Also, Rick told Anne that it was on record, then Anne’s facial expression changed. 

Rick didn’t care anymore what Anne’s reaction would be, whether she would continue working with him or not, for as long as he was able to voice out that what Anne did was wrong in so many ways and that he couldn’t let that slip away. 

Rick added, “Me putting that boundary out there really like where I kind of drew a line of self-respect and respect for our agency and our people.” But fortunately, there was a shift from Anne being so tense and unethical to becoming good. 

After that confrontation, Anne began to show that she had mutual respect towards every person she met. Rick also realized that he needed to change his perspective towards Anne because she is still his client after all. Rick tried to validate her feelings, where she was coming from, what her actions meant and understood her completely. 

For four months, Rick could have avoided that nightmare if he had changed his perspective towards Anne and tried to understand where all of those insults and bad behavior were coming from. From then on, Anne had complete respect towards Rick and built a healthy working relationship.  

7. Change your perspective and try to shift the situation

You might feel like your client is terrible because of all the things you don’t like about them, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Instead of complaining and making your client bad, try to validate their actions and turn your bad experience into a great learning experience for your company. Rick was the CEO of his agency, and there was no one other than him who could shift that situation. 

As a result, Anne was able to smile throughout their Zoom sessions instead of her usual stiff brow look. As a result of Rick’s genuine grin, the whole crew operated with a light heart. They were able to complete their campaign effectively. 

The toxicity in their workplace was eliminated due to this adjustment in viewpoint, allowing everyone to contribute to the campaign’s success. Rick was so pleased, so he offered a little gift to everyone who helped his campaign. Rick offered everyone a free complimentary campaign, including Anne. Everyone was delighted and took the offer. Rick continued the free campaign and made everyone on his team happy. 

Rick was surprised to hear from Anne after a long wait of six months. She was enthusiastic and grateful for Rick’s effort. An analysis of one of Anne’s businesses revealed that Rick’s influencer campaign was bringing her success. In addition to the successful influencer campaign, Anne also informed Rick that she was using it regularly. 

Rick was delighted because Anne appreciated his campaign. Anne went on to say that the influencers who promoted her apparel brought her every single one of her clients, which proves that the influencer campaign actually worked. After that conversation, Anne asked Rick if they could again hire him for another pay campaign. Rick gladly accepted the job, and now, Rick and Anne are total buddies. On the other hand, Rick went on to do well in other ventures after Anne’s. 

8. Even if it breaks their mood, hit the big red button if the client gets delusional.

Even though each project was a success, Rick was able to gain plenty of lessons. Like this one project where a company hired Rick to make a movie campaign. Everything went well because Rick was able to deliver on their expectations. Rick’s client was overjoyed, to the point that he became delusional. The client was so excited about the movie marketing that he informed Rick that they would make $80 million. 

I mean, it’s understandable considering that the person was just celebrating. Still, even if it spoils the mood, you have to press the delusional button to cut that expectation and save your client from being down because he did not meet his expectations. 

Rick told the client that if all 500 theaters are filled, it is theoretically impossible to obtain $80 million even if all of the seats are sold. Pressing the delusional button doesn’t mean you are being a bum because it is better to expect what is really coming rather than to believe in things that are products of being delusional.

But still, say it in a good way, perhaps telling the client that a million is still far, but 500k is still good and closer. Now, why is that? It is because they have already launched many good movies. They already experienced having all 500 theaters fully booked to watch their film, so they already have an estimated price and expected income. 

That’s about the end of Rick’s sort of client-horror story. With just a shift in perspective and understanding, a client-horror story was altered and had a happy ending. 

When Rick complained that Anne was looking for loopholes in the contract, he shifted his perspective and understood that Anne was just being cautious, the same as him. She was just checking the agreement because she also knows the importance of signing a contract. When Rick complained about Anne being cheap, he shifted his perspective and understood that Anne was just using her budget wisely and tried to make the most affordable deal possible to save some money and allocate them to her other stores. 

Rick’s story can prove that shifting perspectives can change some client-horror stories in a positive light.


This article was based on Episode # 22: Rick Schirmer’s Story, please watch the complete episode here!