4 Difficult Customers and How to Handle Them


When trying to author documents, certain customers can make the job just a tad more difficult. When the naysayer strikes, what’s a writer to do? Here, we break down just a few difficult customers and how to handle them when they affect your projects.

The Nitpicker

Definition: The Nitpicker always has a critique or change to a document. They seek out and highlight the minutest changes no matter how many passes they’ve had to look at the document. (Do they enjoy doing this?)

Symptoms: Changing their own edits, swapping synonyms out for your word choices, and always needing one last edit before finalizing.

Approach: Anticipate their patterns. What changes are they most likely to go for? Try to hit most of them before it hits their desk. And, when all else fails, apply their changes. In the end, it’s their document and they have to be happy with it.

Mr. Deadline

Definition: Mr. Deadline needs this document, and he’ll let you know it. From the very beginning, he’ll make the deadline very clear. Throughout the process, he’ll check in to make sure that everything is running on time.

Symptoms: Daily emails asking about your progress, consistently checking on feasibility of the deadline, and expressing concerns when you’re assigned additional work.

Approach: Beat Mr. Deadline at his own game. Let him know he’ll receive daily emails on your progress and an update on the deadline feasibility. Offer to hold meetings to discuss the project in person if necessary. Being proactive will give him what he wants on your schedule, rather than his.

The Weathervane

Definition: The Weathervane goes whichever way the wind blows (so much so that this project has no resemblance to the original assignment).

Symptoms: “I was thinking about this…,” “The CEO really wants us to focus on…,” and “Wouldn’t it be great if…”

Approach: Take the changes in stride. Again, the end product is for the customer and needs to meet their expectations. Be communicative about the scope changes before abandoning previous objectives (e.g., “So we’re no longer going to…”). Also, let the customer know how the changes will affect the deadline.

Ms. Do-It-Myself

Definition: Wasn’t this your writing assignment? She doesn’t think so.

Symptoms: Writing sections of the document, rewriting your sections, and completing the assignment without you.

Approach: If they want to do the leg work, who are you to complain? Keep up contact and communication though. Polish their work and provide feedback to make sure the final product still makes the grade.

About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit .


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