Creative Freelancers: What to Do When the Client Is NOT Right (Hey, It Happens!)

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Brown Banks.

In the retail industry, the mantra is, “The customer is always right.”

In a perfect world, perhaps that would be true. But those of us who serve “customers” in a creative capacity, know all too well that the people who hire us don’t always have enough industry-related knowledge or “right” answers to support their creative goals — particularly when it comes to marketing, promotions, or publishing. And if the business is a new launch, the plot thickens.

Inexperience may require a “learning curve” with many twists and turns, with you in the passenger‘s seat. Still, part of our job as consultants and “ideas people” is to equip clients with enough of the right information and proper strategies so that the end goal is achieved — a successful, profitable project.

Why It Can be Profitable to Educate Your Clients

“Wrong” or bad decisions can affect the client’s profitability or relationship with their customer base; thereby costing them valuable time, money and resources. And it may even compromise their online image.

Translation? When your clients don’t progress or profit, neither do you as a writer, social media marketing maven, or creative consultant.

Faulty thinking or a poor business model typically contributes to greater stress, project delays, and detours. And if the project “tanks” for whatever reason, you can almost certainly forget a future referral or testimonial on your behalf at best, and bad online/industry PR at worst.

Example: Client Project That Went Wrong & How I Handled It

A few years ago a client contracted me to help her to launch a blog for a concept that she was sure would be a big hit with parents. The problem? She was indecisive; did not do enough “homework” about the new business she was trying to launch; ignored my input; and felt the need to “micro-manage” every single thing I did.

This, in spite of the fact that I have several business degrees and more than a decade of experience assisting entrepreneurs under my belt.

The result? Her idea was as short-lived as an ant at a summer picnic. Soon thereafter, we parted ways.

Sound familiar freelance writers, content marketing strategists and social media consultants?

4 Tips on How to Avoid Difficult Clients as a Creative Freelancer

Advice for Freelancers on How to Handle Difficult Clients Is Covered WithinIn the interest of creating more win/win situations in the future and providing an all-important reality check when needed, following are a few suggestions creative freelancers can use to avoid this type of client.

1. Create a Client Intake Form

Have clients complete a survey, profile or project specifications worksheet — ie, have a client onboarding process — to identify their three most important goals and vision for the project before work begins.

This can help you to “’shape” the project and address any irrational beliefs or myths right out of the gate. It also helps you to plan an “early exit” if circumstances dictate.

2. Know Your Numbers

Support your position with related research, statistics and case study findings. Numbers don’t lie. For instance, if a client is not “sold” on the concept of starting a blog to optimize their marketing efforts, you might share this HubSpot article as a point of reference.

3. Validate the Client “Partnership”

Remind the client that the success of a creative partnership hinges on the mutual respect and input of both parties. There’s great validity to the expression, “Two heads are better than one.”

4. Present Alternatives

Never be unprofessional, confrontational or accusatory when trying to steer the client in a different direction; instead. Present viable, well-thought-out alternatives.

Sometimes, bad decisions happen to good clients. Keep these tips in mind for the “write” results.

About the Author: JENNIFER BROWN BANKS is a veteran freelance writer, award-winning blogger and content creator. She helps businesses and writers build their “fan base” and their bottom line. Her blog, Pen & Prosper, was chosen as a “Top 100 Writing Blog” in 2016. Learn more at www.Bankablewriting.com.

P.S.: FREE Bonus Content for The Ultimate Freelancer’s Guidebook

How to say no to the wrong client is covered in “The Ultimate Freelancer’s Guidebook”, which Jennifer contributed to. Note: Get the special report, “5 Things You Should Know about Freelancing in a Global Economy That Will Land More Clients.”

To get this bonus content, send the receipt for your pre-order to info[at]InkwellEditorial.com on/before September 1st. Put “Pre-Ordered UFG” in the Subject line. On Sept 1st, you’ll be emailed the special report.

P.P.S.: I’m Ready to Put This Info to Use and Start Earning $100-$250+/Day as a Freelance Writer.


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    1. Great tips, Jennifer! Appreciate your insight here.

    2. Thanks for these tips, Jennifer. I once had a client who wanted champagne services with kool-aid money. We went to what should be #5 on the list: terminate the relationship.
      Marcie recently posted…Writing a Newsletter? Here are 10 Ways to Make it EffectiveMy Profile

    3. Thanks for these tips, Jennifer. I had a client who wanted champagne services with cheap wine money. When he told me that he wanted to work with me again that was music to my ears.

    4. Thanks, Yuwanda, for the opportunity to share this with your readers. I hope it fosters more productive, harmonious partnerships in the creative industry.
      Jennifer Brown Banks recently posted…Is it Time to Re-evaluate Your Blogging Commitment?My Profile