Stop working with troubled clients by recognizing these warning signs
Freelancers will frequently encounter complicated clients who they do not want to deal with. As a service provider, you'll learn to recognize bad client red flags. A good client relationship is built on open communication, so be upfront about your rates, timelines, and expertise.
Clients who are poor communicators can cause uncertainty about work and rates, so freelancers must be proactive in initiating those conversations. Dancing around difficult topics only adds to your burden later on. You can also use client management tools to help you handle challenging clients by creating concrete contracts and managing invoices to avoid late payments.
What exactly is a bad client?
A terrible client is someone who will end up costing you so much time and resources for a number of reasons. It could be that they are never pleased with the work you deliver, or that they are unsure of what they want, leaving you unsure of what you're supposed to be doing.
When you work as a freelancer, no matter what industry you work in, you will encounter demanding clients at some point. However, the advantage of freelancing is that you work for yourself. You are your own boss, so you can decide whether or not you want to continue working for this person.
Types of Problematic Clients
Every client is unique, and each has their own set of preferences and expectations. When you establish a working relationship with clients, you must effectively communicate with them and outline your expertise. If you've landed a job, they believe you're qualified for it. However, before commencing any work, make sure that both you and the client are on the same page about the work and the tasks required to complete it.
Don't be afraid to talk to the client or set up a face-to-face meeting to discuss critical success factors and better understand what they're looking for. Don't avoid difficult conversations; be upfront about your rates.
Let's look at the types of terrible clients you might encounter as a freelancer.
Clients who are unresponsive
When you work as a freelancer, you may take on a wide range of projects that are all very different. You may need to ask the client additional questions that arise only while working on the job. That is why it is advantageous to have a communication tool that allows clients to add feedback directly into project files, making communication easy to track and respond to. Any client-freelancer relationship relies heavily on communication.
Working with someone who does not respond for extended periods of time can cause you to lose rhythm and momentum on the job. If they haven't responded to your question, you may also miss the deadline.
Certain clients do not require regular job updates. They want to assign you the task, have you accomplish it, and then possibly discuss it. That's fine, but they should still be readily available to answer any queries about the task.
The client who is unsure of what they want
When you run your own freelance business, you may come across this quite frequently. Clients are sometimes so excited about their projects that they try to hire a freelancer before they know exactly what they want. This can be complicated because they can change their minds or go back and forth while you're working on the project, which means some of your work becomes redundant or no longer required.
In this case, the client may message or communicate directly to you to discuss their ideas and include you in the fleshing-out process. That's fine if you bill by the hour, but if you only charge by the project, you're not getting paid to listen to their ideas.
To avoid this, make sure your clients have a detailed brief before signing on to complete it. It will save you time and effort.
The client who is haggling
Freelancers are constantly confronted with potential clients who refuse to pay their rates. Unfortunately, as a freelancer, this is unavoidable. Some people are always trying to get a better deal. It's up to you how you deal with it. You can decide whether the client is deserving of special treatment.
When you work for yourself, you are a business owner. Because your work is the source of all of your income, you must price yourself fairly and competitively. In general, you should always know your worth and never settle for less than you believe your worth is.
A haggler can also represent a difficult client who demands a large amount of work for the cheapest price possible. When someone tries to talk you down to a lower rate, keep your cool and stick to your guns.
The picky client who demands endless, substantial changes
When you work for yourself, you will frequently encounter clients who are overachievers and demand endless adjustments to their work. It can be frustrating because you've already completed the project and you may feel as if you're going in circles. Every round of revisions generates additional work that you did not factor into your rate.
Some websites, such as Fiverr, have a revision cap on each package, so a client can only request three revisions for the job. That may be preferable to a client who constantly requests edits and additions to the article.
To address this issue, you can assign a set number of revisions to your work before beginning and inform the client that these modifications are included in your rate, but any additional revisions will be charged extra.
Clients who pay late
Late payment clients are exhausting because you don't want to keep chasing your money. Every time you have to notify a client to remind them about a late payment, you are diverting your attention away from projects that could be bringing in more money.
Using an invoicing system with payment deadlines is one way to manage late-paying clients. Streamlining the invoice and payment process improves cash flow and helps set payment boundaries early on, especially with new clients.
A micromanaging client, as opposed to an unresponsive client, will not leave you alone to complete your work. It could be that someone expects constant updates on what you're doing or that some clients want to use tracking software to ensure that you're focused on the task at hand.
They can be stressful clients to work with because you never feel like they leave you alone long enough for you to complete the work. You are your own boss as a freelancer, but you must also maintain client expectations and communicate effectively with them.
Setting boundaries about how frequently you'll update them and when you'll communicate directly with them with questions before starting the job is an excellent way to deal with a micromanaging client. You won't have unhappy clients who believe you're not responsive if you outline what they should expect in terms of communication.
Clients who have completely unrealistic expectations
People with extremely unrealistic expectations of what you can produce are another common type of difficult client. It could be a matter of time, as in expecting you to write 20,000 words in one night, or it could be a matter of money. If you're a freelance writer, you might have a client who wants you to cover ten topics but will only pay for a 1000-word article. It's not possible.
Every industry has bad clients, and it is the freelancer's responsibility to offer recommendations and advice. Clients pay for your expertise as well, so you don't want to be a head nodder and agree to anything. Inform them if you believe the task is unrealistic in terms of time or cost and offer a new deadline or rate.
How to Avoid Problematic Clients
We've loaded up some advice on how to deal with difficult clients throughout the article. You can ask direct questions of poor communicators and state that you will not be able to work on the project until they respond. You can be firm with late payers or refuse to work on projects if someone is unsure of what they want.
Sometimes it comes down to having the confidence to say no. Freelancers can always decline a client if they believe it will be too much work or if they have unrealistically high expectations.
However, here are some pointers to help you avoid dealing with difficult clients in the first place.
Make use of effective customer management tools
Client management tools that improve communication and invoicing contribute to a more positive client relationship. You can create professional invoices with Blinksale to ensure timely payments. You can also set up scheduled invoices so you can focus on projects rather than chasing down payments.
You can also use the system to upload files where clients can leave comments, allowing you to maintain continuous communication while working. This keeps everyone on the same page all throughout the project's duration.
You can create a detailed contract outlining potential issues before working for a client. Blinksale Estimate enables freelancers to quickly create professional estimates, send them to clients, and have them reviewed electronically, agreeing to your terms and rates.
When you use a professional estimate, you will impress new clients with your professionalism. It also avoids awkward conversations later on because you will have explained all the details again.
Increase your prices
It's common knowledge in the freelance community that clients who expect lower prices are often the most difficult to work with. They have higher expectations and want you to do more work for the lowest possible price.
When you set higher prices, you'll work with people who value your work and are willing to pay these rates. This usually results in a better client relationship.
Stop working with people who are causing you problems
Freelancers have the freedom to choose who they work with. You don't have to keep someone on as a client if you're working with them to create extra work for you. There will always be more projects around the corner, and you want to make room in your schedule for good clients when they come along.
If you have consistently negative experiences with someone, you can raise these concerns or simply drop them as a client and end the working relationship.
Terrible clients can range from those who don't pay on time to those who have unrealistic deadlines or expectations, or even those who message and call you constantly to get updates on your job while ignoring the fact that you have other clients to focus on.
Good communication skills are essential for freelancing success. You can avoid bad clients by using an excellent client management system like Blinksale that outlines your terms and reminds clients that you are, first and foremost, a business.
The longer you operate as a freelancer, the better you'll become at spotting bad clients. Using Blinksale gives freelancers access to tools like professional estimate and invoicing that help promote better client-freelancer relationships.
Unfortunately, as a freelancer, you will always encounter demanding clients. There are people who are difficult to work with in any industry. However, because you are freelancing, you can choose whether or not to work with them. Follow your instincts. If someone irritates you before you even start the project, it's unlikely to improve.