(Previously Published Huffington)
In the world of freelancing there are many kinds of clients that you will encounter on your way to independent success. While, hopefully, most of your clients will be decent kind hearted people who, like you, simply want to create an amazing product with your help; there will, at some point, be a few clients who seem to do nothing but impede your every step.
While you’re unlikely to encounter a problematic client often, being able to deliver a project to one of the kinds of clients you will find below, will be a test of your business acumen and your customer service skills.
1. The “Impossible Deadline” Client
Your job as a freelancer is to truly know your own ability to complete a job assigned to you within a set deadline. If you’re unsure whether or not you can complete the project by a deadline set by the client, then first be direct with them and ask if the deadline is flexible. Occasionally a client will “really” want to work with you and their deadline may be one with a little more give. If it is not, then turn down the job. Do not force yourself to work on something that you will fuss and strain over just for a paycheck. It’s not only not good for your mental health, it’s not good to turn a potential long term client into one who will never book you again.
2. The “Out of Scope” Client
Before you start working with a client you and the client should determine the “scope” of the project in writing. The scope of the project will specify what you are required to do. This is the most important part of working on any project — especially with a client who you have no experience dealing with.
Once your “scope” is determined, it is your responsibility to make sure that you and the client stick to that scope. The “Out of Scope” client will constantly ask for things that were not originally laid out in the proposal/contract/scope of the project. Giving them these things may seem easy at first, but it is in your best interest to complete the project as originally scoped then add any additions to the project outside of scope. If the addition to the project must come before the finish of the project, discuss the scope in detail once again and get any changes you can commit to in writing.
3. The “Free Exposure” Client
This client may pitch a project to you then ask you to do it for free in exchange for “exposure.” You might think this is a good idea, but a better idea is actually being financially compensated for your work. Also, exposure is not “guaranteed” to get you more gigs. Furthermore, the kind of exposure that you get may not necessarily be the kind of exposure that you want if you’re working with a client that primarily deals in an aspect of their business that won’t necessarily lend itself to generating more job leads for you.
Also, after a certain point in your career, under no circumstances, should you ever work for free. If a client likes you enough to want you to work for them, they should also be willing to pay you something “concrete.”
When I say “something” it goes back to a lesson my dear friend and mentor in business taught me. She agreed to do my voice over demos if I worked on building her a website. For the both of us it was a fair exchange. She’s also been known to accept canned goods for tutoring. While I’m not saying to go that far, what I am saying is get something concrete and don’t simply do a project for a mere mention.
4. The “Talk to You Like You’re My BFF” Client
While I’m a huge advocate of tailoring your approach to dealing with a client based upon the way that the client deals with you (to a certain extent) but ultimately, it’s important to remember that you are running a business. Remain friendly while remaining steadfast in your approach to business.
5. The “You’ll Never Satisfy Me Under Any Circumstances” Client
This is the client that you should worry the most about because if you haven’t been doing this a long time you might not have the skills to see them coming.
If the client does any of the following it is a red flag:
Demands a large amount of project revisions beyond what is specified in the scope.
Seems confused about the directions/forgets the directions they have previously given. Note: This can lead to the client being unsatisfied with your work if you fail to meet expectations because … they keep changing.
Gives you directions that conflict with each other which are not cleared up with a phone call or email. Note: You should never end a conversation unless you are 100% clear on something.
Emails you multiple times over the course of the day to “check in” on a project. This is a tricky one because the project that you’re working on is very important to the client. That does not mean that you should feel the need to answer 30 emails a day from a single client.
Does or says anything that in your gut leads you to believe that you should not be working with this client. I’ve found, personally, that when I don’t trust my gut I always end up regretting it.
Your sanity is never worth dealing with any of these kinds of clients, ever.
The best part of being a freelancer is the ability to be in control of your own destiny like never before. Coincidentally, that may always be the most difficult part to adjust to. As you own human resources department, customer service department and administrative assistant amongst many other roles, it’s up to you to make the call whether dealing with any of these kinds of clients is worth it.