I know a few people who’ve struck out on their own in recent times, one of whom has gotten through the honeymoon phase and has now lost those pretty rose-tinted glasses about being self-employed.
It got me thinking about all the things I detest about doing freelance work (aside from chasing payment, obviously)! Bad clients are rife, especially when you first start out. And as a rookie you often don’t know the traps to avoid.
If you’ve ever freelanced, odds are you’ve come across your fair share of bad clients. Here’s three pet peeves I have that I imagine are pretty much universal:
The client who doesn’t actually have a clue what s/he wants
You know the type. Wishy-washy, lots of back and forth over email. Potential clients who won’t tell you what they have in mind, are super vague on the details of a project, and ask you for a quote without giving enough information to go on, probably don’t know what they want. And clients who don’t know what they need are prone to scope creep, blowing out projects way past budget and timeframe.
There’s always a client who wants you to cut them a discount because they’re a small startup, or threatens to go elsewhere because they can get the work done for half the price. Whatever the reason for their stinginess, it doesn’t bode well for your working relationship.
The needy one
Like a clinging partner, an overly demanding client expects you to be at beck and call, all the time. Last-minute changes and deadline shifts are all to be expected.
The single worst client I ever had ticked all of these boxes. I found myself groaning every time her name popped up in my inbox, and putting off responding to her emails as long as possible. Reluctance to even open emails from someone is a pretty good sign that all is not well. Unfortunately, since this client was a referral from another client – a GOOD one – I was reluctant to cut her loose.
But here’s the thing. If you don’t value your own time, how can you expect your clients to?
I’ve been the clueless client before many times. And I feel bad because I know it’s terribly annoying to whoever I’m working with, but sometimes I just don’t have the knowledge set to know what I *can* want vs. what is infeasible. At work, many of my clients are a combination of all three.
I work full time and freelance on the side so sometimes I find myself working well into the night. Some of my clients are also working after hours and we’ll email back and forth into the night.
I have a rule for myself: Never send an email after midnight. At least my clients don’t need to get the impression I’m available to work after midnight. I will write up emails but wait until morning to hit send.
Quotes are a pain. You have to do quotes to get jobs, but you can’t charge for your time. I know you’re not supposed to get every job you quote (that would suggest you are undervaluing your services), but I need to figure out a faster way to quote. I don’t do rate cards but maybe one with a range would help speed up the system.
I used to have a problem with a client before who was not really sure what he wants. He kept on asking me different instructions without a clear task.
I used to have this client who was so demanding and he thought the job he wanted me to do could be done in one hour, which was impossible. I told him right away that I declined the job. Surprisingly, he gave in and agreed to my terms. LOL
I feel your pain! The tough ones are those who don’t know what they want. I’ve had cases where I offer suggestions and they say “yes sounds good” and then they totally change their mind once I deliver the assignment.
Topical. I’m dealing with some strange mix of the first two right now. Can’t quite figure out his deal but is dancing around quoting a price and — despite having seen prior writing samples of mine — wants me to put together a writing sample for him on one of the topics from his project… but still won’t settle on pay. GR!