I decided to write an ultimate guide on how to deal with difficult clients as a freelancer because 2020 is the year of problematic jobs, clients and activity in general. Freelancing in 2020 has been more challenging than ever before. Why? Because there’s a pandemic happening and clients demand more work for less money than in 2019, blaming the global situation.
Fortunately, these clients represent 5% of the entire spectrum. The rest of them are great, allowing us freelancers to have a flexible schedule, enjoy the crafts that we do and earn a living out of it. But for those 5% of the clients who are difficult to deal with, there are some ways in which we can solve these unpredictable, harsh situations that can arise between us and them.
What makes a difficult client
First off, let’s define a difficult client. For starters, a difficult client is one of those clients who are finding that there’s something wrong with your work even after the third edit. In freelancing, we’re normally doing one, maybe two small edits to whatever it is that we deliver to our clients. When that client asks for a third edit, a small red light starts flashing inside our minds.
Why? Because the third edit is a sign that the client is either maintained, or they have no idea what they want. When you do reach the third edit, and deliver it exactly according to their specification, and the client comes back to you asking for another edit, that’s exactly when the client turns from a challenging one to a difficult one. Two is okay, three is doable, four is difficult.
How to solve disputes
Now that we know what a difficult client is, let’s look into the ways in which you can solve the disputes that are surely going to arise between you and them. The first thing you need to keep in mind is the virtue of patience. Clients are busy, so give them time. Next, let them explain themselves before anything else. If they’re rude… Let’s just get into the tips, shall we?
Tip #1: The client is always right
Whenever you’re talking to a client and whatever they say, remember that the client is always right. This does not mean you have to do whatever they’re asking for, no. You have to make sure they understand that their complaints are heard and that you are apologising for whatever it is that you did wrong. Making sure the client heards this is the most important step in conflict.
Tip #2: Make them understand
After the client knows that they’re right, regardless if how bad the situation is and how much they might not be right, it’s time to make them understand what’s going on. Why is the situation the way it is. What went wrong and what can be done about it. What are the reasonable solutions that you can work on alongside the client in order to solve the dispute.
Tip #3: De-escalate the situation
While the dispute is going on, a great way to de-escalate it and stop it from becoming something more than it is is to offer the client something as a bonus for his troubles. Again, even if you’ve done nothing wrong, the client is always right. Offering a service or product for free, or at a discounted price, is a sure way to de-escalate any dispute. You’ll either win them or lose them.
Tip #4: Offer to return their money
It all comes down to money in the end. You’re offering a service as a business, and your client is paying for it as a beneficiary. If nothing else works and you cannot solve the dispute, offer your client the chance of returning their money. But make sure that 1) you haven’t actually done the work they’ve asked for and are now pressured into giving money back for no reason, and 2) let them know that they cannot use your delivered products in any way, shape or form.
Tip #5: Prevent a difficult situation
The very best way to deal with a difficult client and a dispute is to prevent the entire thing from the very start. For this, the best tip that I can give you, especially when taking on a large project, is to arrange a Skype call with your new client. Talk EVERYTHING down from the details of the projects, parts, deliverables, prices and how the payments will be made, all of it. Note it down, share it in a .doc with the client and then have the contract made and signed.