Last Updated on October 3, 2020 by Michael Brockbank
One of the hardest things to deal with as a freelance writer is a difficult client who hires you for a task but doesn’t have full faith in your abilities. It is frustrating and can result in a very bad situation. Today, I’ll show you how I deal with difficult clients when I know I’m right.
In the end, it’s all about how you handle yourself and knowing how to cope. Because in reality, you can’t make clients behave a certain way.
You’ve got to adapt and focus more on your own behaviors to move past the issues.
When Difficult Clients Question You
When someone questions your ability as a professional, it can be quite insulting. Especially when you know certain things are a specific way based on facts and statistical information.
For example, I still see clients on Textbroker who want the keyword in every single sentence of the content. This is several years after Google even announced they’ll penalize keyword-stuffing articles.
What’s worse is when difficult clients say something like, “The team wants you to change it this way because they have experience.”
After 8,000 articles for thousands of clients spanning the globe since 2012, so do I!
At this point, you need to ask yourself, “Is it about the job, or that someone isn’t taking you seriously?” Or, perhaps you’re like me and take a great deal of pride in the work you complete.
At any rate, it mostly comes down to how you handle the situation.
8 Ways to Deal with Difficult Clients
The best way to handle difficult clients is by understanding how you carry yourself as a professional. Because there’s little you can do when it comes to someone else’s behavior.
But, you can adapt your own.
1. Realize It’s Their Business
First of all, realize that it’s the client’s business and job. Even if you think it is the most asinine project imaginable, he or she is still paying you to complete a task.
If the client wants to be surpassed by the competition, that is on them, not you.
As long as you still do what you can to offer the best quality possible regarding the situation, failures because of the client’s intervention is none of your responsibility.
One of my regular comments to difficult clients is, “It’s your website, I’ll do it however you want.” And then I write exactly what they want.
2. Always Be Professional
Even when tempers begin to flare up, it’s worth it to remain as professional as possible. I know it’s difficult sometimes, especially when a client is all but calling you inadequate at your profession.
What you need to realize is that you are a professional and are capable of moving on from difficult clients.
Besides, the client could be having a bad day. By learning to defuse the situation, a lot can be accomplished. Especially if you use your professionalism to make the client more relaxed.
It’s not about ego or being better than the other person. It’s about working as a team to accomplish a task. Remaining professional at all times can help achieve those goals.
3. Step Back and Breathe
Running off of pure emotion and adrenaline is never good for anyone. You’re more likely to make mistakes and less likely to think rationally.
The end result could be damaging relations between yourself and the client, which may have a ripple effect. The client may share the experience with others in his or her network.
This could quickly shrink the pool for gaining future clients based on word-of-mouth.
It’s always best to take a step back for a few moments. Give the situation, the client, and yourself a bit of time to refocus and relax.
I often go on short walks after a tense situation. It’s what helps me recenter my thoughts, especially when dealing with difficult clients who don’t believe I’m right.
4. Ask Questions and Clarify Exact Instructions
Once you have your mind cleared of tension, or at least less than it was, have the client clarify exactly what he or she expects from the task.
- How do they want it done?
- What requirements are there, if any?
- What’s the exact layout they hope to achieve?
Don’t interject any opinions or thoughts quite yet. Let clients lay everything on the table of how they want tasks completed.
Interruptions can come off as combative and dismissive. Besides, you’ll have a stronger case for your suggestions if you have all the information difficult clients are relaying.
Not to mention how the client may clarify confusion as he or she describes the job in full.
5. Make Suggestions, But Don’t Force the Issue
After the task is laid out before you from the client, make suggestions. If something can be done better, now is the time to let the client know.
Just remember to keep your tone of voice civil and professional.
Have facts, data, and information at your disposal to prove your points. But don’t throw them out at the client in a forced fashion.
If the client still wants you to do the project in a specific way, then that’s his or her decision to make. You’ve said your piece, now move on.
6. Do the Job THEY Want
As I’ve said before, do the job the client wants you to do even if it’s wrong. By now, you’ve already tried to make your point. If the client still wants it done a specific way, don’t argue. Just do it.
This is one of the hardest things I contend with regularly. Especially when it involves something that I know for a fact is incorrect.
But, as stated above, the client is the one paying the bills.
One way I relax is to realize that the content they want me to create is going on their website, not mine. I keep in mind, “If they want to pay me for crap, then that’s on them.”
I’ll still do the best work I possibly can. As I always do. But, I will do it exactly how they want it.
7. Collect Data to Demonstrate Your Point
Over time, if you can, collect data that demonstrates your point. In some cases, I’m able to watch visitor counts and engagement on a client’s website. After about six months, I take the data to the client, which often supports my original claim.
But if you want a client to take you seriously, it’s all in the delivery. You want to come off as confident, not cocky. You don’t want to patronize, but you want them to listen.
In many cases, I’ve turned difficult clients into believers of my abilities due to showing real data concerning their websites. I also cite highly-reputable professionals and companies who also support my claim.
Yes, I’ve said, “I told you so” quite a bit to clients in the past.
8. Learn to Say No and Move On from Difficult Clients
And lastly, there’s nothing wrong with finding your own limits and being done. Depending on the professional you are, there could be a slew of potential clients out there ready to toss you money while being much easier to handle.
Don’t feel like you failed if you have to move on. Sometimes it happens, and the aggressive nature of others can get to be too much..
I’ve dumped many clients because of their unprofessional attitude. To me, it’s not worth the money they were paying to take any kind of abuse.
In one particular case, I charged $4 more per hour if he wanted my time. Because I really didn’t need his income and the extra money was more of a bonus for dealing with his attitude.
And he paid it. Because I am a professional, and he knows that I know what I’m talking about.
The point is that you are a professional freelancer. Sometimes that means standing your ground and knowing where to draw the line when it comes to aggressive clients.
Don’t sacrifice your sense of self for the sake of making a few extra bucks today. Because in the end, it’s really not worth your sanity.
Just remember that some people are going to be angry no matter what you do. In that case, it’s better to turn down the job and move on.
The World is Full of Difficult Clients
No matter how hard you try, you’re going to come across difficult clients who want things done in an exact way regardless of your expertise or knowledge. That’s on them, not you.
However, there are times when you can sway someone to your line of thinking. Just keep your professionalism intact and be respectful.
Because a heated shouting match does nothing to improve the situation.
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