Here at GDB we talk all the time about how to go from good to better. Better clients. Better income. Better communication. Better business.
But what about just getting to good?
Not all of us are in the position right now to be selective (and yes, sometimes even veterans find themselves in a slump).
So when you’re in a spot where you have to work with a difficult client, here are some tips for making the best of a bad situation. (And if we left anything out, you can add it here.)
Do it first thing
When you’re really dreading talking to your difficult client, do it first thing in the morning. Don’t allow yourself to put it off for *just 5 minutes* until “oops! – it’s 5 o’clock again. Guess it’ll have to wait ’til tomorrow.”
Get the worst part of your day out of the way right at the beginning so that the rest of the day is smooth sailing.
Be the professional
No matter how they treat you, always be the professional. Never allow yourself to stoop to whatever immaturity they do and potentially risk burning bridges.
Not only will you feel better about yourself, but they’ll also never be able to point the finger at your poor behavior.
Get it in writing
Be meticulous in your record-keeping. Record every detail, save every email, and be prepared to defend yourself politely but firmly.
(If I had a nickel for every LinkedIn discussion that begins with, “What should I do? My client is blaming me for…”)
Double-check in disguise
With clients who ask for something and then protest when it’s done, discreetly double-check before proceeding.
Example: Good morning, Zack: I just wanted to let you know I’m moving forward with the web launch this afternoon. I’ll send you a confirmation email when we’re live.
This way your client can’t come back with, “if I had known, I would have told you not to.”
Clingy clients can bog down your entire day with endless phone calls, emails, and texts. Keep their interruptions to a minimum by sending them short progress emails regularly with specific dates they’ll receive proofs.
Charge for everything
Talk to any veteran freelancer and I’m certain they’ll agree: difficult clients pay more.
Example: If one of my great clients calls or emails with an occasional 5-minute question, I’m probably going to throw that in for free. A difficult client will pay for 15 minutes of my time (minimum charge).
Here’s a script I’ve developed for clients who want to argue over communication bills:
I understand you’re on a tight budget; however, I cannot afford to donate my professional services.
As you know, my hourly rate is $X. This applies to phone calls, texts, emails, and, in general, work that I do with regards to your business.
When you ask me questions or advice, I put time and effort into providing a meaningful response. In return, I require payment.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me…
Boost your mental health
Working with a difficult client can erode your mental and emotional health in no time. Be sure you find ways to relieve that stress and keep yourself in a positive, energetic, and creative state of mind.
Here are a few ways I boost my mental health in my spare time:
- Work on a fun side project
- Create something amazing
- Fix the minor issues on your own website (a never-ending process!)
- Read something inspiring or uplifting
- Play with your pets
- Go enjoy the weather
- Clean your office (weird, I know, but it’s helpful for me)
Know where your boundaries are
Finally, know when enough is enough. If your client is so awful that you’re in tears, not sleeping, depressed, or fearing your next day of work, fire them and find another source of income.
Get a part-time job that will pay the bills while you build a clientele of decent human beings.
Share your tips!
Have you ever had to ‘grin and bear it’ with a difficult client? How did you save your sanity? Do you still work with them or have you moved on to greener pastures? Leave a comment on this post!