Freelancers, here’s how you can successfully work with rude, difficult clients…

It doesn’t take long for freelancers to realize that this career path has its good points and bad points. The prospect of essentially beings one’s own boss? No wonder so many are drawn to this sort of work! At the same time, though, jobs can be infrequent, especially at the end and beginning of any given year.

Freelancers and clients aren’t beholden to each other beyond project parameters. Some clients might feel as if they’re doing freelancers a favor by even hiring them in the first place. Really, it’s the freelancers who are doing the clients a favor – after all, the client is saving money by hiring them instead of benefited employees. Dealing with entitled, demanding clients requires equal amounts of tact and honesty.

Recognizing rudeness…

Many freelancers get their jobs through a combination of traditional job postings and, as they build a portfolio and references, word of mouth. For those traditional job postings, it’s easy enough to determine the chances of a client being rude just from the way the posting is worded. If the posting comes off as haughty, chances are the person who wrote it will deal with freelancers in much the same way.

As for word of mouth, that’s a little more difficult to determine due to varying perspectives/personalities. However, it’s my opinion that if more than two colleagues regard a client as rude, then chances are that, yes, said client actually is. Then again, a client might be rude, yet be reasonable enough to deal with when it comes to project requirements and pay.

Character considerations…

When a client is being rude, it would almost be too easy to “return the compliment” by being equally as irksome. However, taking that approach could compromise the outcome of the project, as well as your professional freelancing reputation. Considering things from the client’s point of view might make a real difference. Here are some things to ponder through empathetic eyes:

  • Does the client even know he or she is being rude? Sometimes, people are naturally sarcastic and don’t mean to cause offense.
    • A possible response could be, “I find those words hurtful. I’d like to think that you wouldn’t knowingly say something like that.”
  • There might be an underlying cause for the rudeness that has nothing to do with you and/or your work. For example, the client could going through a tough time personally or financially.
    • A phrase like, “No need for a frowny face!” might seem silly, but it’s that silliness that can actually give a person pause, putting the conversation on a more upbeat track.
    • Of course, professionalism does need to be maintained. If a bit of whimsy isn’t really what the situation calls for, it’s important to pay attention to a client’s likes and dislikes, as those topics inevitably make their way into conversations.
      • Weaving in mentions of things that clients like, and dutifully avoiding things they don’t, can show a thoughtfulness that cuts tension.

Accepting adaptability…

Dealing with rude clients is, of course, never the ideal, especially if you’re somebody who doesn’t like to change your way of working for a picky person. However, as every freelancer knows all too well, nothing lasts forever. Your goal is to complete the project to the best of everyone’s standards, get paid, and move on.

If the client shows up again down the road and you’re not up for a repeat performance, be politely too busy to take the work. Remember, many clients hire freelancers with the assumption that they need the money and will just “settle.” Have standards/boundaries, and never let anyone tell you otherwise. No paycheck is ever worth the price of your mental and physical wellbeing. Be patient, be hopeful, and keep searching for healthier opportunities.

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