A friend of mine calls them PITAs.

That’s short for Pain in the ______. As in clients (or customers) who are more trouble than they’re worth.

I’m either lucky enough or wise enough not to have any PITAs. One advantage of being my own boss is I can prioritize “working with people I like” over profits. (Well, up to a point.)

Here are four strategies for handling PITAs:

1. Don’t play the game. Just because a client always calls before or after office hours doesn’t mean you need to take their calls. I try to be responsive to my clients. Often that means acknowledging an e-mail, not necessarily responding to the request.

2. Triage. I’ve occasionally answered a client who e-mailed on a Sunday, but that’s because the client had a problem they needed solved and didn’t expect me to be sitting around waiting to resolve it right then. I did not, however, respond to the client who left a voicemail at 6:00 a.m. asking for me to work on something she wanted for an 8:30 a.m. meeting. Good clients, like good businesses, earn respect–and the occasional “drop everything” moment.

3. Charge a premium. One business owner I know added a 50-percent surcharge for work done during weekends and holidays after one client kept requesting work on a Friday that “just had to be done” by Monday.

4. Price high. Several colleagues have done this: bid very high on projects they really didn’t want to win. Of course (as happened to one colleague) you might still win the work–so make sure the “PITA-premium” is a good one.

How do you handle PITA clients?

Photo by joeannenah (Flickr).