Dealing with difficult clients

Every web designer and developer working on his own as a freelancer or in a small company where he talk with clients knows this situation. For ones who are just starting off, it might be very hard to get used to. Especially for the first time.

Almost every designer or developer was at least once in temptation to call his client jerk or to shove him proposal in his neck. It is absolutely normal. I’ve experienced it too and not only once. Some clients are almost challenging you for this kind of thoughts. It seems to you like checking how far they can go until you meet your break point. Some of them can go very far, but doesn’t matter. You have to stay calm in any situation. The next thing is to listen to your client, very carefully. When client is yelling at you or arguing with you, your job is to listen to every word he say. If you listen, you will find where the problem lays. When you find the problem, you can point it out. Wait until your client give you some space to talk and ask him about the potential issue. With this can change direction of whole situation. First, you might lift up his mood a bit by showing him that you were really listening. Second, you might really found the main problem and now you can solve it. Again this will get your client to better mood.

In a fact I like this tense situation. It’s not that I cause them directly. Well, sometimes. The reason is that when you piss people off, they often stop to control what they say and become very honest (even brutally honest). When this happen, again you have to stay calm and listen to tiniest detail. It can be tough. Some more aggressive client can even scold you. The worst thing you can do is to come into offensive and start to argue or try to interrupt the client. Whatever technique you use (deep breathing is very useful), stay calm and listen. Remember that this will pay you big rewards in the end (truth story).

Until now it was only about face-to-face contact, but this all can happen also via mail or phone. I think that it is more probable via mail than in person. That doesn’t matter. What you have to do is still same. Calm down and think about it. For mail, read every word. Try to read between the lines and analyze what the issue can be and then how to solve it. Don’t reply immediately. If need take a break and go for a walk. Fresh air often helps to clear mind and will calm you down. Only when you are in calm and rational state reply to your client, not sooner. As said, this will be beneficial to you in the future.

Truth to be said, most problems with clients comes from the lack of information, knowledge or just miscommunication. All of these reason can and should be fixed as soon as possible. No, they should be prevented. It is better to inform your client so often, that his soul mate will become jealous. Inform you client about every step you will or want to take. There is nothing like over-communication. About the miscommunication… Always speak clearly, honestly and close with point. Answer every question or doubt and make sure that client understood everything. When it comes to knowledge, it is your job to educate the client. Take it as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and test your own knowledge. It will also ensure your client about your skills. Being a teacher might sounds awful to you but it is actually great. When you do it, you are helping in a big way. Remember, knowledge is to be shared.

Let’s face it. Not every client will be your best friend who you can call in the middle of the night, nor should he. This is a business, not kindergarten. Your job is not to be friend with clients. You are supposed to solve their problems. That’s all. Do your job and always be kind, helpful, friendly and honest.

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By Alex Devero

I'm Founder/CEO of DEVERO Corporation. Entrepreneur, designer, developer. My mission and MTP is to accelerate the development of humankind through technology.

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