If you are working independently as a freelancer, consultant, or another similar position, you probably abandoned office life and steady paychecks in favor of being your own boss and going by your own schedule. Then why are you still dealing with difficult clients? No matter how dedicated you are to working on your own terms, bad client relationships will happen. These tips can help you identify these kinds of situations before they can hurt your business (or your sanity).
Don’t Blame Clients for a Bad Situation
There are times when clients can be over-demanding: perhaps they don’t know what they want out of a project and expect you to read their mind, or they fail to give you important details until the very last minute. However, being self-employed means you should be in control of the situation. If you continue working with “bad” clients despite any red flags that arise, you are just as much at fault for letting yourself get trapped in this relationship.
Consider what you need to do to make your client relationship mutually beneficial. If you’re not making enough profit from them, try raising your rates. If you take a lot of time just responding to their requests, demand to be noted farther ahead of time. Take responsibility for your ability to get a job done.
Track the Time
One of the most important issues you’ll deal with when you’re self-employed is time management. To see if you’re using your time wisely, record your activity for about two weeks. Pay attention to what you do, how long you take, and who you’re doing it for. This can help you see if you spend a disproportionate amount of time with one client or another.
Have Back-up Funds
When you have a career with a less-than-steady paycheck, it’s a good idea to have about 2-3 months worth of pay to keep you secure when payments get slow. Even the best clients can fall behind sometimes. However, if you’re constantly having to remind your clients to pay on time, or even worse, you find yourself distrustful of their ability to come up with the cash, it may be best to move on.
Don’t Get Personal
Sometimes when you are working with a group of people, not all members will agree on what they want from the project. Your job is to get the work done, not pick sides. Try to find a compromise and avoid letting yourself be swayed by one person over the other.
Consider Cutting Clients Off
There will be times when no matter how you try to resolve issues with certain clients, the problem will remain. Having that stress linger will eventually have a negative impact on your work, and perhaps even your health. If you’ve made an honest attempt to deal with the issues you have, you may have no choice but to let them go. You’re not obligated to provide details on why you’ll be ending your work with them. Keep it simple, saying things like “I believe my services no longer fit your needs” should be enough. You want to keep yourself objective, and giving specific reasons can easily lead to more arguments. Once you’ve done this, you can move on to newer projects, and hopefully better clients.
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