There’s literally nothing harder in the life of a freelancer than an impossible client. If you choose to pursue the popular freelance career, be prepared to face this challenge in the midst of all those benefits. Freelancing can be the best thing that’s happened to you, but only if you learn how to deal with the difficult clients.
Dealing with clients in the freelance world is similar to dealing with them in the traditional, office job. However, it is much harder on you since you’re responsible for, well, basically everything. Being your own boss also means that you have to juggle everything and fix all the problems that occur along the way.
That being said, one of the biggest troubles freelancers face is an impossible client.
Dealing with Difficult Clients
I’ve worked for hundreds of clients at this point and can tell you one grand truth – none of the people you’ll work with will be the same. Expect to be surprised, annoyed, amazed, and genuinely disturbed by a client. Some will be amazing and understanding, while others are so picky, I actually believe that they live to torture the freelancers they hire.
Yes, a contract is always a good idea, but it can’t fully protect you from difficult clients. If you want to get paid and keep building your reputation, you can’t just toss aside every client you don’t like. People have different demands, expectations, and most importantly, habits. A difficult client doesn’t always equal a bad client. This means that you must find a way to communicate and please those who help you earn your income.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should take the torture from a client who obviously exaggerates. With a very difficult client, your best choice is to say goodbye.
If you follow the tips that I’ll share in this article, you can find a common ground with almost everyone. Almost.
Before I go into you should handle difficult clients, I’ll share with you the types of clients that are out there. In my career, I’ve learned that difficult clients are similar to each other, so expect to meet all of the following in your freelance career:
1. A Demanding One
This client doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad one. He’ll expect plenty from you and push you to work harder. He won’t shy away from telling you that you’ve made a mistake and demanding more. They expect the best and, in most cases, are prepared to pay for it.
However, there are the kinds of demanding clients that go beyond the limit and basically torture their freelancers. Such clients will keep returning your work pointing out to the silliest things, look for flaws when there aren’t any, and ask for more work than you’re paid to do.
How to handle him
A demanding client can often annoy you as a freelancer, but if you set the ground rules ahead and do your work well, this client can turn out to be the best client you’ll ever have. He’ll push you to a point where you become more motivated and inspired.
The trick is to stand your ground. Set the rules beforehand and, if you notice that a client is demanding, make sure to communicate every little detail. This will help you ensure that the client doesn’t cross the line and only demands of you what’s agreed upon.
2. A Reluctant One
You must understand something – not every freelancer our there is a great one. Your experiences with different clients will teach you that there are all kinds of clients, but the truth is – there are all kinds of freelancers, too. This means that clients are often found in a similar position as you, struggling to find a common ground with a freelancer they’ve hired.
In some cases, this makes clients picky and reluctant. They’ll keep making you feel as if you have to prove yourself to them over and over again. In the end, you’ll end up reassuring the same client that you are worth their trust and their money. You shouldn’t have to do this if you are great.
How to handle him
The key to handling a reluctant client is to find a way to put them at ease. Show the client that you are equally as organized and dedicated as them. Establish a very detailed plan from the very beginning and keep notifying them of the deadlines and delivery times. This should put their mind to ease and make them trust you faster.
In the end, if your trust-building tricks don’t work and the client becomes more reluctant and annoying than ever, look for another one. Freelancing should be based on mutual trust and understanding.
3. A Controlling One
This is the most annoying type of difficult clients I’ve ever worked with. He is a micromanager, a person who wants to control everything and know everything. Instead of letting you work, he’ll ask for updates, expect from you to get an okay from him on every little thing you do, and demand changes before you even get a chance to submit your work.
Yes, this type of difficult clients can be extremely annoying. It is absolutely normal for a client to demand the work to be done at their terms, but not to a point where you can’t work because they are overly controlling.
Do you have an idea of how this might look?
I’ve just had one of these clients – again. He sent me work with requirements that took two pages in a Word file. The requirements applied to that particular task only, and the task was supposed to be half the size of the requirements.
I couldn’t stop wondering – why didn’t he write the task himself if he had so much time and knew exactly what he wanted?
Once I read through those requirements, I told him about the ETA and started working. It was only half an hour later that the client started ‘discussing the requirements’ with me once again. He repeated everything that was written in the file and asked that I send the text ‘as I am writing it’.
I ended up having to send every 100 words I’ve written to this client and had to wait for feedback on all of the parts before I continued working. Naturally, when I ended that 1000 words task, I stopped working for this client.
I believe that this type of client is hardest on the creatives (musicians, artists, writers, and designers). When a client keeps setting barriers and rules, they hardly leave any room for you to actually exercise your creativity and show your talent.
But, before you toss a client aside, you need to try to handle them and see if it works.
How to handle him
The only way to deal with a controlling client is to set expectations at the very beginning. Go into details to make sure that you both know what you’re expecting from that collaboration. You can do this in a contract, a detailed e-mail, and simply anything else that allows you to tell the client that you did what they asked. When you have this, they’ll have no room to change the course when they change their mind.
4. A Lazy One
Yes, this type actually exists. In fact, I’ve learned that this type of difficult clients is more present than anyone else in this list. Lazy clients are the ones that always try to give you more work than you’re paid to do. They’ll keep adding tasks to your list constantly and without giving it a second thought. If you let them do this, the tasks will just keep piling up.
I had such a client at the very beginning of my freelancing career. My task was to write a piece of content and deliver it – that was all. I was given some requirements in terms of length, keyword usage, and the request to use SEO techniques in my writing. This is perfectly fine since it is basically what I do on daily basis.
But, when I wrote the text and sent it to the client, he asked me to send it in Google Docs, too. Once I did that, he asked that I published it on his site. Then, he asked from me to find photos and add it to the post. Finally, he asked that I format the post, use Yoast SEO to optimize it, and even post a fake comment once it is published.
At that time, I didn’t know that I’m allowed to say no. The client acted as if this was perfectly normal and every writer had to do it.
And it would be that way if we agreed on it at the beginning. This, of course, wasn’t at all mentioned in our original agreement. All the extra work took me over an hour and the client refused to pay for the extra service. When I asked for it, he said that I was paid what we agreed on.
How to handle him
As you probably noticed already, the best way to deal with any of the difficult clients is to set the record straight before you start working for them. The same tip applies here, too. To avoid having to work extra for a lazy client, you need to make sure that all the details about the job are known beforehand.
But, don’t expect such difficult clients to stop asking for ‘favors’ because of the contract or what you’ve agreed on. You must learn to stand your ground with this type of clients. If they want extra work, ask what the compensation for it will be. If they ask you to do their job in addition to yours, tell them that you haven’t agreed on that.
A lazy client can easily become a bully. You’re a grown up and being a freelancer makes you very, very independent. Don’t let them push you around.
5. An MIA Client
Some clients won’t bother to respond or communicate. You’ll be told to expect work the next day, but they won’t show up for another week. You will wait for feedback for the last task, but they’ll come back a month later to ask for a revision. The worst case scenario – you’ll already start working and need some guidance, but the client will be nowhere to be found.
In any case, you’ll find yourself stuck so many times with an MIA client. There will be no feedback, no information on what you should do next, and in some cases – no payments reaching your account for a long, long time.
Now, if you are protected with a contract or by a hiring site such as Upwork, you’ll get paid sooner or later. But, why should you wait in the first place?
How to handle him
I don’t really have a solution to a case where the client is MIA. If you aren’t protected, you’ll probably never get your payment from such difficult clients. But, if you do have a contract and a way to get your money, go for it. Give the client some space to pay you or reply, but put your needs first. After all, you deserve those money and you’ve worked for them.
If the client is unresponsive too often, I recommend that you confront them about this. Tell them that you need to be able to reach them in order for your cooperation to work well. Give them a limited time for revisions for your work and make sure that they know you’ll expect payment for a scheduled task even if they fail to send it to you. If they keep leaving you waiting and fail to work with you as they should, it is time to end that contract.
Now, one good way to handle an MIA is to be transparent about it. You can try scheduling meetings in a day or a week to make sure that you can get your questions answered. Still, I do prefer being able to reach my clients when I need them. Of course, you can’t always expect them to be available to you, but you should definitely not be waiting an entire week for a response!
Found What You Were Looking For?
Have you already come across one of these difficult clients? I hope that my tricks helped at least a little bit. If you have another trick under your sleeve, one that works, kindly share it with me below. Good luck!