My very first freelance job got me, after spending several hours trying to do the job, a client who was clearly displeased. From her mail, I could literally feel the heat of her anger as it radiated to where I was standing. I thought I had done a good job, turns out; it was less than satisfactory to her.
I was devastated.
To be sincere, I considered giving up on freelancing, thinking I wasn’t cut out for it. Along the line, I learned how to separate my emotions from my work and refused to let a client’s heat get to me. These days, a client’s anger is almost invisible to me, and somehow I’ve been able to juggle that alongside doing a good job.
These are some of the tips that have helped me deal with angry clients:
Think about it this way, while some people are rather calm when trying to explain that things haven’t gone the way they expected it to, some others go berserk. If you have a friend that’s rather temperamental (or you are that friend), you would be able to picture what I’m saying better. When this happens, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care about you, or that you are worthless- they’re just expressing their anger, simple. Over time, I have learnt to see a temperamental client in this way: “This is how best he or she knows how to express themselves, so I shouldn’t let it get to me.” The point is for me to get the job done, not to feel bad right? So first of all, I refuse to get all emotional; I just refuse to.
Try to get the client’s point/complaint
Sometimes, it might be that I didn’t really get what the client requested for, or that I overlooked some specific instructions- in which case I apologize and get back to work. Notice that I did not berate myself in all of this. I give myself the allowance of being human, and thus, being prone to mistakes, take responsibility for my errors and go back to fix it.
However, in some instances, there’s been a mix up somewhere and the information wasn’t clearly passed across. In this case, I try to communicate this as much as possible, so that we can be on the same page. After this, corrections can be made.
Working to Specifications
After clearing the air on whatever it was that made the client angry in the first place, the next step is to work to exact specifications because this time, there should be no mistakes. I see this as a period of growth for myself as I get to know what I’ve not done so well, fine tune it to the client’s taste and we both come out better: I’m better at my craft and the client has gotten a better quality of work! For me, revisions aren’t terrible things (even though I complain before taking them on at least 80% of the time!)
Feedback shouldn’t be provided only at the end of a project or given task. For me, I find that it’s easier for me to work, as well as for the client to make necessary modifications when I provide feedback during the period when I’m working on the project i.e. at intervals- for instance, it could be when I’m ¼ into the project, then when I’m half-way done and so on. This way, even if I have to make any revisions, it wouldn’t be so much as I would have tailored my writing to suit the client’s wants. Besides, it wasn’t as if he/she wanted a ‘surprise package’ anyway, so what’s the use of waiting till the end of the project to show how much work I’ve done on it? This works better for larger projects (which are the ones more prone to produce angry reactions in the first place).
Note: Prior to acting rationally and being all professional with the client, I sometimes have my own private sessions where I sulk and get angry as well, but I don’t communicate this to the client. It is of utmost importance to be professional in your dealing with clients.
As well, there are some clients who are angry ab-initio, and you had nothing to do with the anger so even after you’ve done all there is to do in terms of professional service and working to their specifications, they’d still stay angry. Don’t sweat on this one; the point is to do your best, not to let a client step all over you!
What’s your juicy story on dealing with angry clients?