Managing client expectations as a freelancer can be a constant struggle. And like all the other skills in your repertoire, it’s one you need to build over time.
But it also goes without saying that some clients are harder to handle than others. In this article, we’ll talk you through some common client problems and how you should manage them.
Problem #1: Scope Creep
You know the type. What started out as a simple logo colour change seems to have mutated into a full-blown rebrand, complete with custom website design. The client expectations have magically changed. And yet, you’ve got the sneaking suspicion that they’re still expecting to pay the price you originally gave them. This is what those in the know call ‘scope creep’. Basically, it’s any project where the scope of the work has increased, but a new price hasn’t been negotiated.
In this case, a well-constructed contract should be the front line of your defence. Make sure you spell out in contract the exact scope of the work and what the main deliverables are. If you don’t include enough detail, you’re at risk that the project will spiral out of control.
You should also specify in the contract that any changes to the project scope will mean that the cost has to be renegotiated. Also make sure they’re aware that any changes to the size of the project will mean it might not be possible to meet the original deadline.
Problem #2: The Micro-Manager
You got into freelancing to get away from controlling bosses, but this client seems to be popping up everywhere. Your email inbox, your Facebook, even the coffee shop you sometimes work in…They want to know exactly how the project is going at all times, and make sure you’re doing it exactly the way they want to. In their worst forms, they’re probably overly concerned with exactly how you’re using your time and sending you emails at ridiculous o’clock in the morning.
This is often simply a problem of expectation. If they’re used to working with full-time employees, they might just not know how to properly manage freelancers. Explain to them that as a freelancer, you work differently to full-time staff members. It’s good to show that you can be trusted by meeting deadlines too. That way, if you work with them again in the future, they’ll probably take a more hands off approach.
If the issue is that they’re contacting you too much, have set “office hours” when you’ll reply to email. And if they’re constantly wanting to see you in person, it can be a good idea to put in writing how many meetings you’ll include in the price. Any beyond this you can charge for as an additional consultation.
Problem #3: The one who doesn’t want to pay
This one barely needs explaining. This client doesn’t want to pay, and will do everything in their power to avoid doing so. Sure, they might be having cash flow issues, but now so are you. So what’s the answer?
In your contract, state a clear deadline for payment, plus any late fees that will accrue if they don’t pay. It can also be a sensible idea to get a deposit upfront, as this means there’s a greater commitment from the client. Milestone payments are also a good option. It makes the payment more manageable for clients, and means you’ve got a reliable source of income if it’s a long project.
If you can, don’t hand over final project files until full payment has been received. This is one benefit of using Twine for your freelance work. We provide a secure escrow system, which means we won’t allow your client to download your final files without sending payment first. Plus, we’re on hand every step of the way to help you resolve any disputes that arise.
Problem #4: Endless revisions
This one’s in the same family as our good old friend scope creep. In this case though, it’s a client who’s never happy with what you create for them. They’ll keep asking for more changes, long after the project was supposed to have been completed. It’s eating into your time and meaning it’s hard to get to work on new projects. And of course, they’re not paying you for these revisions.
Again, it’s a case of managing expectations upfront. It’s good practice to specify a set number of revisions upfront in the contract. Depending on the project, two or three rounds of revisions are standard. These rounds should happen at set points, rather than randomly over the course of the project. Decide when project reviews will take place, and stick to these arranged times. In the contract, outline additional fees for any extra additions.
Problem #5: The downright unpleasant one
Sometimes a client is just plain rude, or difficult to work with. This can be extreme behaviour, like verbal abuse, but it can also repeatedly doing any of the above.
Unfortunately, in these rare cases, your options are a bit limited. If you can, complete the project and move on. That way, you can end the working relationship on good terms and just not accept work from them again.
However, if their behaviour is making completing the project impossible, it might be good to include some sort of break clause in your contract. This could include a partial or full refund for them if you’re unable to complete the work. A break clause should also include conditions for the client should they choose to end the project prematurely.
Still struggling with difficult clients? Try sending them our guide to working with freelancers.