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Allan is the cofounder of LessAccounting, loves his family more than breathing and builds weird lamps for fun.

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What makes a client difficult to deal with?

Written by on Jan 21
difficult client

If you’re a small business owner or solo freelancer, there aren’t five layers of staff between you and your clients. You probably deal with your clients directly. Some of them are easy to work with, but others are…problems.

Why? What makes a client difficult to deal with?

Identifying the problem areas between you and your client means you might be able to fix them.

Client Micromanagment

Nothing drives a freelancer insane quicker than micromanagement from a client. Can you imagine the President of the United States radioing a jet pilot and telling him which targets to pick during a bombing run? Well, you’re that pilot.

If a client is calling, texting, emailing and Skyping constantly, it’s a problem. Talk with them in terms they can understand. Explain that the interruptions are killing your productivity and slowing the project, which means they’re costing themselves money. But frame that talk as “here’s how I’m the most effective and efficient for your project”.

No Guidance From Client

The flip side is a client who doesn’t provide enough guidance. What exactly do they want? When do they want it? A close relative is the unresponsive client who doesn’t return emails or phone calls, won’t commit to deadlines or benchmarks, and never is available when you have a question. Timeliness is often an issue with clients like this. You need requirements or data or access from them and they don’t come through, until it’s crunch time. Suddenly their lack of organization becomes your problem.

No Respect From The Client

Then you have the client that treats you like the son-in-law they were forced to hire. They don’t care about your opinion, don’t respect your expertise, and never seem to be in harmony with you. Again, try to give them an example. For instance, if you need surgery, you don’t watch a few YouTube videos and then try it yourself. You go to a surgeon. Remind the client they came to you for your skills, and that you are an expert in your field. If the client is abusive or uncooperative, walk away. No one likes to lose money or clients, but drop the bad one and go find two good ones.

Money Talks

People will tolerate all sorts of nonsense in a business relationship, right up until it hits them in the wallet. Money can be a wrecking ball. Some clients agree to a given amount based on hours or projects, and then halfway through the job they begin complaining about the money and want to “re-negotiate.” This is where documentation like a clearly-worded contract can help.

Other clients agree to your terms, but when you send the invoice, you don’t receive your check. You call, and the client makes excuses–they lost the invoice, the Internet was down and they can’t get email, or the bank made a mistake. With all the stalling and excuses, you wonder if they’re going to pay you at all. And if so, when?

Their failure to pay is serious. However, before you grab the phone and start screaming, get organized. Check your records. Is the invoice outstanding but not yet late, or is it actually late and overdue? Stay calm and professional. You may need to write a “demand for payment” letter. And if the problem drags on, consider hiring a collection agency.

Clarity, Clarity, Clarity

Clarity can prevent most of these problems. If you urge your client to be clear about what they want and when they want it right at the beginning, you can save yourself a lot of trouble later. Clear, honest communication can turn a difficult client into a valued, long-term customer.

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