Dealing with difficult clients

How to deal with difficult clients

I’ll be the first to admit I like laughing at the silly things ‘clients’ say and on the internet you don’t have to look very far for plenty of those.  Fast Co Create recently posted a link to a series of posters created by Ireland’s creatives to raise money for Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin, which captured their favourite client clangers.

Clients from Hell always has good, though some times incredulous, stories of client gaffs, ridiculous requests and outright stupidity. Then there is the always amusing This Advertising Life has taken funny gifs and a straightforward caption and raised it to the level of …. well a funny gif and a caption. But its still funny!

When the client wants to do something as inane as putting QR codes on their facebook page.

Actually dealing with difficult clients

Ok so now that we’ve all had a good laugh, how do you actually deal with difficult clients? Well I think that the first thing to do is remember that we’re all someone’s client. We all say stupid things. We all get it wrong. We all get emotional and we all have our own stuff going on that can boil over into our work life when really its got nothing to do with the project. So cut them some slack and take it on the chin.

Secondly I think it pays to remember what the deal is. You’re the creative, hired by the client, hopefully because they appreciate and respect your talent, experience and work, but also because they just want to get the job done. So to provide a good service, you have to actually serve the client. Sometimes serving them means loyal opposition – fighting for an idea you genuinely believe to be of better service to them, rather than because you think you’re creating great work and they’re trashing it. It is their project after all.

Thirdly clients are just people and dealing with people is difficult. As Jean-Paul Sartre says ”Hell is other people.” But learning how to deal with people well, will set you up for life. Or at least that’s what I’m gathering from reading How to Win Friends and Influence People (US/UK) which is actually a surprisingly good book (hopefully now so classic its gone through cliche and back to classic) and I would highly recommend reading it. The advice in it is profoundly simple but deceptively difficult to live out day by day.

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.- Henry Ford

Advice for dealing with difficult clients

Dave Kiss on soundsplausible.com has a great post on his advice for dealing with difficult clients and raises an excellent observation about the root cause of most ‘difficult client’ situations.

Advice for freelancers

When you’re a freelancer there is the added tension of ”will they hire me again?” which can lead to some slippery footing when trying to serve you client with some loyal opposition as well as when it just comes down to saying ”No, that’s not possible within the time/budget/brief etc”. But my advice would be – don’t worry about it. If they’re the type of client who chooses to fire you because they disagree with you, then do you really want to work with them again anyway?

Here are a few other posts about the freelance life that are worth checking out…

Common Sense Business Advice for Creative People – Emily Cohen delivers a Creative Mornings talk with a ton of great advice for creatives in all disciplines.

How to set your freelance business rates – A quick tip from Richard Harrington’s lynda.com training on what to factor into your freelance rates.

Top 5 Business Books for the Digital Age – Some of my favourite books on starting and running a successful business in the digital age.

If you want even more business related advice (20+ posts) check out the Business category on the right.

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