Client Communication Made Easy
There comes a time in every freelancer’s career when clients become difficult to work with. It doesn’t matter if you are new to work or if you’ve been around the block, dealing with complex client relationships is dreaded. There is so much anxiety and tension that surround this client that the work becomes overshadowed by the stress. What might start out as a simple project eventually becomes another level of hell. Don’t worry. Here are some things you can do to fix the situation.
First, figure out what’s causing the tension. What makes you feel the way you do? In most cases, there is a communication breakdown, and that makes the situation uncomfortable for all parties. Before you embark on any project, lay out your terms and conditions. Let your clients know from the get-go what is required of them and what the end results will be. As a freelancer, you work with them. You do not work for them. If your upfront nature causes some potential clients to bail, then consider it a blessing. There is no point in wallowing in what might have been, especially if clients don’t appreciate clear terms. It’s a sure sign that they aren’t a good fit.
Sometimes, you might find that there is too much communication… your client is too involved in what you do. Micromanagement is another pet peeve. It demonstrates a lack of trust and a need for control over a project. You should start by clearly and firmly stating your boundaries before embarking on a project. If this persists, restate your position without ranting about your problems. Only focusing on your emotions will quickly escalate a situation. For example, if you have a strict deadline and your client is constantly asking for updates, you can easily explain why you will give only necessary updates because you need to focus on the task at hand. Remember to keep all conversations professional and respectful.
It’s a little easier to handle a difficult client if there is no personal connection, but if you were friends or have a casual relationship, boundaries can easily be overstepped. Fear of damaging a personal relationship should not hamper your career. When it comes down to work, you have one aim in mind: to complete a project to the best of your ability while meeting a client’s requirements. You are not obligated to give friends and family members discounts. You are not obligated to work overtime because you are helping someone out. You are not obligated to spare a client’s feelings towards you if they are clearly disrespecting your boundaries. Keep all correspondence simple and professional. You can be friendly, firm, and respectful.
Some clients (not all) will try to forge a friendly relationship to get you to lower prices or bend the rules but stick to your principles. If you jeopardize your integrity once, it shows them that you can be manipulated with sweet works or the promise of more work. Clients that dangle a carrot over your head, especially if you are now starting out, are a major red flag. They do this to exercise control. Nip this in the bud right from the start. If possible, set up a screening process to weed out the bad apples. The best action is always prevention.
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