How To Deal With Difficult Clients & Projects

meg biram - striped jcrew turtleneck

I get a lot of questions about running my own business. One I got recently is how I deal with difficult projects and clients. For this question I have some very simple advice.

1 // If you can tell the person is difficult before you sign on the dotted line to work together, decide if working with this person is actually worth it. Sometimes difficult clients just aren’t worth your time, energy, and effort, and everything else in your life and work suffers because of it. Don’t be afraid to say no and move on to a client that isn’t difficult.

2 // Always take the high road. If you get heated and you are about to send an email, DO NOT SEND THE EMAIL. Cool down, wait a few hours, reread the email, make someone else read the email and tell you if it’s too heated or emotional before you send it. Don’t write anything you will regret and try to take emotions out of it. Be as calm and professional as possible — you will not regret that.

3 // Always manage expectations and put deliverables in writing. And anything else that isn’t clear, make sure to clear it up — in writing. If you have a phone call, take notes and email the person afterward summarizing the call with specific points. Especially things you are responsible for, etc. Basically always get everything in writing so both parties know exactly what is expected of each other.

Emails documenting what has been agreed upon have come in handy for me. Sometimes projects switch hands, or there are several people working on the same project and numbers, deliverables, and expectations can get confused. I have referenced previous emails to clients where things were agreed upon in writing beforehand but somehow they changed them in their head once the project started.

4 // Take the time to explain things when necessary. Having been a blogger before companies started actually working with bloggers, a huge part of my job over the years has been educating brands and businesses on why influencer marketing is important, how it can benefit them, how much it should cost them, and what they can expect from it. What I mean is that if someone you are working with doesn’t understand why you charge what you charge for a project and you are getting push back on it, enlighten them.

Here are some examples from my own business — I always pay professional photographers for photo shoots, I have an office space, the backend costs of my website upkeep (hosting, security, webdesign), tools and programs (Photoshop, laptop, camera, newsletter), business services (accounting, lawyer), etc. Also when you are charging someone as a freelancer, you have to pay tax out of that, so you might think $1,000 sounds like a lot of money, but really you are probably going to pay around 20-30% in taxes, and you also have to take your business costs into consideration, you won’t be taking home that entire $1,000. So before you bid a project or decide what your fees are going to be, think about the number you actually want to profit from the project, add costs, and then add tax on top. If you charge hourly you’ll want to take all of these things into consideration.

5 // How to deal with difficult projects can depend on what the project/profession is, but I think the main thing is planning. Work backward from your deadline, plan out what you can accomplish each day/week, and add buffer time. Everything usually takes longer than you think. It’s also nice to be prepared and finish things early versus being stressed and finishing things late.

6 // My last tip is to be organized and have a project list. Check out this post where I shared how I organize my projects. If you have a lot of complicated projects I think it’s helpful to get a snapshot of the deliverables and details of a project in some sort of list. I always reference the emails again just to be sure, but it’s nice to not have to dig through an email thread to find information. Put the final information into some sort of organized list or sheet so it can be easily referenced.

Share your best advice for dealing with difficult clients and projects in the comments!

meg biram - striped turtleneck

Photos by Emma Weiss