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How to Handle Difficult Clients and Still Get Paid

If you want some serious insight into dealing with difficult clients, we’ve got you covered. From tips on getting paid to scheduling those difficult conversations, we happen to know a thing or two about the stuff no one tells you before you strike out on your own. Discover how to handle difficult clients — while still getting paid in the end.

How to Handle Difficult Clients Tips

  • Don’t get mad and don’t ‘react’ — try to understand your client’s point of view
  • Never respond to a ‘bad’ email or phone call right away; cool down and create some space between you and the problem
  • Don’t default to threatening legal action until you’ve exhausted other avenues
  • Be as explicit as possible when relaying ‘your side’ of the story and explain why certain client behavior creates a hardship for you

How to Handle Difficult Clients: Getting Your Clients to Pay

We’ve all dealt with the dreaded ‘non-paying’ clients. 

If you haven’t, huzzah for you! 

But seriously. In the words of Ali Wong, “If you don’t have it, you gonna get it.” (OK, she was talking about HPV, but we hate to break it — almost every freelancer deals with at least one client ghosting her at payday at some point during self-employment.)

The best piece of advice we can give? Keep it professional the whole way. Don’t get emotional (even though payment is super personal). Always sign a contract before starting any work and ask for a deposit. 

If you set good boundaries from the get-go, you’re more likely to scare away potentially ‘bad’ clients before you even begin work. Don’t want to waste your creative time? Hire a lawyer to do it for you.

Communication isn’t easy. If it were, we would all just ‘get’ each other all the time — nuance be darned. 

How to Handle Difficult Clients: Communicating Effectively With Clients

So how do you express your needs and wants to your clients (especially when we haven’t yet mastered that art with our parents and partners yet)?

Again, the devil is in the details here. Be upfront with your process, including production milestones and payment expectations. Explain why you’re explaining all of this. 

And if your client questions this thorough detail?

Be honest. Let that client know that you’ve been burned before. Or at least that this is the most seamless route between the pitch and final product.

The Last Resort: Firing Clients

We’ve all uttered the freelancer’s mantra one too many times: don’t ever say ‘no’ to work. 

This seems to go double for turning down clients we already have! 

As freelancers, we often harbor scarcity mindsets. We’re living in the 1950s, terrified the Great Depression is going to strike again soon. And by Great Depression we mean those two months in 2014 when you floated your business on both hope and maxing out your credit cards. 

Part of ditching the scarcity mentality is firing the clients that are more work than they’re worth. It’s understanding your value — and that your sanity doesn’t come with a caveat.

Third-Party Websites: Employing a Middle Man (or Woman)

Luckily, third-party websites (like Rise) are well — on the rise! We don’t charge consultants (only clients) and we add an extra layer of security to ensure consultants get paid on time. We hold bad clients accountable. We also act as a mediator, ensuring consultants also live up to their ends of the deal. Basically, we’re non-biased bystanders. 

Our best advice on how to handle difficult clients? Don’t. Let us do it for you.


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