Freelancing offers unlimited amounts of freedom and flexibility in your working whilst allowing you to spend more time with your family or to do the things you love. However, freelancing is far from the life of riley and if projects are hard to come by then you may find yourself working on projects with clients that strain your patience and make unreasonable demands on you.
In the current economic climate freelancers are sometimes not in a strong enough financial position to just say no to a client and walk away. So how can they work with nightmare clients more effectively to reduce the strain and maintain their sanity?
Potentials killers to an effective working relationship
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There may be a whole host of issues that cause friction between a freelancer and their client. From simple misunderstandings to costly project delays, there are many potentials killers to an effective working relationship. However the best grounding for any business relationship is to first develop a thorough and complete project plan. For example if a client simply tasks you to create a website then before agreeing to the project you must negotiate and make a deal on the exact parameters of the website, it’s functionalities, it’s layout and so forth.
The client must be very exact in their requirements and you must be honest in the limits of your abilities. This depth to the negotiation process reduces the chances of unpleasant surprises popping up once the project is under way and also enables you and the client to negotiate a fairer price for your services.
Create milestones for your project
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A project (such as developing a website) can be multi-faceted and require weeks or months of work. If the client’s required website is to be very large in scope, very detailed graphically and possess many features and functionalities, then it is best to create milestones for your project. These milestones enable both sides to review the progress of the project and to address any problems that have cropped up throughout the development process.
Moreover, if the working relationship has deteriorated to such an extent that you can no longer work with the client (to due unreasonable demands) then you could negotiate to step off the project at an agreed-upon milestone stage.
Managing your client’s multiple enquiries
If you are a freelancer that does not have the luxury to work on one project at a time then you will need to develop a strategy at dealing with multiple concerns and enquires of various clients at any one time. If you chose to go freelance in order to work creatively and productively in your quiet home rather than work in a busy office, then having the phone ringing off the hook every five minutes with client enquiries will obviously not be ideal for your peace of mind.
It is therefore better to assign a window in your schedule where you are open for consultation with your clients where both sides can take stock of the project and questions or issues can be raised. If you have clients who live in different time zones to you then dedicated consultation hours that suit both working schedules are the primary (and most effective) method of communication.
They’re the boss, but you’re always the expert
Genuine disagreements are healthy to any working relationship as sometimes two informed, well-constructed and well-intentioned opposing views can usually form a compromise and create a viable and more successful third way for a project. However in most freelancing projects the customer has engaged your services precisely because they lack the years of experience in the project field, therefore you mustn’t pull any punches when you are giving your frank assessment of a project.
If the client is asking for the impossible then do not be afraid to rely on your extensive working experience in the field to let them know of the possibilities and limitations of the project. Honesty is the best policy at all times, and you cannot commit yourself to a task without being fully behind it.
Learn to say no…you’ll win in the end!
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If nightmare clients are stretching your patience to breaking point then there comes a time where you must say no to further demands and requests. After all every freelancer has a limit to their sanity! However this can be a very difficult final step for freelancers to take based on their fear of turning down money. This is of course understandable, but you should take more pride in your work and trust your skills and qualities as a freelancer.
You have the skills and positive testimonies to land future work and your diverse portfolio of successful projects speaks volumes about your quality as a freelancer despite the hiccup of one over-demanding and energy-sapping client. Your state of mind and passion for freelancing will be better off due to your refusal to work with unmanageable clients. If the client cannot see the wisdom of listening to your advice, assistance and experience then you are better off without them because what’s to say that they are not happy even after the entire work is over?
Being a freelancer means that whilst you will have to negotiate and compromise in order to makes some clients happy, you should remain in absolute control of your work and of your working schedule. If y particular project takes up your entire working schedule and yet it feels like you are not being appreciated or that the payment does not cover the amount of dedication, blood sweat and tears that you are pouring into the project then this is the time to withdraw from the project. After all, you’re a freelancer; no-one should be bossing you around!
What issues have you had with any nightmare clients and what has been your breaking point for a project?