Bad clients. Deal with them.

We’ve all had to face the unavoidable: working with the “client from hell.” The one that asks you to do five revisions when your contract was for three. Or the one that claims you didn’t send your invoice just so they can buy themselves more time to pay you.

If you think about it, bosses in corporations never think, “I fired that bad employee too soon.” Similarly, if a client relationship is causing you stress, it might be time to either cut the umbilical cord or make some significant changes in your relationship’s dynamic. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to set up your client relationships for success.

Step 1: Set boundaries early on. 
To make sure clients don’t cross the line with you, first ask yourself some questions. Are you ok with responding to emails after 8:00pm? How many edits are you willing to do? How soon after your job do you expect to get paid? If your rate is based on a project basis, how many hours do you expect to allot to it?

Early on in your relationship with your clients, make it clear to them that you’re only available on email on weekdays from 9-7pm or that your rate is based on 3 rounds of edits. Setting up the proper expectations from the get go will save you headaches in the long run.

Step 2: Put it in writing.
If you agree to something in person or over the phone, make sure you write your client an email detailing what was agreed upon shortly afterward. Lay it out in bullet point format and ask them if you’ve missed anything that was discussed. This will ensure that you and your client are aligned from the get go. More importantly, the email gives you a written record of your agreement that you can refer back to later on if a discrepancy arises.

Step 3: Stand up for yourself.
If your client crosses the line after you’ve agreed on the guidelines for your job, don’t let it go unnoticed. Refer the client back to the original email or contract that laid out expectations for your work. Choose being professional over being a push over; it will help you succeed in the long run. If you want to do something extra for a client as a favor, make sure you highlight it as such.

Step 4: Know when it’s time to say bye.
It’s hard to realize it at the moment, but bad clients cost you more money than they make you. As uncomfortable as it is to have to break ties with a client, sometimes it’s absolutely necessary. The time you spend begging a bad client to pay you could be time you spend easily collecting money from a good one. Remember you chose freelancing to have more choice in your day to day; don’t choose stress caused by working with bad people!

When you’re ready to move on, keep it short. Send a polite email explaining that you think it’s best for all parties concerned to go your separate ways. If relevant, explain your reasons for doing so. You can even suggest another freelancer who they may work better with and say you’ll stay on to help with the transition.

If you’re still on the fence about whether to let a client go or not, raise your rates the next time they contact you. This could prove to be the most effective way for them to move on from you without any hard feelings.

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