Freelancing skills

Dealing With Bad Clients

Generally, a bad client means a client who won't pay up on time or is abusive. Here are main situations when clients become 'that person from hell':


Accept this as part of doing business. There are many kinds of people in the world.


Tactfully assert your professionalism. 'This is how it works, this is how it is done in the industry.'


Things bad clients do:


- They were just wasting your time

They wanted to see you do the circuit (pitching, proposal, sample work, a little free sample to show your talent), because they were not really ready with what they wanted in the first place. There are client ratings on online job boards. In real world, you will have to ask other freelancers or do some online digging on a client, if they seem of the suspicious kind. And never ever, do any small stuff for free. Ask for a deposit first.


- They are not paying on time, despite many reminders

This is the most common 'client from hell' scenario. Upfront deposits and periodic payments (after a project stage) are the best way to go. Also a comprehensive terms and conditions document, listing penalities etc for payment defaults and such.


- They don't seem to be on the same wavelength of expectations

Maybe they have a different set of ideas of how to proceed with the project, and you both seem to have missed it during project negotiations. Miscommunication starts digging ditches right from start. Time to have a sit down and clear things first.


- They want you to be at their beck and call at all times

They will call you no matter what time is it. They will want you to revise the project many times. Be prepared for all this mess by clearly stating in the contract the scope of the project, terms for revisions, charges for any extra work, working hours etc.


- They are just plainly abusive and aggressive.

Even when client become too much, be calm. Project an understanding, kinder self. Later, you will back to it and admire your handling of the issue. If everything else fails, time to move on.


Most of the time, try to build some rapport with the client - some common ground - things that both of you like etc.

Praise them on the things they have done and their insecurities will subside a little.


Handling client disputes


1. If the client is getting too personal with his complaints, let them know asap, say you will get back in touch at a fixed time later, when you both can professionally look at the issue.


2. Mention dispute resolution terms into the contract, and specify the jurisdiction being your state/country. Try to resolve things before they reach this stage.


Collecting dues


- Follow up on dues asap. As they say, the older the dues, the harder to collect.

- When you email or call the client, be professional, solution-oriented, telling the client you are eager to find a positive solution in cooperation with the client.

- Never get personal or threatening. If the client starts to shout etc, remain calm, tell them you will get in touch when things have become quieter.

- There are debt collection laws, and there are dos and don'ts.

- After things have reached a stage, you can take the client to courts. In the United States, for example, small claims courts deal with low value money disputes ($3000-10000 - it varies from state to state).


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