Freelance Files : Dealing with difficult clients
As a freelancer, I am lucky enough that most of the clients I work with are just lovely. But it isn't always the case and for many business owners, clients can sometimes be a headache. Having several clients at once can be demanding on your time and attention so it's important to start the relationship on the right foot to avoid any issues later on.
I've learnt a few lessons (some the hard way) about managing clients and thought I would share them with you today...
1. Get everything in writing
I cannot stress the importance of this enough - when I first started out I thought it was fine to have 'verbal agreements' in place but soon learnt that this left things open to misunderstanding or forgetfulness. Before I start any project I get written confirmation (in the form of terms of business) of the scope of the project, the cost and the timescales. I also follow up all phone calls with an email summary. It might sound a bit much but it is better for everyone in the long run to have everything documented.
2. Be clear upfront about what is included
This is another important point. Some clients expect that they can make endless changes to a project, change direction completely or add extras for free. It's important to state in writing before beginning a project what is included and what is extra. Some freelancers allow a certain number of hours for making amendments, others state a specific number. Personally, it depends on the type of project but I always try my hardest to accommodate changes. Having a clear brief and taking time to get to know the client and what they expect at the beginning of the process, helps to avoid needing to make a whole bunch of amendments further down the line.
3. Be upfront about your working hours
Every client likes to think they're the most important to you. They'll want your attention at all times and many won't care about your other clients. So, it's important that you are very clear about when you are available and what your process around contact is. I let all my clients know what my 'office hours' are and whilst they can still contact me outside of those hours by email, it's on my discretion if I reply or deal with it when I am back at my desk. My clients also understand that I am a freelancer, not their employee.
4. Don't be afraid to say no
Some clients will always try and push for extras or make unrealistic demands. I used to be so afraid to say no that I would end up working away for no reward. Now I try to be honest and transparent and explain to a client why I can't meet their demands and where possible offer an alternative solution.
5. Be choosy about who you work with
This can be a really hard to do as a freelancer, turning down any work can seem really scary. I have learnt though that some projects and clients just aren't worth the hassle. As a creative, I have a certain 'style' and way of working that I prefer and I try hard to find new clients who fit that. Sometimes that might mean passing up a project but I find it's better to do that then have a project that goes downhill.
I hope this tips are helpful! If you are freelancer and have any tips or stories to share I'd love to hear them, so please do leave a comment!