• Advice

How to communicate with difficult clients

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

The freelance business is not always rainbows and butterflies. Yes, the benefits are numerous, but there are some difficulties about being freelancer, too. As a freelancer, you will have to work with more clients than most people in more traditional office jobs, leaving you at the mercy of people with all kinds of personalities and demands.

And if you want to become successful and actually get paid for your talent, you cannot just toss clients and projects aside looking for the perfect client-freelancer fit.

"[How you handle] difficult clients is the determinant of whether or not you will succeed in this business. It is hard on us, but it is the essential. Some clients will be more demanding and pushy than others. It’s the harsh truth, but if you want to get paid, you have to live with it," says Frank Beard, writer at

In some cases, the client you tried so hard to reach will be the most demanding of them all. But, they will also be the highest paying or most influential in your industry. You have to go with the flow and see this as an opportunity to rise and make money.

Sometimes the benefits are much bigger than the obstacles, ergo, you must learn to overcome them. Here are some tips:

Stay professional

Some clients will have a harsh response or at times be rude to you. Replying to those rude e-mails with angry messages is never a good idea. A great freelancer is always a professional, even when they are angry.

If you want to build a good reputation for yourself, always be kind and professional, even if you are "dumping" a client because communication is bad. Take some time to clear your mind and calm down.

Talk to someone before you respond to such messages. This should keep your responses in control.

Get the details

In most cases, clients are difficult because they failed to provide you with details essential for you to get the job done as they want it. They can give you a generalized task or claim they have asked you to do something else.

For this reason, always get the details–and a contract. Whenever you feel like the task is at least a bit vague and can be misinterpreted, ask for more information before you begin. This should help you avoid such issues afterward.

Record everything

Note down every e-mail and every conversation, as well as the instructions and files as they are sent to you. By doing this, you will have proof of what the client asked from you. This will avoid the frustration brought on by having to deal with clients who insist they asked for something they did not ask, or changed their mind and want you to change your already finished task.

Acknowledge the client's concerns

You don’t have to agree with the client to listen or acknowledge them. The most annoying thing a freelancer can do is not address or listen to their concerns. That’s why you must always practice empathy, even when you don’t agree.

Don’t get defensive with every difficult client. At times, clients will be right and you will be wrong. At other times, it will be the other way around. Everyone makes mistakes, and it is your job as a professional to listen, accept and acknowledge what the client says. When you do this, you can easily come to a solution and understand the mutual issue.

Take care with your language

Do you know that there are many ways to say the same thing? Of course you do, and since you do, you should take your time to say the things you want to say without offending your clients. Being a professional means that you should be careful with your language. Don’t display your aggression or say something that offends the client. Listen to them and reply respectfully.

If the client is still rude or insults you, let them go. There is no need to ruin your reputation over difficult clients.

Let them go

Dealing with difficult clients is part of the deal, but that doesn’t mean that you should put up with everything. When your communication with the client does not seem to go anywhere, it is a sign that you have to let them go. It is sometimes better to let go some clients, even if they are high-paying.

Sometimes, it is all a matter of different personalities. Firing a client with a personality that does not fit yours or demands that do not fit your work routines is a normal thing in the freelance world.

That’s the great thing about it–you are your own boss and can decide who to work or not work with.

Audrey is a proactive journalist who likes to get knowledge, analyze, and present fresh ideas. Her background and various interests determine her genuine passion for writing. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.