How Freelancers Can Deal With Difficult Clients

Its not always easy to do freelance. Here are some tips for success

Zight | May 28, 2019 | 4 min read time

Article Last Updated: October 03, 2023

How Freelancers Can Deal With Difficult Clients

Contributed post from Specialist email marketer Adelina Benson. She is also a major contributor to OriginWritings and Academicbrits. When she isn’t developing effective marketing approaches and executing successful campaigns, she turns her attention to the editing and proofing of all company literature, and she also enjoys blogging on these topics at PhDKingdom.

Freelancing is a great career approach for individuals who demand some degree of flexibility and autonomy in their work. The opportunity to work remotely, for a number of different clients, and on a plethora of different tasks are all enticing propositions, but before taking the plunge, it’s important to understand that not all may be rosy in the garden. As well as the lack of security, there also arises the possibility of problematic clients. That said, although the insecurity may always be there, at least there are these practical steps you can take when dealing with difficult clients:

Set clear deliverables

From the very beginning, it is important to clarify what you will be able to deliver, and when. Unmet expectations are the most common reason for fallouts and the disintegration in the relationship between a freelancer and client, so establish right at the beginning what you are capable of delivering, and when. And make sure this is written down too so can be referenced at a later date if needed. Make expectations realistic.

Identify and communicate problems as quickly as possible

In and ideal world, everything goes according to plan. We don’t live in an idea world. In the course of a project, issues can arise which make delivery difficult. Sometimes deadlines have to be pushed out, that’s just the nature of life. The biggest mistake that can be made, however, is not communicating this information as soon as the freelancer realizes. Besides, identify it early enough and you may be able to handle it together.

“Never sit on information which is pertinent to the job. If an issue arises, whether it is your fault or not, you absolutely must flag it with the client at the earliest stage possible. Keeping the client in the dark never ends well, and will make their disappointment worse later on down the line,” warns Brigitt Sterling, an HR Manager at Writemyx and Britstudent.

Communicate in general

Communication is an essential part of any relationship, and a freelancer/client relationship is no different. Similarly, to when there is an issue, drop the client a line just to let them know that everything is well and going according to plan. Regular updates not only keep expectations aligned, they can also help inform both parties what is required and when. For example, as a freelancer, always be timely in letting the client know if you need anything to proceed. Again, having written records is useful in case of problems later on.

You can also look to incorporate screenshots and web cam enabled screen recordings using Zight (formerly CloudApp) to add a personal and visual element to your tracking


It is often relevant to ask yourself why a client is being so difficult. The answer is often because they themselves are under a lot of pressure, or are nervous working in this way, perhaps because it is the first time they have taken on a freelancer, or even the first time they have been tasked with completing such a project. If that is the case, then a large degree of hand-holding is required, and be prepared to do that. It may not be the way you are used to working, or even the way that you like working, but in this case you must do what is required to complete the project and assuage the client of any fears along the way.

“I know a lot of freelancers who object to being asked a lot of questions and dislike having to provide constant status updates. My advice to them is always the same: ‘Do what the client wants or give what the client needs in order to get the job done the way they want it.’ This isn’t about you, it’s about them, and understanding that will make you a better freelancer in the process,” recommends Troy Chase, a Freelance Writer at 1day2write and Nextcoursework.

Don’t be afraid to walk away

No one sets out on a project with the intention of walking away from it half way through, but sometimes this is the sensible decision. If the client is making the situation untenable, explain clearly that this continued behaviour will have this consequence. It may well respectfully removing yourself from the project is best for both parties – you maintain your hard-fought reputation and perhaps the client finds another freelancer who is more compatible with their demands and/or style. This is not a failure, this is just the dynamic of relationships.

The reality is that the vast majority of clients are respectful, helpful and appreciative. If you find yourself in the situation where you are working for a client who portrays none of these characteristics, manage the situation from the beginning, stay calm, and always understand that there is a way out.

Take the positives

Life is one long learning curve. Every job teaches you something, and often problematic jobs teach you the most. Take the positives, and move on.

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