Essential Tips on Dealing with Difficult Clients as a Freelancer or Independent Worker – Wedo AI | Your All In One Business Tool


Do you sometimes have a hard time dealing with difficult clients?

Dealing with difficult clients can be a pain, but there are a few ways to make the relationship work in spite of the difficulties. As a freelancer or independent worker you’re always on the lookout for new ideas to keep your business running smoothly and your clients happy.


The first rule in dealing with difficult clients is to set clear expectations:

If you set clear expectations, there is a fair chance that your client won’t become a difficult client. This includes:

  • Objectives & Milestones
  • Budget & Invoicing schedule
  • Deliverables (yours and clients)
  • Communication & feedback procedures
  • Contact details (preferences, frequency)
  • Modalities for changes
  • Anything else that is important and has been a problem in the past

Second rule: the customer is always right!

This might seem obvious and it should be the first tactic to use. Remember, the client is paying for your services and it’s important to maintain a positive working relationship. However, if the situation becomes truly unreasonable, it’s okay to politely decline the project or terminate the working relationship.


And when the customer is not right….

  1. Use the “good cop, bad cop” technique. Have a colleague or friend play the role of the “bad cop” and threaten to cancel the project if the client doesn’t shape up. Hopefully, they’ll see the error of their ways and start being more reasonable.
  2. When dealing with a difficult client, sometimes offering them a free coffee or snack to sweeten the deal is a way out of a “sticky” situation. Who doesn’t love free food? If you are working with your client remotely, start to talk about food and suggest a food break.


What if the customer keeps changing his/her mind?

  1. For clients who constantly change their minds, remind them of the expectations and boundaries that were agreed on at the start of the project. Establish clear communication protocols. This way, they’ll know what to expect and be more likely to stick to the plan.
  2. If a client keeps changing their mind, consider offering them a “change of mind” fee. This way, they’ll think twice before requesting yet another round of revisions.


What about dealing with difficult clients who are unreasonable in their demands?

  1. If a client is constantly sending last-minute requests, try setting up a “rush fee” for urgent projects. This will incentivize them to plan ahead and respect your time.
  2. If a client is being unreasonable with their deadlines, try the “time travel” technique. Explain that you have a time machine, but it only works for reasonable deadlines. They’ll either get the hint or be thoroughly confused. Either way, it’s a win-win.
  3. If a client is being unreasonable in their demands, try using the “five-year-old” technique. Simply ask them, “Would you ask a five-year-old to do this?” If the answer is no, then it’s probably not a reasonable request for you either.
  4. If a client is overly demanding, try using the “puppy dog eyes” approach. Make your best sad face and explain that you can’t possibly work any harder or faster without sacrificing the quality of your work.
  5. When dealing with difficult clients who are being overly critical, try using the “compliment sandwich” approach. Start with a compliment, followed by constructive criticism, and end with another compliment. This way, they’ll feel appreciated and you can still give them helpful feedback.
  6. If a client is constantly canceling or rescheduling appointments, consider charging a cancellation fee. This will incentivize them to be more reliable and respectful of your time.


What about payment and budget issues?

  1. If a client is late on a payment, send them a friendly reminder in the form of a stuffed animal. A plush tiger or teddy bear is sure to get their attention (and maybe even their payment!)
  2. If a client is always asking for discounts, try offering them a “loyalty” discount. For every 10 projects they hire you for, give them a discount on the 11th. This way, they’ll feel special and you’ll get a little extra business.
  3. If a client is being unreasonable with their budget, try the “value” approach. Explain the value that your work brings to their business and how it will pay off in the long run.

No matter what approach you take in dealing with difficult clients, remember that it is important to:

  1. Always find a solution: A problem is usually not the fault of one side alone. If you have contributed to the problem, take responsibility and fix it. If it is something that originated with the client, you will still need to solve it to move ahead with the project. So in the end, it is easier to focus on the solution rather than the why and how of the problem.
  2. However, the why and how is important for one thing: to learn from the situation and make sure it doesn’t happen again.


Remember, as a freelancer or independent worker, it’s important to maintain a professional and respectful attitude when dealing with difficult clients, while still finding ways to have fun and enjoy the work you do. With a little creativity and a lot of humor, you can handle any client situation that comes your way!


Find out how to work and communicate better with clients and colleagues:

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