If you haven’t already felt this way, chances are one day you will. Any freelancer to deals with clients on a regular basis will, it’s only natural. Know two things: you are not the only one to feel this way and you do not have to feel guilty.
First off, let’s look at this from a client’s perspective. They are paying you (presumably) money to effectively and efficiently get work done for them. They give you deadlines and hold you to high expectations with the assumption that you are an expert at what you do, honest, and trustworthy. The tasks that your clients are giving you probably relate to income producing activities that not only pay their bills but also pay you. In a client’s mind, every single task is a priority because it is their business and their business is their priority. They are not aware of your schedule, your other clients’ workloads, or how much time every task will take.
Now, let’s look at it from your perspective. Unless you are one of the lucky few with one client producing full-time work and full-time pay, you probably have two, three, or even four or more clients. With multiple clients, organizing and prioritizing tasks can become a job in and of itself. You see tasks come in, due dates set, phone calls scheduled, and your to-do list quickly becomes a mile long. Your job is to make all of your clients happy by getting your work done quickly and on time.
I don’t know about you, but my Mondays tend to be the day when all of my clients decide that every single task on their to-do list for me is urgent, requiring immediate attention, and must be completed by the end of the day. Well, unless you have superpowers (and if you do, please share them with me), you cannot work on two tasks at once and must make the difficult decision on which tasks get done first. I’ll be honest, you may upset a client or two, but if you are upfront, honest, and your client is a human being, they will (hopefully) understand and work with you to find a solution.
How to handle clients when you cannot complete a task as requested:
- Set expectations upfront. If you know you work with multiple clients at once, always let new clients know this. Letting them know that they are not the only business you work with will give them the knowledge to know you cannot always drop things to immediately work on a task for them
- Ask for notice. If you are someone who schedule’s your tasks out for the day/week ahead, let your clients know that you need [blank] amount of notice for a new task or project. Ask them to give you as much notice as possible when a new project will be approaching so you can juggle your other clients around that. This eliminates the possibility of allowing clients to give you urgent tasks that require immediate attention.
- Be honest. If you are not going to be able to complete a task on time to the best of your abilities, tell them. They will appreciate the honesty and will be less upset when you do not reach a deadline.
- Help them find a solution. If you absolutely are unable to meet a deadline that you are sure needs to be completed, help your client find a solution that will make everyone happy. Some suggestions could be assigning the task to another team member if the client has other freelancers, providing a small amount of assistance immediately with the promise to finish the task at a designated point in time, agree to work “overtime” (into the/all night) to complete the project for an extra fee, or suggest another freelancer that you can vouch for that would be able to complete the task immediately.
Listen here, I’m not saying that every client is going to be easy to work with. If you do everything in your power to make a client happy and they still are not, then you need to follow tip #5:
5. Breathe and let it go. At the end of the day, if a client is too difficult to work with then you need to weight the pro and cons of continuing to work with that client. Are they causing you so much stress that it’s not worth the hassle? Do they prevent you from getting your other clients’ work done? Are they invasive of your personal life and don’t respect your boundaries? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you need to consider saying, “bye-bye” to that client and find yourself a new, respectful client. Remember, we became freelancers to live a life of freedom. If a client cannot respect that then you can show them the door.
Working with clients requires patience. You will always have client’s that drive you crazy. There’s just no way around it. But, when you think about it from a client’s perspective it makes it a little easier to deal with.
Just remember – when a client is driving you crazy and you’re tempted to respond to them with a “not so great” email – stop, breathe, delete, exit out of your email account, and return to the problem tomorrow. Chances are, it won’t be as bad as it was yesterday and you’ll be more clear to professionally respond.
Always, above all, maintain your professionalism. Even if you end up dropping them as a client, they could be a source of referrals or testimonials in the future.
Have you downloaded my FREE 31 Day Guide to Opening Your Work-at-Home Business? In it, we discuss how to set up your business and how to actually get paid for working from home. CLICK HERE to download.