Work from home special: how to handle tough clients
Freelancing / Working-from-home sounds easy but then this too has its high and low points, especially when clients become staunch about their demands. We get you real life tales on how to handle – and survive – "difficult" clients!
Every freelancer or work-from-home professional comes to a stage when the client demands continuous alteration, constant rework or specific inputs on the work presented, leaving the professional harried. It is common (also necessary) for a client to ask for rework or other inclusions in the subsequent drafts but some clients ask for inclusions or inputs that may seem difficult to work out, or those that may go beyond the scope of work or even be beyond the caliber of the professional involved.
In most cases, the service provider will try to give his best shot the first time around. But when there is too much "negative" feedback or demand for revisions, the professional may not really know how to handle the situation or client. This creates a deadlock and may lead to a bitter experience for both parties.
The result is - an exasperated freelancer and an irritated client. The professional loses out on his work and reputation and the client too misses out on important deadlines or goals.
This is however a wrong approach for both the freelancer and his client. The impact could be graver for a professional though.
Vidhu Lamba, a Delhi-based visualiser, has been freelancing for over ten years. She often comes across ‘difficult clients’ and has worked her way around handling them. She says that once an IT firm asked her to create 4-5 web pages for their company site. She began submitting designs as per guidelines and no feedback came at that time. She assumed all was well and that the designs were accepted when suddenly a long trail of mails asking for alterations or telling her about loopholes in the designs followed.
The firm had sent her designs to seniors based in other countries. She had to redesign all her pages – and that too after a gap of a month! And then these revisions were up for further scrutiny, causing more harassment for Vidhu who was out of the core communication loop most of the time. She lost a lot of her time working on these pages repeatedly, and the payment too came in much later.
“In most situations, the problem lies at the communication level. Freelancers / work from home professionals have a habit of over committing or glamourising their talents. Things can go wrong when a client presents commission based work on these supposed skills. The freelancer may try everything to match the project requirement or may even seek help from others but when a client is fixated about his demand and the final product then a deadlock is about to happen,” she says.
Another point she shares is about client nature. “Some clients are very finicky. The second level of problem arises when clients are nosy about their demands. They may want a particular font, layout, motif and will approve of nothing else that is presented to them. These may at times be irrational from a design perspective, but then you need to remember that your client is God and you have to respect his will,” she says.
Sugata De is another freelancer from Delhi. He has seen the tough side of his real estate clients often. “At times, the client expects an exact replica of a certain creative, which may not be feasible considering the medium. No matter how you try to explain it to them, they don’t want to understand. That becomes another level of challenge altogether.”
Website designer Monika Kapoor left her cushy job in a media company due to maternity. After the new born baby phase, she started working from home. She commenced with a website designing job for a jewelry brand. The home page design she submitted to the client underwent numerous changes, and with every change there was a new element being added or new requirement flowing in. “I realised my mistake - I had not fixed the brief with the client. Hence he went on adding elements, and he was right at his place, but I was exasperated. It became a long project and I saw no end to it. In the end I gave up, I told him I will not be making more changes. He made only half the payment and walked away fuming,” she reveals.
The learning from their experiences is clear:
Know clearly what the client wants – Discuss project details thoroughy including every small element if possible. Insist on having a written brief, so that you can go through it later and refer to it if any argument arises.
Read between the lines – If the client is taking a lot of time to finalise you as a freelancer, or asking for too many references then learn to read between the lines...
Keep up constant communication - Update the client about all developments that happen at your end. Keep him in the loop on a regular basis and keep informing them about the progress you are making.
Take professional feedback – Ask other freelancers around about their experience with a new client that you are currently speaking to. They will tell you how relaxed or how aggressive the client has been with them. It will help you prepare yourself accordingly.
By Yojana Sharma