The Never-Ending Client

Occasionally, as a freelancer you will encounter a client that stick to you like lint to felt and may be frustrated by what to do. I recently had a client who hired me to do a small job which I turned out for him in a couple of days and which he said he really liked. However, rather than paying the balance due, he kept coming back with little niggly things. Could I change the emphasis on this? Could I shorten it to accommodate more formatting tags. Each time, I did as he asked but he kept coming back. Again with little things.

But little things add up

The problem wasn’t the requests so much as the client’s apparent refusal to accept that the work was done. He felt he could freely change his mind and I would willingly continue to make changes ad infinitum.

Coming from (originally) the hospitality industry, the concept that the customer is always right has been ingrained in my mind. So my tendency is to bend over backwards to accommodate my clients and make them happy.

However, there comes a time when you must put your foot down and gently tell your client you fulfilled your end of the bargain. It’s unfair for the client to keep adding things to a job that strictly speaking weren’t part of the agreement.

What to do

If you have such a problem with a client the following may help you:

1. Before you take on a job you must define the parameters of the work. A contract should do this for you.
2. Resist the urge to keep working until the client is happy. Of course you want your client to be satisfied with your work and you should always strive for that. But some people will take advantage of your good nature and have you working forever on a project because they changed their mind mid-stream.
3. Gently get the client to accept responsibility for changing their mind. In the kindest yet firm language you can muster you need to remind the client what the agreement was and the parameters of the work established before you began. And show them that you fulfilled your end of the agreement.
4. Worst case scenario, refund their money. No freelancer likes to do this, especially if the work is already done and has been given to the client. However, it may be better to give a full or partial refund rather than have a noisy, complaining client out there in cyberspace trashing your rep.

One of the pitfalls for freelancers, especially when first starting out is that they are so happy to get a job that they often don’t take the time to specify the parameters of the work and find themselves in this situation. However, if a job that should take four hours ends up taking twelve hours then you can easily end up making less than minimum wage.

In my case whenever I run into a snag like this I review my policy and terms and refine them to include the snag so that they don’t reoccur. Freelancing like any business is a matter of trial and error and refinement.

In the meantime, here is a decent sample of a contract you may want to use as a template for freelance writing gigs.

How about you? Have you ever had a never-ending client? What happened? How did you handle it? Did you change the way you operated your business because of it? Feel free to share your tips in the comments.

WC

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3 thoughts on “The Never-Ending Client

  1. This sounds terrible, Annie. I hope you got paid in the end. You should’ve demanded extra for the extra-time. Because time is money, right? Not nice :\

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