What Not to Do When You and Your Client Don’t See Eye to Eye
It’s problem that takes many freelancers by surprise. Don’t let it get to you too.
I’m talking about a disagreement with a client. We freelancers don’t expect personality conflicts because as freelancers we feel we are in charge–our own boss, so to speak.
We believe we left dealing with difficult people behind when we left traditional employment.
Since we don’t usually expect to have trouble dealing with clients, we often aren’t ready when it happens. We’re shocked. Disappointed. Angry, even.
In this post, I’ll describe some of the reasons that freelancer/client disagreements happen. I’ll also explain what not to do if you and your client don’t see eye to eye. If you like this post, you may also like What to Do When the Client Is Wrong.
Why Freelancer/Client Disagreements Happen
You are only human. Your client is only human. Even with the best of intentions, it’s still quite possible for one or both you to get upset about your work relationship. So, don’t be surprised if it happens to you.
Here are some of the root causes behind freelancer/client disagreement that you should know about:
- Miscommunication. It’s easy to misunderstand what a client wants. And clients may also misunderstand what you mean–even if you do have a freelancer agreement. Keep in mind that the same words can mean different things to different people. There are also cultural differences to remember.
- Unmet Expectations. Clients often have unexpressed expectations of what a freelancer will do. They may believe that all developers provide free support. They may feel social media promotion is always a part of writing. Whatever the expectation, they get upset if it isn’t met even when it wasn’t discussed.
- Personality Conflicts. Unfortunately, sometimes two people just irritate each other for no good reason at all. It happens even when both the client and freelancer are trying their hardest to get along. These clashes are just part of being human.
So, what should you do if you find yourself disagreeing with a client?
What Not to Do in a Freelancer/Client Disagreement
The first thing to remember if you find yourself disagreeing with a client is not to panic. Often freelancer/client disagreements can be worked out. A disagreement doesn’t automatically mean you’ve lost the client.
If you find yourself disagreeing with your client, you may be tempted to do whatever it takes to make yourself feel better. However, caution is usually your best move.
Here are some examples of what you should NOT do if you and your client don’t agree:
- Complain about your client on social media.
- Contact your client with a scathing email or phone call.
- Give your client’s company a negative review on a review site.
- Write a blog post on your blog about how angry you are with your client.
If you give in and let yourself react in one of these ways, you may feel better at first. But you may wind up making things even more difficult than they already are.
Instead, it’s best to wait before reacting. If you find yourself disagreeing with your client, don’t do anything in haste.
What to Do Instead
Wait until you’re less upset before trying to deal with your client. It’s best to wait and calm down rather than doing something you’ll regret later.
Once you feel that you can approach your client calmly, try to find out what’s behind the client’s reaction. Why are they upset? Was there a miscommunication? Did they expect something else from the project? Or, is it a simple matter of conflicting personalities?
After you’ve determined the root cause, you can take steps to fix the problem.
If the problem is a miscommunication, let the client know. Tell them what you thought and why. Be sure to admit to some of the blame if that is appropriate.
If the problem is unmet expectations, try to find out why the client expected something else from you. Refer back to your freelancer agreement if you need to.
Of course, if there’s a personality conflict, solving it may be more difficult. If you continue to work together, you will probably always have to make allowances for the client’s personality. In some cases, it might be best to refer the client to another freelancer.
Have you ever had a freelancer/client disagreement?
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