Dealing With Problematic Freelance Clients

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Dealing With Problematic Freelance Clients

My experience & advice regarding difficult freelance clients

Jarred Taylor's photo
Jarred Taylor
·Jan 12, 2022·

4 min read

Being a freelance web developer is a lot of fun most of the time, but just like anything that involves customer service, there will be a few tough clients that you have to workaround. These are some of the clients I've come across frequently that have given me a bit of issue from time to time.

I'll Get It to You Later

You will interact with clients who search for a freelance software engineer to complete their project before they have all of the material needed to complete the project. This includes logos, photos, written content, data, etc. This is often the client explaining what they're looking for, you agreeing to complete it, and then them saying they'll get you the required material later in the week.

This has happened several times; the longest I've waited was three whole weeks … for 1 logo and 4 product photos. So my advice here is to just wait until they get you all the material before you do any mock-up templates or coding at all. If you haven't heard from them in 2-3 days, I would suggest moving on ultimately from this project because a serious client is somewhere out there waiting to work with you. They will have all of their materials ready to go.

If they do reach out to you after this 2-3 day window, it is entirely up to you to continue on with the agreed project but just be mindful that this is probably the tempo this type of client will maintain=

Unsure & Insecure Clients

Some clients have a general idea of what they want but can't truly articulate their thoughts, or they're just unsure of how the web development process works.

As the freelancer here, your job is to use your experience and create this process for them to follow. Create a step-by-step guideline if needed because this will benefit both of you at the end of the day. You might find this guide/inquiry template so helpful that you continuously use it for clients down the road. Clearly define the budget, timeline, and priorities upfront, and from there, you'll be able to make good headway while fishing for additional information along the way.


Other times, you will come across clients who believe they are the most experienced in this realm and become overbearing. Once you think that they're too hands-on, start by setting boundaries. They're typically too hands-on when they're uncomfortable so just take an extra step to make them gain that comfort.

Give them a schedule that includes your estimated benchmarks. This schedule can consist of time carved out for updates and feedback so they can know exactly when's the next time they can hear from you. Between those allotted times, you're free to focus on the programming. It is also up to you to maintain this trust. You created this schedule, so work diligently to abide by it and produce the products on time.

Sometimes, this interaction is with a client who tries to get into the specifics regarding the technical details of the coding process. When this happens, you will immediately know, and your frustrations will soon follow. Use that same schedule but inform your client that their feedback should be based on the outcome. Outcome-focused feedback is used to minimize input on the process because that's your job to work through.

Nickle & Dimer

You will come across some clients who are ready to barter over every nickel and dime regarding every component and feature of the product from start to finish. This will instantly eat up your time and can become frustrating. I avoid these because they are often the same customers who are never satisfied, so they don't have to pay the total price.

I suggest charging an hourly rate for this client. This eliminates breaking the cost up into bits and pieces that correlate with the product's features and components. The reason you don't want it broken up is that this quickly turns into repeats of "I don't like this feature anymore. Can you deduct this from the price?"

The beauty of including the negotiations and meetings into your charged hours is it will immediately create an efficient client to work with who instantly became great at communication. They will realize that the take-up by talking in circles is just coming out of their pockets and is no longer becoming a burden to the engineer themself.

I hope this helped someone dealing with any of these clients. Good luck going forward, and feel free to leave a comment with any of the problematic types of clients you've come across!

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