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Dealing With A Difficult Client

As a freelancer working in a creative field, you are typically going to be happy as long as business is going well. Plus, for the most part it is nice working with different clients and taking on different types of projects where you can extend your creative reach and bring your vision into different realms.

However, we have all been there before when we get the difficult client. This is the client that thinks they have more knowledge on your craft than you do. This is the client that at times doesn’t understand your value, and doesn’t think your rate as a creative professional is reasonable. Even though these people can be horrible to collaborate with, there are a few things that can help you get through this process.

They’re The One Paying

I know this might sound like a sell out statement, but if you need the business, then it is hard to turn down any paying gig (this isn’t to say that you should never turn one down though). When someone is offering a fair price, even if they are difficult, it is not a bad idea to still take the job. You might not always like the project or the direction that the client wants to take the project in, and I encourage you to try to let the client know why their vision or approach might not be the best idea.

A lot of times clients will appreciate that you are willing to work with every aspect of the project and not just dialing it in. On the other hand, you will also have clients that think their way is the way to do it, even though they are paying you for your professional abilities. In these instances, you have to remember that regardless, you are going to get paid, and you can’t save every client from their own stubbornness and lack of vision, and you’ll just have to do what you can to get the project done. If you don’t like the end product because of the client’s insistence on what you feel is a bad design, then don’t add it to your professional portfolio. There’s no harm in that.

Utilize Their Network

Word of mouth is still some of the best form of marketing for creative professionals. You have to remember that every client you work with might have a good network that you can tap into, and no matter how hard it is to put up with the current client, you might be able to turn that one client into many more. This means that you should try as best as you can to not lose your temper with a client, because one of the things that will get you work is your attitude on a project as much as your talent and skill.

Most potential clients will want to know how easy you are to work with before they look at your work when being referred by word of mouth. One thing that I have learned as well is that most of the time this can be the deciding factor, because there are a lot of skilled creative professionals that might be on your talent level, but proving that you can work well with even the most difficult of people will set you apart from the crowd.

Know When to Walk Away

Earlier it was mentioned that it is hard to turn down paying gigs, but sometimes it is necessary to do so when dealing with someone that is not treating you fairly.

As a freelance photographer and filmmaker, I know what it is like to need work and to be willing to work for just about anything. There are times that I have undercut my services just to make sure I made something, but I only do so if I think the client is nice and fair, and it is a project I can get behind. But more often than not, if a client is not wanting to pay you your worth, or the undercut your freedom as a creative individual, chances are they don’t take any creative work seriously. There are plenty of individuals out there that think that creative work is easy, and that any can do it, so why pay top dollar or be easy to work with? In fact, they believe they are throwing you a bone by simply contacting you in the first place.

But it is important for every freelancer to realize their own worth, and sometimes you just have to walk away from a project. This can be hard, and clients can be downright mean about it, but by doing so and standing up for yourself, you will feel better about the decision, and it will make it that much better when a great client comes along. Plus, maybe it will teach that person to have some more value in the work of others.

So, the truth is difficult clients are never going to be fun to work with, but there are ways for you to survive the experience, and in some cases walk away with it being a good experience. Being able to finish a project will always be better than not getting the work, and since it can be hard as a freelancer to start out, getting work under your belt will look good. Just remember to always take pride in the work that you do, and never let anyone walk over you. It’s not good for your self-esteem, and you’ll want to be known as a tough but fair creative professional.

Cover image and top image from Shutterstock.

This is a cross-post from Creative Agency Freelancing.

Jordan Mendys is a freelance photographer and filmmaker based out of North Carolina. He also helps blog for Direct2TV.

Creative Agency Freelancing was started by Mark Bowley, a freelance graphic designer in the UK who has been working for London design and advertising agencies for over 14 years. Creative Agency Freelancing is designed to provide ideas and tips to help professionals who work freelance at design, advertising and marketing agencies.

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