Shady Clients

How to Avoid Being Victimized by Shady Clients

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

For the most part, clients simply want good quality work for the amount of money they pay. Unfortunately, there are some out there in the world who purposely prey on freelancers to get even more. I’ve dealt with a few bad apples in my day, and shady clients are part of why so many people are struggling. So, what can you do to avoid being a victim?

Dealing with Shady Clients

The term, “bad apples,” is an understatement for a couple of people I’ve dealt with in the past. One went so far as to completely ruin part of my life under the guise of “helping.” Long story.

Part of any business is to try to get as much of a deal as possible. You can’t blame certain clients for trying to squeeze out everything they can, especially if they don’t have a lot of money to begin with. However, you need to be able to recognize when someone is purposely trying to screw you.

Always Have Plan “B”

Working OnlineOne of the most important lessons I learned from one particular client is to always have a backup plan. Some people will go out of their way to take advantage of others who are desperate. These shady clients know they can pay just about anything and get away with it because you need the money.

At first, you may even defend the shady client because you feel like you’re being helped. A lifeline, even if it’s made out of lead, can still feel like a lifeline.

In some instances, the client may put you in positions where it makes it almost impossible to find a better opportunity elsewhere. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get caught up in a web of indentured servitude.

The moment you have a valid backup plan, you’ll find it much easier to deal with shady clients. It’s like untying the noose that’s around your neck. You’ll put up with less and have a swell of confidence knowing you don’t need that particular client to help pay your bills.

Get Everything in Writing

One problem I had in the past was essentially giving away work to satisfy a client. Sometimes networking and giving away free labor is better than actual pay…especially if the client can help open other opportunities. Unfortunately, shady clients will capitalize on this practice as much as possible.

Verbal agreements are incredibly difficult to prove in a court of law. You’ll come across things like, “I didn’t say that,” or maybe, “You misunderstood what I meant.” I heard these two phrases quite often. In fact, the client also blamed medication in many, many instances.

Always have pen and paper ready. I know, it sounds a little too 20th century. However, a signed document can save your ass in the long run. This is especially true if your shady client has a history of court appearances.

This is why I prefer to work with larger corporations. My current web hosting retainer went the whole nine yards with a contract. I’ve never felt more comfortable working for any other client.

Realize Your Worth

An item is worth only as much as someone is willing to pay. This was a common theme when explaining to clients why certain items don’t sell well on sites like eBay. Keep in mind, this was before 2010 when eBay was a much bigger business practice.

Anyway, this saying holds true just as much in the freelance world as it did selling goods. However, you also need to realize your own value. Because the Internet is full of potential clients looking for content, it’s easy to be selective if you market yourself well.

You’ll no doubt come across clients who simply cannot pay the amount you’re looking for. At that point, you need to consider the client’s position and how much of an impact the project will make on your life.

I’ve sold labor for far less than I normally would make simply because it was a small business trying to get things started.

There’s nothing wrong with cutting a client a deal, but keep in mind the nature of shady clients. If you give some a discount, they may expect it as an ongoing practice.

Give them an inch…they take a mile.

Use Clear and Comprehensive Language

Past Information SharingAlways use clear language when discussing the project with a client. There can be no confusion between the two of you. Some shady clients will use language verbatim as a weapon if it suits their purpose.

If you can’t understand part of a contract, do not sign it. Using advanced legal terminology is a common practice to confuse and obfuscate issues. It’s always a good idea to have a lawyer take a look at the contract and give you the break down of it.

Never feel pressured to sign something you don’t feel is ready. You and the client can easily edit most contracts to suit the project. If a client is trying to rush you, there’s probably a reason.

Make sure answers are delivered in full. The last thing you want to face is a “politician” who skirts the issue by adding in material that has no impact on the current situation. Sometimes a basic “yes” or “no” makes all the difference.

Don’t Be Afraid of Being a Whistle Blower

Calling out shady clients helps those who come after you. Plus, it makes some of these clients take a closer look at their own practice to make adjustments to be less dubious.

Unfortunately, many people feel stuck and blowing the whistle on questionable practices may mean a loss of a job. This is when having Plan B comes in handy. There are always options if you look hard enough. Sometimes they are less appealing, but it’s a small price to pay if it means freeing yourself from bad people.

And if you’re worried about being sued for libel, keep in mind that it’s only effective if the statements are false. If you have evidence to the contrary, then let them sue. Most shady clients will back down, especially if you file a counter suit.

Not All Clients are Shady

Don’t take this as all clients are trying to rip you off. Since 2012, I’ve only come across three who tried to take me for a ride. In fact, many of you may never even meet shady clients in your field. But it doesn’t hurt to keep your options and eyes wide open. You never know who is going to look to hire you for a job.

Michael Brockbank
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