How to deal with difficult freelance clients

Last checked and updated on November 25, 2020

For creative professionals, working with clients both online and face to face is a requirement when seeking projects suitable for your talent range. In most cases, with effective communication and a clear outline of the requirements of the job, the task can go ahead without any problems and with both parties content at the end of it. However there may be times when your client proves to be difficult to work with and can cause you a whole host of problems. Below is a list of the most common complaints with tips on how to successfully handle them.

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Managing problematic business clients can be a challenge

They’re not satisfied with the end product

It’s an amazing feeling when someone decides to use your services, but sometimes this feeling doesn’t last for very long. Let’s picture this scenario- you get the email confirming the job, you’re on cloud nine and you understandably want to make the end product as perfect as possible. You spend hours making it right, you constantly revise it, you make the relevant changes to match the client’s specifications and then” shock horror”- your client decides that they don’t like what you’ve produced for them. This can be an incredibly disheartening feeling but remember this doesn’t necessarily mean that your work is of a poor standard, but simply that the client had something else in mind.

Talk to the client and try to work out a solution. Ask them to be clear and concise so you’re sure of exactly what they want. It may be that you need to make some changes to meet what the client desires. If they’re adamant that they no longer want to use your services, make sure that you’re still paid- even if it’s a deposit amount paid before the start of the project, as you’ve still completed the job and have spent time and resources producing it.

They demand endless alterations

Similarly, you may find that the client isn’t completely satisfied with the job but instead of telling you directly, they constantly ask you to make alterations to the product. A few revisions to the end product is acceptable. After all, you want to keep your clients happy so they don’t seek business elsewhere. However there does come a time when nothing more can be done to improve upon what you’ve created and you end up wasting your time and money when you could be working on new projects. If this is the case then go back and review the requirements initially set out by the client. As long as you’ve met these and feel as if you’ve completed the job you’ve been asked to do then don’t panic. Be assertive in telling the client that you’ve met the specifications and that no more can be done. If they want additional work done outside of the initial purchase then charge them as if you were working on a separate job, but remember to be fair with your amounts.

They don’t listen to you

Sometimes the customer isn’t always right. You may find that certain clients just don’t like what you have to say. They think that their ideas are better or that they have a better grasp of your industry than what you do yourself. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you consider that you’re working for their greater good. It’s important to be tactful- don’t tell them outright that you know best but offer them advice and try to show them how your ideas can prove to be better for them in the long run. Maybe show them examples of the ideas you have in mind to try to offer them an alternative way of working. You have to remember though that you’re working for the client and if they’re adamant that they want a project completed in a certain way, it’s often best to do as they ask.

If a project ends up becoming a disaster because the client just won’t listen to you then it might be in your best interests to cut ties to avoid having your name associated with it. This will probably mean that you leave the job unpaid but your business reputation is a very important tool when securing future clients and you don’t want this damaged.

They don’t pay

It’s every freelancer’s biggest worry and a harsh reality that some have unfairly had to face. You might find that you’ve spent hours working on a product, you’ve given the client what they’ve asked for and within the deadline set, yet even though you’ve done a good job they refuse to pay. They might come up with an excuse as to why your work doesn’t deserve payment, they might refuse outright or the line might just go cold. This is completely unacceptable and must be dealt with. If you’re working on a freelancer website, there should be procedures in place to ensure that this doesn’t happen. If so, contact the relevant power and lodge a complaint.
Ask a client to put a deposit down on a job so that you know they’re serious about the project, and at least you can claim some money back if they refuse to pay at the end. Make sure that before you start any job, a contract is in place with details of job’s description, its cost and a schedule for payment. If they breach this, then legal action can be threatened in order to prise payment from them.

It’s very important to determine whether the client has real concerns or is merely trying to get a discounted product from you. Most people are genuine, but not everyone is completely trustworthy so be vigilant when facing any of these problems.

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Important – The information provided in our articles is intended to be for general purpose use only, and not advice for you or your business. We strive to publish accurate information, but encourage you to fact-check and seek expert guidance. You should always speak to a qualified professional to get tailored advice about how to operate your business under your specific requirements and circumstances.