Friday, 8 August 2014

How Do You Handle a Difficult Client?

Every freelancer occasionally has to be deal with a difficult client. In fact, in happens all the time. Talk to any freelancer, especially after a few drinks, and they will gladly tell you stories to make your hair stand on end. Clients, even the good ones, drive everyone crazy. Tricky clients are so common that there are websites such as are, dedicated entirely to horror stories written by freelancers about having to deal with hard-to-please clients. So, if you are starting off on your career, how do you handle a difficult client?

If it’s a film, the next stage is a storyboard animatic, usually edited together with sound and music, and a style guide, so the client knows exactly what they’re going to get. Show them samples of other films and agree a style for their project. Once you start animation it will too late to change this, so make sure you are agreed in advance.

All good freelancers deliver on time. Photo: Wikipedia
It goes without saying that you must deliver the job on time and on budget. Clients don't care how busy you are with other things - they want their work done on time, when you promised it, for the price that was agreed. They don't care if other clients are keeping you busy, or your dog is ill, or your broadband went down, or your hard drive died. Make sure you back up your work, and if you run out of time, work through the night to get it done. Do what it takes to deliver on time and be reliable. The best clients are repeat clients - they will come back for more work because they trust you.

One of the hardest things about client projects is learning to take client notes with good grace. On every job, clients will give you notes which you don’t agree with. Try not to disagree openly with the client. The best response to a dumb idea is to say "that's a great idea, why don't we try this..." and try to steer them in a less silly direction. Sometimes though you just have to do what you are told and make the best of it. Make it look as good as you can. Contrary to popular belief, you can polish a turd.

Finally, be positive. Clients want to feel that you are as excited about the project as they are. Even if you've just done an all-nighter and you feel like screaming at their latest ridiculous changes that they should have told you about weeks ago, be upbeat and optimistic. Make them feel good about working with you - remember that they are taking a risk by using your services for the first time.


For more practical advice on freelance careers, check out this post on your first client project, read out our post on Portfolio Careers, and read this piece on Survival as a Freelancer. Learn the nuts and bolts of freelance life by reading our guide to invoicing clients, and our guide to freelancers and taxesFor more on careers in general, check out our guide to animation careers here, and also take a look at this map of digital studios - a great place to start your search for work in the business. Finally see our article on the jobs page at

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