As a freelancer you will find that the majority of your clients are pleasant and really great to work with. However, in the course of your career, you will inevitably deal with more difficult personalities. This is not unusual and comes with the territory when you are running a freelancing business.
Following are some tips on handling difficult clients:
Avoid Being Defensive
Being on the defensive only adds fuel to the fire. Instead, when dealing with difficult clients try to remain calm and listen carefully to what they are saying (directly or indirectly). Defensive people tend to interrupt others to protect themselves. This shows they are insecure and only have their self-interest at heart. Instead, let the client finish relating to you his or her concerns.
If the client feels that you are listening he or she will be more likely to calm down. Often times, the client just wants the opportunity to make his or her point clear. Once you understand exactly what the problem is, you will be in better position to justify yourself or suggest solutions to the problem.
Document Your Conversations
Keep track of all the interactions you have with difficult clients. This is a good idea if the client is being especially difficult and the problem has the potential to escalate into something larger like a lawsuit. Although this is relatively uncommon when freelancing, it is always good to play it safe and have all of your bases covered, just in case.
Avoid Getting Into an Argument
Remember that the purpose of the discussion is to come to an understanding and not win a battle at all costs. Avoid arguing with the client and try to put yourself in their shoes so you can understand where they are coming from. If you feel that you are ready to lose your cool or the client is getting out of control, suggest that both sides take a break or end the meeting. Let tempers cool down and then resume the conversation.
When clients are voicing their concerns listen carefully. Once they are done, jump in using the information just related to you and ask pertinent questions. By asking relevant questions, you will show that you are attentive to the client’s needs and that you are ready to address whatever concerns were raised.
Asking questions will also create a discussion where you will be able to guide the client in terms of issues you would like him or her to elaborate further upon.
Don’t Tolerate Abuse
If you feel that tensions between you and the client have escalated to the point of being abusive, suggest that both parties take a short break or reschedule the meeting for another time. Don’t tolerate abuse. If you continue to tolerate abuse the person being abusive will think that his or her behaviour is acceptable.
Revisit the Solution
Once you come to an understanding with the client and you take the necessary steps to rectify the situation, schedule a meeting to revisit the solution to the problem. Ask the client if he or she is happy with the outcome and what you can do going forward to accommodate future concerns.
Don’t Take It Personally
Although dealing with a difficult client can be upsetting, don’t take it personally. Remember that the client is upset at something you did or did not do and not at you personally. Also, the cause of the client’s frustration may be unrelated to you, although you are the recipient of that anger.
Decide What to Do Differently
Once you have settled the situation, step back and reflect on how you can do things differently the next time you encounter a difficult client. The more experience and insight you gain the easier it will be the next time around.
To conclude, after you have completed a project with a difficult client, decide if you want to work with that client again. This is a good time to end your relationship with that client.
by John Sylo