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A Freelancers’ Guide to Keeping Your Cool

It’s A Client’s life.

Rubbish.  But we’ve all had one right? In any industry.  Someone who comes steaming in the office, head held high and starts barking orders at you like you have no idea what you’re doing and they know best.

In my time as a freelancer I have been so lucky. The majority of my clients and the projects that I have worked on have been both challenging and exciting but above all pleasant. It’s been said, when you get a good client, the project is normally boring and vice versa. Well this is not true for me. Only the odd few have not succeeded and this is to be expected. You can’t get on with everybody and you have to be right as a freelancer, for the client too.

One client I had in particular was the biggest pain ever. I had met up with them over lunch so he could rape me of ideas, after being lured into believing we were going somewhere quite posh, we sadly ended up in some dive under the arches at London Bridge. My nose was already out of joint but, I liked the brand, I liked the idea and thought he was quite sweet, on first meeting. Professionally, I could immediately see a clear strategy on how to put this baby across and I would have enjoyed rolling it out. But this client knew best. We’ll call him Clive for arguments sake.

Clive was a back seat driver. “Go left!”…”Now!”…”Ahhhhh You missed it”….”You’ll have to take the second left, first right then pull over!” …”Oh and can you do it all smiling and telling me jokes please?”

Clive didn’t want anyone to think he was stupid. I didn’t mind that he was, a little. He had a slightly dumb look about him, which didn’t work to his advantage. What I did mind was that he thought he knew my job better than me! Why hire me then? He didn’t know anything about start ups, business plans nor did he understand his target market well enough. He was gaining advice to progress from odd sources but the arrogance of his nature was almost definitely going to limit his success.

What a shame. Because in a few years I believe, if he LISTENED and learned to take critique well, he could make a real difference.

So yes, sometimes it seems that the client doesn’t respect your expertise or knowledge, doesn’t care about you making a living and never pays you on time or always thinks they are right etc. Remember you have a choice always. A choice to drop them, a choice to breath. A choice to walk away from a project and return the next day with a clearer head. You are in the driving seat and that is why you are working as a freelancer! You have a CHOICE!

So before you reach for the rolling pin or give your grief to someone else, here are my top 5 tips at keeping your cool with those frustrating clients:

  1. Suggesting ideas early on in the conversation or asking a few carefully placed personal questions, will help you suss out what kind of person they are which will inevitably help you decide if you want the project and of course, help you deliver on point.

  2. Make sure that you have your end covered. Check the small print in any agreements and make sure they understand exactly what you are going to deliver. To the letter.

  3. Always strategise your time (and energy!) and make sure that you are not overworking too hard on a particular client. This will lead to inner resentment towards them and it won’t be their fault, it will be yours.

  4. Remember, they are paying you to do YOUR job so you will probably know best, but make sure you really listen and understand their requests. You may have just missed something or not explained something in a way that they have understood. Patience is a virtue!

  5. Never take on a new client out of desperation and if you are really unhappy with a particular client, fire them. It’s just not worth the stress

If all else fails, keep ‘The Power of Now’, by Eckhart Tolle on your desk and read a page or two when you feel like you want to scream!

Good Luck!

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