How to Handle Difficult Clients: 6 Best Practices for Freelance Writers
The advantages of being a freelance writer are immense: you choose your preferred working hours and clients, work where you want, and enjoy a better work-life balance and improved income. But as they say, there is a good and bad side to everything, and freelancing is no different.
One of the biggest problems you will encounter as a freelance writer is handling difficult clients. Here are the different types of difficult clients you’re likely to encounter:
- The demanding type: these clients will expect a lot from you, beyond what you agreed upon in the contract. Most times, they will push a project beyond the scope, request endless revisions, or call at odd hours, which is not acceptable.
- The unsure type: these clients aren’t sold on hiring a freelancer. They still cannot see the benefits freelancers bring to their ROI, so most of their relationship with freelancers has never worked. With them, you will constantly have to prove yourself and reassure them that your services will be worth it.
- The micromanagers: clients that want to control or dictate every minute detail fall under micromanagers. They always want to have a say in everything you do, leaving you with no space to exercise your creativity. In the end, the project becomes draining and confining.
- The unreliable one: these are probably the most common category, with many having the habit of not paying or paying late. So you end up chasing down payment after every project’s completion.
With that said, let’s check out how to handle such difficult clients.
1. Have a formal contract
“Always have a contract signed first” says Brooklin Nash, a freelance content marketer and expat.
A contract ensures everyone agrees with what is spelled in it before work begins. A proper contract protects you from things like scope creep, endless revisions, non-payments, and intellectual property row.
As a result, your contract should cover the start and end dates of the project, number of revisions, payment method and time, your fees, charges for consultation, client’s role, and methods of resolving disputes. Consider also using a vocabulary that is easy to understand.
If you need help to create a contract, you can always visit websites like Freelancers Union and use their freelance contract template to make your contract.
2. Set expectations early
As mentioned in the introduction, a difference in expectations is one reason a client may be difficult to work with. As a result, it is prudent to set expectations with every new client you are working with.
One way is to have a set writing process in place, and share it with your client at the project’s inception. Here’s an example from freelance writer Elise Dopson.
Apart from sharing your writing process, other factors to fill in your client is how your calendar looks like (for the duration you will work together), your preferred invoicing and payment methods, when to be paid (after project completion or net 30), office hours, response time, and how often you will share the project’s progress.
Be as detailed as possible to avoid any surprises that may come later or create misunderstandings.
3. Get direction
Freelance writer Kaleigh Moore says one thing that has improved her writing work is asking new clients to complete a writing brief template before commencing work.
When new clients can answer all the important questions needed, it smoothens the work process, limiting miscommunications and errors.
So in your writing brief template, ask important questions, have the client share examples, and outline clearly their expectations. Pay close attention to what the client wants. Ensure that the client doesn’t provide you with a general overview of the task.
If the information provided by the client is vague or easy to misinterpret, get additional details before you begin the project. Where there is any push-back, negotiate with respect. Doing this will help build trust and generate more business for you. Besides, it will help you easily create engaging content that captivates your client’s readers.
4. Reach out for help
In the last two years since the pandemic began, we have seen a lot of resources put aside to help freelancers deal with difficult situations. New York City, for example, had passed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, allowing freelancers to report non-paying clients to the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Freelancers Union, as well, is always ready to help freelancers deal with client issues. Once you have filled out a client complaint form, a member service staff will get in touch to help.
Apart from these two, there are other avenues like social media to air your concerns or client issues.
Research shows that 81% of our purchase decisions are influenced by what our friends and family post on social media. Thus, it is prudent to put your concerns on social media and ask other freelancers to join if the same client has stifled them. Check out this tweet from Wudan Yan for inspiration.
5. Record everything
Clients become difficult to work with when they change their minds. A case example can be pushing you to change everything in a project you have just completed or not paying—claiming you did something else they didn’t ask for or failed to seek their final approval.
To avoid such occurrences, record everything. Every email, conversation, instructions, and even the files you have exchanged. Keep them safe so that you can use them as proof of what the client asked if they backtrack.
6. Stay professional
In your career as a freelance writer, some clients will push your buttons several times. Sometimes, a client will be rude to you, harsh, or insults you. To overcome such hard situations, it is prudent to show professionalism by staying calm and collected.
It is not a good idea to fight fire with fire. Before you respond to any rude and angry messages, share your concern with someone like a family friend, calm down, or settle your thoughts.
By being kind and professional when dealing with rude and angry clients, you will easily build an excellent reputation for yourself and stay positive, motivated, and committed to your work.
Nobody wants to work with a difficult client. They can eat into your valuable time and besides can add more stress to your life, which may ultimately affect your work output. However, most times, clients will be difficult to work with because they have a different personality from your values or have unrealistic expectations.
These can be solved by having a contract, getting clear-cut instructions, being professional, or seeking help from other freelancers. And if all these fail, you are the boss, and hold the power to decide who to work with or not. You can let them go to avoid burning bridges. Remember that your actions are a reflection of you!