• Advice

A Guide To Prevent & Quell Disputes With Your Clients

Perks freelancers often enjoy include; the freedom to work at their own pace, deciding on the projects they want to work on, choosing the people to work with, getting paid for their work, and many other incomparable benefits. 

However, with this freedom comes the responsibility of managing client relationships. In this working relationship, as with all other relationships, you must set clear boundaries with your clients from the start of your interaction with them. This is essential to sustain a healthy, smooth, harmonious and lasting partnership with your clients. 

This guide seeks to assist in understanding the common types of disputes freelancers often face with clients and to help you recognize potential challenges and take proactive measures to prevent or quell them before they escalate.

Various Disputes Freelancers Face

Generally, you hope for smooth sailing in your freelancing adventures or when you scale up as a business after you create an LLC (more information on creating an LLC can be found at the Freelancers Union LLC Center.) However, at some point in your journey, it is well-known that every freelancer will experience “one difficult client” that has you on edge. Except, of course, you can identify and understand the various types of disputes and how to handle them efficiently before they creep into the time you should judiciously spend achieving other productive tasks.

Without further ado, let us explore the common disputes that freelancers experience.

Payment Issues:

Your payments may be delayed or even withheld, which may cause financial strain and a lack of productivity. To avoid this, you must establish clear payment terms upfront. Your client should know and agree with your payment schedules, due dates and preferred payment methods. Also, you should maintain proper documentation and implement payment tracking systems that can help resolve payment-related disputes.

  • Scope Creep: This happens when the client continuously requests additional work that is outside the scope you have both agreed on for a project, without adjusting the compensation. To address scope creep, you should have a well-defined scope of work in the contract. You should also promptly communicate any extra charge for the added scope to the client. Setting boundaries and renegotiating the terms for additional work will help prevent scope creep disputes.
  • Communication Breakdowns: Effective communication is important to freelancing. Just as in any relationship, misunderstandings and breakdowns can happen. These may arise when there is a lack of clarity in project requirements, deadlines, or expectations. To avoid such conflicts, you should prioritize regular and transparent communication with your clients. You should also clearly document project details using project management tools and provide timely progress updates on your project because it will go a long way to minimize communication-related disputes.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: You may face disputes when clients have unrealistic expectations about the project deliverables, timelines, or outcomes. You should manage client expectations from the outset by discussing project requirements and limitations. Setting realistic goals and providing detailed project proposals will help align both parties' expectations and prevent disagreements arising from unrealistic expectations.

Having identified these common disputes, how can you proactively prevent them from escalating?

Set Clear Expectations From The Start

Effective communication in defining the project details and deliverables, deadlines, and payment terms are essential elements in this process. This can help minimize misunderstandings and establish a strong foundation for successful client relationships. 

Tips For Setting Clear Expectations

Effective Communication

Define Project Details


Payment Terms

Regularly communicate progress updates

Promptly respond to client inquiries

Clarify any potential misunderstandings

Outline specific project deliverables

Set limitations and exclusions

Prevent scope creep 

Establish realistic timelines

Communicate potential delays

Manage client expectations 

Clearly define payment schedules

Agree on payment methods

 Discuss late payment fees

Create A Solid Contract

A contract serves as a legal document that protects you and your clients. It not only defines the terms of your working relationship but also provides a reference point in case of any misunderstandings or disagreements. A well-crafted contract will help you prevent disputes and misunderstandings, protect your interests and rights, set clear expectations for both parties and provide a framework for resolving conflicts.

So what are the key elements that should be included in this contract?

  • Project Details: You must clearly define the scope of the work, deliverables, deadlines, and the number of revisions, etc. This will ensure that you and your client are on the same page.
  • Payment Terms: You must be compensated for your work. Hence, you must specify the payment structure, including the amount, due dates, and any late payment penalties.
  • Intellectual Property Rights: Who will own the intellectual property rights to the work? If applicable, include provisions for licensing or transferring the rights.
  • Dispute Resolution: Include a clause that outlines the process for resolving any dispute that may arise. This can help prevent disputes from escalating and provide a framework for resolving conflicts fairly and amicably.

Managing Revisions and Scope Creep

Changes in project requirements often arise in the course of a project. For you to effectively manage these changes and scope creep, you must:

  • Document Changes: You must document all the changes that occur during the project. This includes recording any adjustments made to the project scope, deliverables, timelines, or budget. Keeping a clear record of changes will help you avoid confusion and provide a reference for discussion and negotiation.
  • Communicating the Impact: When changes occur, promptly and clearly communicate what impact those changes have on the project's timelines and budget. Knowing the implications of scope changes will help your client understand the need for adjustments and set realistic expectations.
  • Negotiating Fair Compensation: If scope creep leads to additional work, it is important to negotiate fair compensation with the client. Discuss the extra time, effort, and resources required and propose a revised project fee or hourly rate. An honest and transparent communication during this negotiation process can help you ensure a fair resolution.

Maintaining open communication involves providing regular updates on the project, prompt responses, active listening and 2-way feedback. This will help you address potential misunderstandings early before they escalate into a protracted dispute.

Managing Disputes and Conflict Resolution

If and/or when conflicts arise, seeking legal advice from a reputable business attorney can be a game-changer. They provide valuable guidance on various legal matters, including contract issues, dispute resolution, and protecting your intellectual property rights. They can review your contracts, ensuring they are comprehensive and tailored to your needs. 

Moreover, they offer insights into effective dispute resolution techniques. They can help you understand the legal avenues at your disposal when a dispute arises, guiding you through negotiation, mediation, or even litigation if necessary. 


Understanding the various potential dispute markers, setting clear expectations, maintaining a healthy boundary with your clients, having a contract, and addressing issues promptly can potentially minimize misunderstandings. Open and timely communication will help you manage your client’s expectations and ensure you clear up any issues that may lead to a dispute.

Remember, legal guidance is an investment in your freelancing success. By consulting with a business attorney, you can establish a solid legal foundation, prevent disputes from escalating, save time and focus on what you do best – delivering outstanding work to your clients.

Mercy Olarewaju Mercy is an account executive at Telligent Marketing LLC, where she oversees their lawyer SEO service and is a data analyst with a passion for analyzing datasets to drive strategic business decisions.

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