Being a web worker can mean learning to handle many facets of running a small business, including dealing with difficult clients, which can often be one of the biggest frustrations that come with the territory.
But how do you know if your clients are abusing you? Here are a few telltale signs and tips for how to fix and avoid these situations.
The work keeps creeping in. Scope creep is the bane of many freelancers’ lives. You start with one description of what is to be done and end up doing something entirely different, or something that’s way more involved than the original task.
How to Fix/Avoid It: Have a contract and a clear and agreed-upon scope and schedule for each and every phase or project. Outline exactly what is to be done and when it’s due.
The client expects immediate responses or complete availability. Occasionally, you’ll come across clients who want 100 percent undivided attention. They expect emails to be responded to within an hour and work to be completed at an unrealistic pace.
How to Fix/Avoid It: Set expectations from the start. Explain when you’re available to clients, how quickly you tend to reply to communications, and how you prefer to communicate. You may also wish to explain how you work. For example, do you generally devote a set amount of time to each project or client per day? If so, explain this to clients up front so that they know what to expect.
The client expects to be able to chat with you frequently. Some clients prefer to communicate by phone, others expect to chitchat at the start of each call, and occasionally, you’ll even find those who expect to have multiple calls per day. In any case, these clients can be a serious drain on your time, making it next to impossible to stay on schedule with your work.
How to Fix/Avoid It: Make it part of your policy to limit phone communications altogether. It may seem harsh, but phone calls and excessive meetings are actually counterproductive. Keep all phone calls to 15 minutes or less and require all calls to be scheduled in advance. Finally, let clients know your preferred communication methods so that they know what to expect.
The client frequently goes back and forth over decisions or nitpicks with minor changes. When a client is indecisive, it can make working with him a nightmare. He wants things one way one minute, the complete opposite the next. Round and round you go, until you are completely confused and way outside of the original scope.
How to Fix/Avoid It: Clearly specify the number of revisions that are included in the project, as well as the deadlines for each set of revisions. Then communicate frequently about pending deadlines so that clients understand that they must turn in all changes by that point and that any subsequent changes will fall within the next set of revisions or will require additional revisions (at a predetermined and contracted rate).
The client expects free consulting and advice. Many times, this type of client has “friends” working on things for him or her for free, so if you hear this hint early on, you might want to consider this a red flag and run the other way. Unfortunately, it’s quite common to come across bargain hunters, so you’ll have to be firm and stick to your guns if you don’t want your bottom line to suffer.
How to Fix/Avoid It: Again, the contract and scope can be a real lifesaver here. If you clearly outline what’s included in a project or job (including the number of phone calls), it will be much harder for clients to negotiate freebies.
By preparing for these common situations in advance, you can often avoid them altogether, saving yourself time, profit and sanity. Put your policies in place and then stick to them without fail so that your clients know exactly what to expect.
How do you handle difficult clients? What techniques do you use to stay on track?
Image from Flickr by ritwikdey