The more experienced freelancers among us will know that there will always be a client who is unhappy with something about the service. Sometimes it’s easy to see why they are upset, but other times it seems they are being irrational and unfair – especially considering you are doing your best to keep them happy.
Although you might be ready to throw in the towel and suggest they go somewhere else with their request, take a minute to think about the business you’re losing. You might not get on like a house on fire, but that’s not the point of your relationship.
You’re there to simply provide a service, and if they are unhappy (justifiably or not) you should take time to go over their concerns and see what kind of agreement you can come to.
1. Stay Calm
Although your client might be pulling their hair out, it doesn’t mean you should be too (at least not in front of them). Remain professional and don’t get irate, as it will only reflect badly on you and the how professional your business is.
Take a moment (or half an hour if you need it) and keep calm. Think about where the client is coming from, and try to see things from their perspective. Sometimes this will be easier said than done, but it is always important to try.
2. Be Respectful
Don’t dismiss your client’s argument or point blank refuse them anything. Powers of persuasion are vital when you’re trying to sell yourself as a freelancer, and this is the time when they’ll come in handy.
If you recognise that you’ve made a mistake, or you don’t believe your work is up to standard, then an apology will go a long way. Don’t assume that they know you’re sorry and always make sure it’s heard – but don’t say it if you don’t mean it!
If you believe you’re in the right and your client is still being stubborn, still sympathise. Don’t apologise if you’ve done nothing wrong – instead try “I’m sorry you feel that way” to soften the blow.
3. Go Over the Offer
When establishing where exactly the deal has gone wrong, and once you’ve listened to your client’s concerns, make sure you re-iterate the original offer. It could be a case that they’ve misunderstood the original contract or simply misread an email.
If it is, all it will take is a resend of all original documents and for you to highlight the points where they have mistakenly read it. This also eliminates the possibility that you have provided false information!
4. Make Counter Offers
If you realise it’s actually you who’s got it wrong and made the mistake, act quickly. The longer you leave them to brew, the more annoyed your client will get – and the less forgiving they will be when you eventually decide to pacify them with an offer.
As soon as you realise send an apology email with a counter offer as a gesture of good will. Sometimes people expect these, and it can turn into bartering for your services. They key here is to not let them drive you down. Although you might want to keep them as a client, you still need to be able to pay your gas bill. Once you’ve made an offer make it clear that that is the lowest you will be able to do the work for, and if they are unhappy with it there is nothing more you can do for them.
You might lost a client but it will give you the time to pursue a new and more forgiving client who is grateful for the service.
5. Get it in Writing
It might be tempting to speak to your client over the phone as it is more personal and shows you are open to communication with them when they have a worry about the services. This is a good way to initiate communications, but you should get everything written down too.
Any deals made should be written down and confirmed over email. Written confirmation is vital when you’re dealing with a tricky client – especially if you want to go back and check over the facts.
Decide where you want to go from here. Either the client has accepted the counter offer you have suggested and is willing to move forward with the project, or they have declined and are still not happy that it is sufficient compensation.
Whatever the outcome, if they aren’t interested, don’t go chasing them. Some client relationships are simply not meant to be.
Have you had to deal with an unhappy client? Tell us about it! Leave a comment below and let us know what solution you came to.