If you haven’t met them yet, you will eventually.
The client who acts like they’ve just emerged from the deepest pit of hell.
You’ll get bitched at for no reason.
You won’t get paid on time.
You’ll be given an unrealistic deadline.
You’ll even find yourself on the receiving end of some bullshit passive-aggressive email (my personal least favorite).
But thankfully, there are a few things you can do as a freelancer dealing with difficult clients.
Here are my suggestions:
Keep track of EVERYTHING.
Probably the most important thing you can do when dealing with a difficult client is keep a paper trail.
That way, they can’t deny something they agreed to later. This especially important for freelancers who don’t use contracts (myself included… although I should really fix that soon).
Luckily, most of my clients are blogging clients who communicate via email/Skype chat only, so it’s pretty easy for me to keep track of things. But occasionally, I’ll take on a copywriting client or deal with someone who wants to talk over the phone. When that happens, here’s what I do:
- Talk to the client and figure out what they want (I get as much detail as possible by asking tons of questions).
- Let the client know I’m going to email them a summary of the project and a custom quote.
- Email the client their custom quote, which includes my deadline, the number of revisions I agree to make, my fee and payment terms, a brief explanation of what I’m going to do for them, and any other relevant information that could come into question later.
Use this process next time you’re dealing with a difficult client (or any client, actually). That way, when they try to go back on their word, you can just be like:
NAH. I’VE GOT THIS SHIT IN WRITING.
(Don’t actually say that.)
Back your claims up with facts whenever possible.
So, once you’ve got everything in writing (er… typing), you should have everything you need to support yourself if a conflict arises with a client.
Now, I’m not saying you should be a giant baby about it (“BUT YOU SAIDDDD!”). However, you should politely remind them that they were already made aware of your terms.
For example, if a client says your fee is too high when you turn in your work, let them know that they were notified of your fees from the beginning of the project. You can also use this when “scope creep” starts to happen (aka a client asks you for way more shit than what was agreed to). Simply let them know that there will be an additional fee for work not outlined in your quote.
BOOM. No more bullshit.
Do NOT to agree to an unrealistic deadline.
I don’t care how much you’re getting paid – stupid tight deadlines are not worth the misery you’ll have to put yourself through.
Let me tell you about one of the first freelance writing projects I ever took on.
I wrote 30 pages of copy for a client in just a few days. Doesn’t sound that bad, right? Well, the problem was that I was still working at a demanding full-time job during the day.
So, for those few days, I worked from about 8:30AM to 6:00PM and then came home and worked from 7:00PM to 3:00AM. Not healthy.
Plus, that kind of schedule doesn’t exactly set you up to write great content. The entire project was a complete disaster. Literally the only good thing that came out of it was that I got paid.
So, speak up when a client tries to make you agree to an insane deadline. Let them know that, to do your best work, you’ll need more time. If you position it that way, they’ll realize that it’s in their best interest to give you the time you need to do a good job.
If they refuse to budge and you absolutely need the work to make rent and/or feed yourself, let them know that you charge a rush fee. Then, add a hefty fee on to your regular rate to make the workload worth it!
Stick to your guns and follow-up as much as you have to.
I’ve only been stiffed one time, and you better believe that I followed up with that client as many fucking times as possible. I mean, why not? I did the work and earned the money, so I should have been paid for it.
That’s the attitude I want you to have too. Don’t let clients get away with not paying you.
You might think that following up with them constantly is rude… but isn’t it much ruder to not pay someone for their work?
I certainly think so.
On a related note, don’t let clients talk you into lowering your rates or working for free.
Once, I did a project for a client, and he wanted something else. So, he decided to email me this charming line:
“Why can’t you just do this for free?”
He also said this: “we could probably work together more in the future” (which, by the way, never happened) — his attempt to get me to work for
“We could probably work together more in the future!” (which, by the way, never happened) — his attempt to get me to work for
Yeah. That never happened. Obviously, he was just trying to get me to work for him for free. (which, by the way, never happened) — his attempt to get me to work for hope instead of cash money.
Hell to the no.
I did not work for him for free, and you shouldn’t cave in and work for free either. Not only does it cost you money —it lets that client know that they can get away with that bullshit. So, stick to your rates and kick rude clients to the curb whenever you can.
And my best tip? DON’T work with horrible clients in the first place!
When I first started freelancing, I didn’t quite understand the red flags I should look for in potential clients. Now, I get a bad gut feeling sometimes, and I trust it completely.
Once you’ve been freelancing a while, you’ll get that bad gut feeling about certain clients too. It won’t be hard to tell who’s going to be a total pain in the ass.
Unless you desparately (I’m talking EXTREME DESPERATION) need the money, avoid these clients. You might be missing out on some cash, but you can use the time you’d have spent on that awful client to work on your marketing and land some much better gigs.
And remember this: you became a freelance writer so you could be happy with your career.
Bad freelance clients are just going to give you flashbacks to all the days you spent working for your shitty ex-boss. So, don’t put up with them. Be picky instead, and you’ll be a lot happier with your life as a freelance writer.