Four Tips for Dealing with Awful Freelance Clients


Almost every freelancer will tell you that they’ve had at least one among freelance clients who’s made their life feel like hell. It’s surprising how somebody who you’ve never met and only communicated with by email or web chat can get seriously under your skin, however, it happens all the time in the world of freelancing and remote workers.

No matter what kind of service you are offering, you’re probably going to come across a client like this at some point in your career; the kind who feels that it’s fine to pay you the bare minimum, but expects you to be standing to attention ready to do their bidding at any time of the day. Or, you may have had to deal with a freelance client who is constantly reminding you about how bad they have it but gives little thought to the fact that you’re a human too.

Managing Freelance Clients Smartly

Then, there are clients who take forever to finally cough up the payment you are owed, and even worse – the ones who threaten not to pay you even though the work you’ve done is exactly to their standards. Some bad clients make changes to their brief once you’ve finished, and expect you to make revisions for free – some might even threaten to leave you hanging without work or payment if you say that you can’t do this as it wasn’t agreed at the beginning.

manage freelance clients

Being a freelancer can be fun and exciting, but the bad freelance clients out there can turn it into an awful experience. However, at times, the bad clients could be all you’ve got for bringing in an income, and you need to put up with them for a little longer before you can find a better one. So, how can you deal with a bad client without driving yourself crazy? Here are our top tips.

Tip #1. Start Looking Elsewhere:

Ok, so you can’t just stop working for your client immediately because doing so would leave you without any work and struggling to bring in an income. One of the downfalls of being a freelancer is that work isn’t always guaranteed, so it’s unsurprising that many freelancers prefer to hang on to the freelance clients that they have, at least until they find a suitable replacement.

Continue working for your client as needed, but get started with your search for others – joining freelancer job boards and other remote worker platforms is a great place to start. Don’t forget to use social media, too – this can be an excellent tool for networking.

Tip #2. Keep the Peace:

Unless a client is being verbally abusive to you or tainting your reputation online, then the best thing to do is simply keep the peace. Remember that as a freelancer, you are your own boss at the end of the day. You can set your own working hours unless you’ve specifically agreed to certain contracted hours with your client, which you should then uphold.

Bear in mind that your freelance client is also a human being, and the way they are treating you right now could simply be the result of a bad day or a bad week. For example, if a client is bothering you at times that you haven’t agreed to work for them, then the best thing to do is calmly remind them of your agreed hours. Likewise, if a client would like you to make free revisions that you didn’t agree to at the beginning, then you should let them know straight away that you expect to be paid extra for this unless of course, the revision is due to a mistake you’ve made. Remember that it’s your reputation as a freelancer at stake.

Tip #3. Dealing with Non-Payments:

As a freelancer, you may come across freelance clients who are unwilling to pay you for any reason. Unless you’ve seriously messed up the work and can understand why they don’t want to part with their cash for it, then it’s important for you to try and collect the payment as quickly as possible.

If you take on regular work for a client who has a reputation for being flaky with payments, then it’s a good idea to bill them more often and for smaller amounts of money that are easier to pay – bear in mind that your freelance client could be having financial difficulties that they haven’t disclosed to you. If a client flat out refuses to pay, then it’s entirely your right to refuse to send them the work, or even sell the work elsewhere if needed. Don’t forget that all the work you do belongs to you until you are paid for it!

Tip #4. Setting Boundaries:

Every experienced freelancer will likely have a story to tell about a client who didn’t seem to understand where boundaries were, for example, emailing them demanding work in the middle of the night, or sending 56 Skype messages for them to wake up to. This can be a very tiring experience; as a freelancer, there’s no need for you to be on call twenty-four hours a day – after all, you need to make sure that you have enough time to rest and take some free time for yourself so that you don’t end up exhausted!

Don’t be afraid of setting strict boundaries and letting your client know what is and isn’t acceptable whilst you work for them. For example, you could set up an automatic response on your work email outside of working hours, to send them a reminder that you won’t be available outside of these times. Likewise, if you use Skype or a similar program for communicating and your client, don’t be afraid to cease using it if they refuse to give you a minute’s peace. Calmly let your client know that you will only be communicating with them via e-mail from now on. If you think that it will help, you may be able to explain your concerns to them – many may not even realize the effect that they are having on you.

Dealing with demanding or rude freelance clients is all part and parcel of being a freelancer. If you can’t afford to lose their work, it’s important to calmly try and come to an agreement with them that works for all.


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