I remember the days after leaving my last full-time job and venturing on my own projects. Those were both liberating and exciting times. They brought a lot of new responsibilities and required harder work. Freelancing may not always lead to the path of entrepreneurship but that first step is usually similar to those starting a new business with all of its bells and whistles.
Hawaii is surely a great place to live, being gifted with the perfect weather, a family-friendly environment, lots of outdoor activities and with beautiful unmatched landscapes. Living comfortably, especially in the long-term, is no easy task. We have the lowest unemployment rate of the nation (2,94% of the population, according to the US Cluster Mapping website) but our wages are below the national average (we are the 38th - see the Hawaii Comparative Annual Wage Performance). It comes as no surprise that an increasing proportion of the technical workforce considers and often moves towards an entrepreneurial path or freelancing. As a matter of fact, freelancers are predicted to become the U.S. workforce majority within a decade, with nearly 50% of millennial workers already freelancing.
Most of our clients are small business owners in Hawaii. Some of them are freelancers. Not all of them are equipped with an MBA or a business education of any kind. Although some tasks may be outsourced to specialized service providers, some decisions can only be made by the freelancer. Dealing with clients is one of them. Keeping clients happy pays the bills, even when they’re impossibly difficult. Choosing who to cater your services to is as important as retaining existing clients because it has a direct impact on your health, how effective you work and on the quality of the results you deliver. But how to properly deal with difficult clients?
Freelancers have a myriad of benefits, but one distinct drawback is that there isn’t always a team to back you up if you find yourself working with a particularly nasty client. It’s especially important to keep clients — no matter how insufferable they may be — in good moods, so here are a few tips on keeping the peace with your most annoying customers.
It’s worth noting that you can often mitigate a large amount of potential misunderstandings — and thus, nastiness — by being clear with your intentions, terms, and rules up front and over-communicating at all times. A common issue for beginning freelancers is a tendency to settle on less-than-optimal terms for fear of losing a potential customer. A piece of advice – if they’re not willing to pay you what you’re worth now, they never will be.
It also helps to keep in mind that most obstinate clients are simply control-freaks who have found themselves outside of their comfort zones. Knowing that you aren’t dealing with inherently bad people can be the difference between snapping and having more patience.
Once you’ve established that your client is causing you substantial enough discomfort that their behavior is no longer acceptable, your first step should be to communicate to them the specifics of your problem. If possible, do this in writing – promises made via email tend to reinforce accountability better than phone calls.
Freelancers should also avoid using any additional stipulations or rewards for getting clients to cooperate. As long as they’re the ones failing to hold up their end of the bargain, they should be the ones to pick up the slack — don’t do their work for them (or, if you do, make sure you charge them for it).
Again, the majority of client-freelancer issues can be boiled down to miscommunication and shaky terms, so address all issues as quickly as possible to avoid similar problems in the future. And as previously stated, over-communicate at all times.
Of course, keeping the peace is only viable up to a certain point of abuse.
If your client doesn’t pay you by the agreed-upon due date, continuously disrespects you and/or your team, or keeps changing the terms of your agreement, you reserve the right to set the client straight, threaten to take them to small-claims court, or — if you haven’t initiated the work for your end of the deal — terminate the contract.