The longer you stay in the freelancing trade, the more you will encounter a particular type of client, one of the ‘difficult’ variety. They are essentially the same as normal clients, although they aren’t afraid to make their opinions heard.
Everyone has their own opinion on matters, and it’s not uncommon for freelancers or entrepreneurs to disagree with clients, making agreement somewhat hard to attain. So how do you deal with this? How do you deal with difficult clients?
Well, a client is difficult only if and when you fail to live up to his or her expectations. At times, beginning the project by expecting the client to be difficult will lead to that becoming true.
It is, therefore, important to understand the degree of expectation a client has from a project or a product, and lo and behold, you will find that even the trickiest clients are actually easy to deal with.
Here are some other pointers to make life with your clients easier to bear.
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1. Show them (clients) you know what you’re doing
For any client who is passionate about a project or who takes his or her work seriously they are bound to be anxious about every little aspect with regards to the project. How will you deliver this, when is the next sample going to be out, I want this and this and this to be modified that way, can it be done?
The string of questions is endless, and even from the get-go, some freelancers won’t be able to take this constant badgering because if you want to be honest, I’m here to deliver the project, not to lecture you into understanding how I do it.
But you know what? That’s the precise remedy to the client who constantly breathes down your neck.
I had a client whom I have worked for more than a year. At the start of a new project, he began acting strange, out of the ordinary, speaking as if he was unsure of whether I could tackle the task ahead. He started asking questions and with the newfound pressure he was exerting me, I realized that he was starting to turn into a "difficult client".
Now, we can’t have that now, can we? I thought about it and realized that it was probably the difficulty of the project that made my client act in such a manner. I met up with him and briefed him about my plans on how to tackle the project, and wouldn’t you know it, he got the idea and left me be to settle the project.
2. Don’t be complacent with work
Another reason why clients can be difficult is due to them not knowing who you are or how you work. The only thing they can fall back on to put their faith in your services is to look at your past achievements or in some cases, the first impression you give them at the initial stages of the project.
But here’s where it can go horribly wrong. You can never be complacent because if you do, the client will surely notice and he or she will surely point out your mistakes, why you haven’t been improving or some other similar taunts characteristic of a difficult client.
Well, in this case, it’s not the client’s fault. It’s yours, it’s mine, it’s the person who is providing the service who is at fault. And if you really do not like difficult clients, then do not give them the reason to turn into one! Don’t take things for granted, like taking their silence as nods of approval.
They are always judging, always testing, always considering if your level of professionalism is up to the mark and before they assess your quality of work, you better put in some measures to ensure that you had not compromised your work in the first place.
3. Keep clients informed
One of our biggest source of sighs come from client complaints. And one of the sources for their complaints comes from them becoming aware of what was formerly ‘hidden’ facts.
For instance, if they had not been told about certain drawbacks, additional costs involved or requirements needed for a project to go smoothly, they’re more than likely to be upset. And an upset client will indubitably become difficult.
If it is a ‘possible’ scenario, don’t put the word ‘guarantee’ in place. Make all your pay rates clear from the start of a project and not near the end to prevent the client from feeling like you are overcharging them because they were not aware that you charge for revisions.
Entrepreneurs should be especially wary of their use of words, particularly when they write disclaimers for a product. They should make it a point to explain their products and services ahead (where necessary) to prevent misunderstanding or discontent that could arise from it. Never make your client feel like you are withholding information.
4. Offer prompt solutions
Every difficult client is most likely like that because they are pushing for a solution. Whenever operations hit a snag, the first thing clients look for is the people behind the problem, because they expect the solution to come from the same place.
So in fact, they are looking for solutions, a way out, a way to minimize the damage caused or to provide the best alternative for when the original solution could not be used.
Offer your clients prompt solutions to get the problem fixed. Arrange for the right actions to be taken, rather than wait until the chaos catches up with you. The sooner you can do this, the less likely you have to deal with a difficult client.
5. Be mega patient with them
So far, the idea is to not give your clients the chance to become difficult to deal with. But as far as preventive measures go, sometimes some people are just difficult to deal with. Period.
It’s not their fault, but it is very tiring to work with clients who just go on and on about how this is not satisfactory, how that has to be done a certain way, or how every little thing is just "not quite right" or "not there yet".
Where possible, take their criticism in stride and never try to tell them that they are wrong because it doesn’t help the situation. If it is in their habit to find mistakes in every little thing you do, take note of their preferences and try to mold your results to suit what they like.
And if all else fails, just steel yourself against their words and get it over with. Be the bigger person and at the end of the project, just pack up and run!
No matter how good you believe you are with your clients, there will always be some ready to cramp you with complaints, and haplessly push you towards the edge.
Always bowing down to your clients may not be a great idea, and sometimes the only way to handle them is to stand up to them to convince them of the credibility of your work and opinions. Who knows, that may actually be the key to winning a stand-off with a difficult client?
Have horror stories to share? Tell us what happened and how you dealt with them.