If you’re pursuing that freelancer life, you’ve most certainly come across a difficult client. I mean heck, there’s even a whole website devoted to this. Whether it’s the Scope Creep Blues you’re suffering from or a client who thinks they are designer and uses you as their Adobe/coding drone, it leaves you, the actual designer, somewhere between a rock and a hard place. The good news is there are ways to minimize the damage. First off…
Respond Don’t React
In this day and age, people want everything right now. When you receive that outrageous e-mail from a client that leaves you wanting to do or say unspeakable things… DO NOT REPLY immediately. Even if it escalates to phone calls, texts, Skype or smoke signals. DO NOT ANSWER right now.
Put it on the shelve for as long as it takes for you to be able to consciously respond instead of emotionally react.
While this is not always possible, it really is in everyone’s best interest. Typically once you get off the reaction train, you’ll be able to offer some sort of balanced solution where everyone is somewhat happy. In order to allow yourself this much needed pause to respond you have to…
These boundaries need to be in place from the beginning. It’s helpful for both parties to have a general understanding of how your creative process works, and what to expect and not expect from you. For example, I will be available from 10am to 6pm, Monday thru Friday, EST. By setting expectations, it makes it easier when trouble arises. Make sure to put these things in writing, which brings me to the next thing…
Create a Contract
My contact is based off The Contract Killer, it’s easy to understand, a bit funny, and has included pretty much everything. Despite it being ill-advised, I often work with people who I have some sort of personal relationship with. That being the case, it is especially helpful to have a contract in place. This helps to transition from friend mode to business mode and lay out the SOPs prior to any emotions getting involved. It’s good to deal with the good, bad and ugly before anything falls into those categories. This place of neutrality is where the best decisions are made. That said, if things still aren’t going as planned…
Send that Difficult E-mail, But First Have a Friend or Two Read It
You’ve allowed time for the dust to settle and have crafted the best possible response you can muster. Instead of sending your client to Ban Comic Sans and The Clients from Hell website, you’ve written:
Hi there Client,
I have received your feedback that you would like me to change the font in your logo to Comic Sans. I appreciate your input but I don’t believe Comic Sans is the best choice for your business seeing how it is an accounting firm. Comic Sans was a font that was originally created for comic books and thus has a playful feel that most people read as unprofessional. I have previously sent you a pdf containing several font choices I feel to be a good fit for your business. If you feel these are missing the mark, let’s get to the bottom of that. What is it you are hoping to convey in your logo that is not present in those options?
I’d really love to help create a logo that you love and also instills confidence in your business. Thus, I look forward to your feedback.
Now is the time to have an unbiased friend read both e-mails and make sure you didn’t overlook a bit of snarkiness or inflammatory language. In most cases, a client has some understanding that they hired you as a professional and will value a thoughtful, well-reasoned response. However, sometimes things don’t go as planned and the downward spiral begins. At this point, you have to weigh your options at hand. Should I:
A.) Get through this project and not work with them in the future? If you chose that route, you have to do a cost/benefit analysis. Sometimes its better to lose a little money for your sanity, while others it’s better to lose a little sanity and money to save a relationship. Either way, is difficult. The other option is not much easier…
B.) Part Ways?
As with any relationship, there is a potential of reaching a point where it’s just not working. Sometimes the best choice for everyone is to cut your losses and go your respective ways as amicably as possible. It’s okay to do this. Not every designer fits every project or client and not every client fits every designer. Acknowledge that and move on. If you are a front-end developer and your client wants you to do back-end work…for every one’s sake, admit that’s not your speciality and tell them they are best seeking the help of a back-end developer. You’re saving everyone time, money and their well-being.
Anyways, these are just some general tips on how to deal with a wide variety of client relation issues. If you have any additional tips, tricks or questions in this regard, please let me know in the comments below.