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Book Review: Dealing with Problem Clients

September 17, 2019

By: Kyle Van Deusen

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Written by author, speaker, and business coach, Nathan Ingram

I was recently introduced to Nathan Ingram through a series of his WordCamp talks I found on YouTube. Every now and then you stumble upon someone that you just can’t get enough from— and 5 videos later I was hooked and sold on anything Nathan was teaching.

On his website I found his book, ‘Dealing with Problem Clients: Building fences around friendly monsters’, and decided if his talks were this great, the $10 I’d drop on this book would be well worth it.

It’s a quick read— coming in at just over 100 pages… But what it lacks in length it makes up for in its specificity to our lives as WordPress web designers working with clients.


The book is broken up into two parts, which end up perfectly intertwining in the end.

The first half is 4 fictional tales that are all too relatable. In each of the four short stories, Nathan describes scenarios of specific types of difficult clients in situations that I could immediately put myself in.

Lovingly called the “friendly monsters”, he describes The Question Mark, The Invisible Man, The Boundary Buster, and the Drama Queen— all of which I’ve already encountered. As the fictional clients in the stories started to unleash their havoc I was immediately naming the clients in my own agency who have put me in the same position.

Each story is wrapped up with a lesson from the freelancer’s coach who helps them keep the monster at bay.

The second half of the book is nonfiction— an actionable guide of how to setup systems and processes in your system that will keep your friendly monsters from wreaking havoc on your agency.

Presented as “the four fences”, Nathan explains how clarity, commitments, communication, and documentation can help you avoid the pitfalls of the friendly monsters and give you control of your business.

The whole book is wrapped up in a bow as you start to see how each one of these fences plays a pivotal role in containing the monsters before they run loose with your project.


Often similar “the creative business owner” type books try to position you in a “you vs. the client” stance where you must always be above them. These approaches make sense on paper, but feel really awkward when you implement them because you’re forced to be someone you’re not.

Nathan does none of that… His “monsters” are friendly—even if they are frustrating. But the ways in which he advises on dealing with them is something I’d feel confident implementing knowing that I’m able to do it in my own voice and still be able to provide excellent customer service.

Not only do I think the author paints a much more accurate picture of what we experience, there is very little “theory” here— every lesson and tip is something actionable that you can easily implement into your practices right away.


I won’t spoil them for you (because I want you to support the author and pick up a copy to keep on your desk), but there were several things I put into practice before I even finished this weekend read...

  1. The “Friday email”, which is outlined in clear instruction and examples, is already setup as a reminder on my calendar every Friday morning. I know this will be a gamechanger when it comes to client communication and keeping projects on track.
  2. A simple, but effective policy for my contract to keep clients from dragging out projects for ages.
  3. Knowing which types of questions I can charge a client for answering, and which ones come free.


Anyone who is young in their web career would benefit greatly from the lessons this book provides. I wish I had read this before I ever started my career, it could have saved me loads of frustration and a good pile of cash.

If you’re a more seasoned professional, there might be things in this book you’ve already adapted into your agency— but I have no doubt that you’ll gain clarity and pick up a few tricks to help you refine your processes further.

No matter where you are in your agency’s life cycle, you’re likely to face these same challenges with a future client. Because this book helps you identify and put a name to them, it will be easy to recognize what you’re dealing with and give you the confidence to know how to overcome the challenges they pose— if it doesn’t help you avoid them in the first place.


You can learn more at www.nathaningram.com, where he has a variety of courses and coaching programs available. I’d advise you to start where I did: searching “Nathan Ingram WordCamp” on YouTube. Just make sure you have a few hours to spend and a notepad nearby— you’re not going to want to stop watching.

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Kyle Van Deusen

Kyle is the co-host of The Admin Bar, the owner of a agency of one called OGAL Web Design and the co-founder of Docket WP. You’ll likely find him trolling The Admin Bar community.

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