Why are some freelance clients so difficult to deal with?

You're bound to come across difficult clients but there are steps you can take to limit difficulties and protect your relationships and reputation.
Why are some freelance clients so difficult to deal with?

Hero image by Kevin Turios

You’re freelancing, and life is good.

And then it happens…

You run into “the difficult client.”

Anyone who has been a freelancer for any length of time has had a client who is more difficult than most. They may have been condescending, critical, or even borderline abusive. Or maybe they’re inconsistent, demanding, or just plain impossible to please -- even by the most professional of freelancers. It’s not uncommon for the projects you work on with these clients to go sideways once in a while and it’s impossible to avoid every problematic client.

If you freelance long enough, you're bound to come across difficult clients but there are steps you can take to limit difficulties and protect your relationships and reputation.

In this post I’m going to show you why some freelance clients are so difficult to deal with and what to do when you run into one.

Let’s get started…

Look at the situation from a client’s perspective

In my experience, the clients you want to work with don’t really want to hire a freelancer.

Why? Well, for starters, nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks, “You know what? I’m going to hire a freelancer today!

What does happen is the client wants something to happen. They want a result. They want a specific outcome. They don’t want to hire a freelancer. They want to solve a problem or accomplish a task.

And in a time where anyone can hang out a shingle and pretend to be a pro, clients are skeptical and often don’t know what to expect. They’ve heard horror stories about freelancers who are flighty, erratic, and inconsistent. 

What clients want is to work with someone reliable, dependable, and predictable who can help them achieve their desired outcome.

And that’s where you come in.

When money and resources are on the line, people want to work with freelancers who take ownership of all aspects of their job.

One tough reality about being a freelancer 

There are things about freelancing no one tells you.

It’s not all about being your own boss. And the hard truth is that if you freelance long enough, you're bound to come across difficult clients.

Think about it...

A freelancer may work with 15 different clients over the course of a year. The average client might only work with one or two freelancers during the same time period. Over time, those numbers only get wider such that a veteran freelancer might have dealt with 50 or 60 clients in the same timeframe that a client has only worked with a handful of freelancers.

My point is that, mathematically, we’re just more likely to work with difficult clients. And some companies tend to treat freelancers unreasonably, which just compounds the problem. 

The bottom line is that as a freelance professional, you’ll have to adapt to a wide and ever-changing range of personality types. Not to mention, as a freelancer, the “getting to know each other” window tends to be very short.

You’ll need to be prepared to deal with difficult clients and difficult situations. 

But, there's only one way...

The key to freelance success

As a professional operating a business it’s your job to set the tone of the relationship.

You’re the one responsible for the success of your business. And as a freelancer you have to know how to set boundaries and expectations with your clients.

Some clients may be inexperienced when it comes to working with freelancers. Or they may not have a very clear idea of what they need. That means you’ll need to listen, understand the underlying need, educate them, and guide the project to a successful outcome. 

The success -- or failure -- of your project is a reflection on you as a freelancer. That's the bad news. The good news is when you recognize the key to freelancing success is building relationships and taking ownership, you’ll set yourself up for massive freelance success.

Successful freelancers (like you!) don’t just hope good client relationships will happen.

No sirree Bob. Successful freelancers know that solid policies, systems, and boundaries support their customer service and pave the way for good client relationships.

So, how can you get off to a good start with new clients and make sure everything runs so smoothly they rave about working with you? 

Keep reading...

The secret to happy freelance clients (So you make more money!)

I know you want to know how to work better together with your clients and get your projects done with more efficiency and ease. Here are seven steps you can take to limit difficulties and protect your relationships and reputation.

  1. Remain professional -- No matter what happens, stay calm and composed. Keeping a cool head and open mind makes it easier to deal with difficult clients. Listen to their concerns so you can identify the specific problem that caused dissatisfaction. Then, acknowledge the situation and offer a solution. When you empathize and try to exceed expectations, it helps to minimize complications.
  2. Make sure expectations of what you (the freelancer) will deliver are clear upfront  -- Before you begin work, make certain both parties understand the exact scope of work and project deliverables. It’s also a good idea to clarify details with the client in writing. This can be as simple as sending an email outlining the project details and client expectations (You can end it with: “Please respond and let me know that I’ve understood your requirements clearly.”).
  3. Make sure client expectations are clear -- You should also make sure you know how often the client expects progress updates, prefers to communicate, and what success looks like to them. Make note of any deadlines and client preferences. One way to do this is through a clear proposal you can refer back to as needed (This can also help prevent scope creep.).
  4. Avoid poor communication -- Miscommunication is at the heart of a good deal of freelancing nightmares. When you communicate using email you always have a written record of your communications to refer to. Even if you’re busy doing the work you were hired for, make sure you keep in touch with your client so they know how the project is progressing. Be clear upfront about your expectations for the client responding and how any delays will affect the project timeline.
  5. Avoid rushed timing -- Speaking of project timelines, is your timeline realistic? According to the Project Management Institute, 25% of project failures are due to inaccurate time estimates. Did you build in time to get things approved? Is one deliverable or task dependent on another? Are all parties aware of key milestones and when they should be completed?
  6. Remember that clients are people -- You’ll come across all kinds of clients during your freelancing career. They’ll have different backgrounds, needs, and budgets. Showing a genuine interest in the client and their project and being reasonable when issues arise goes a long way towards making it easy for you and your clients to work together.
  7. Be self-aware -- If you “always have issues” with your clients you may want to do a little introspection. The problem may be you. Instead of pointing the finger at your client and hoping the issue will go away, accept things and try to confront your issues and improve your client relationships. You should welcome constructive feedback and act on it

Use Moxie to ensure your project runs smoothly

Most freelancers (heck, most people!) never take time to think about why some people come across as difficult.

But building relationships with people with different backgrounds, objectives, and past experiences is one of the realities of freelance life. And even when you work hard at it, sometimes you’ll still have to fire a client.

You can use Moxie to help you develop a solid client-freelancer relationship by keeping your freelance work organized and moving smoothly and helping your client succeed.

You can also use Moxie to help you remember important details like where you met your client and how they like work delivered — just jot down the things to remember in the notes section, and Moxie will log it with a timestamp and tie it to the client’s profile.

It’s easy to manage clients and projects with a single place to start, manage, and grow your entire freelance business..

Now you know why some freelance clients are so difficult to deal with and what to do when you run into one.

Get started with your own all-in-one home base right now!

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Anthony Sills
Anthony Sills
Anthony Sills is the Founder & Content Strategist at Professional Pen. He helps SasS and tech companies create marketing content that measurably attracts more customers using proven strategies, tactics, and frameworks.
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