How to deal with uncooperative clients

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine who is a freelance writer paid a visit to me. We exchanged pleasantries and began to talk about various issues. Not too long in the discussion, I asked about his freelance business and his reply was rather surprising.

He told me that it wasn’t going smoothly and that he was having some difficulty dealing with a particular client he was working with.

He had recently accepted a job from a client who was rather uncooperative and that client was making the work much harder than it should have been. As he narrated his “ordeal” to me, I noted a couple of things and then gave him some advice which I hoped would help him handle the situation better.

Business image created by Katemangostar –

As a freelancer, dealing directly with clients is in most cases inevitable. Most freelancers handle their business solely and therefore have no hierarchical structure to devolve the burden of communicating and dealing with clients to. Apart from saving cost and time, dealing with clients directly is preferable for both the client and freelancer because it brings about better understanding of what job is to be done and how it will be done. Uncooperative clients are a common experience to most freelancers and it is essential that every freelancer learns or equips themselves with knowledge on how to handle such people when they come across them. Dealing with uncooperative clients can be very difficult, however, complex situations can be easily avoided with the following tips.

1) Clarify terms of the business relationship from the onset. Before you accept a freelance job from a client, ensure that the terms of such project are ironed-out and explained in clear, unambiguous expressions. This simple act will save a lot of trouble in the future. Most disagreements that arise between clients and freelancers are usually caused by misinformation or lack of clarity on the terms of the relationship. The terms of a business relationship include things such as the nature of the job, the amount of fee to be paid to the freelancer, the level of work to be done (this is most important for projects that involve more than one person working), the time frame in which the project will run and so on. The clarification of these four factors are pivotal to the success or failure of a working relationship.

2) Keep a record of discussions with the client. Keeping a record of conversations or correspondence with a client is very important because these conversations would serve as evidence to support your claim if any disagreement ensues during the course of work. Many times, a client may wrongly assert a state of things, whether this assertion is intentional or not, a proof of the previous discussion on the matter would settle such disagreement. Also, keeping record would be helpful to you in case you want to remember an instruction given in past.

3) Maintain constant communication with your client. Communication can go a long way in dealing with uncooperative clients. A client may fail to keep in touch with a freelancer in a project but a freelancer must not fail to do so. This tip is particularly helpful in long-term projects. Ask questions from your client, give updates on developments, give progress reports. Communicating with a client will not only make work much easier for you, it will also assure your client of your commitment to the project and serve as physical proof in your favour in case of future disagreements evolve. Another part to this point is learning your clients preferred means of communication and adapting to it. There are different means of communicating. Phone calls, video calling, e-mail, text messaging, chatting and so on, your client might prefer any one of these means. Learn to adapt to such means for the purpose of clarity.

4) Resolve disagreements with calm and always support your opinion with facts. Some clients might be very frustrating and disrespectful, they might talk harshly or send long annoying messages. Reply calmly in a professional manner to these outbursts and do not reciprocate the same anger. Clients might also be uncooperative in the sense that they do not consider your opinion on the project and are constantly trying to butt in or impose their whims. Where this occurs, calmly restate your position supporting it with facts and data. Talk like an expert, the key is to convince, not to argue.

5) Recognise your dealbreakers. Not all client fallouts are redeemable, sometimes a client may be so uncooperative that their attitude may be detrimental to your progress. Do not be afraid of cutting off relationship with such people. Recognise your deal breakers and end your relationship with them professionally. A lot of people find it difficult to end relationships with clients, but once you’ve decided not to continue the relationship due to unbearable circumstances, do not compromise your peaceful wellbeing for short-term benefits.

Having a clean sheet of uncooperative clients is largely impossible and dealing with them is not easy too. It requires skill that has to be learned and perfected with time. Practicing the tips above would speed up this process. There are also various online resources that provide information on dealing with uncooperative clients that I find very helpful such as this one Read, practice and access.

Were the tips useful? Please comment and share your views so that other people can benefit from you. Thank you.


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