How to Deal with Difficult Clients

How to deal with difficult clients

Working with difficult clients can be one of the most challenging aspects of any business. Whether you’re a freelancer, a contractor, or any working professional, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll come across clients who are demanding, unrealistic, or just plain difficult to deal with. 

However, despite the frustration and stress that difficult clients can cause, it’s important to remember that how you handle these situations can have a significant impact on your reputation and the success of your business. In this article, we’ll explore some strategies for dealing with difficult clients, tips for managing these challenging relationships effectively, and when to say goodbye to implacable clients.

Signs That You Are Dealing With A Difficult Client

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize when a client is being difficult, and when you are right in feeling frustrated. Thankfully, there are some telltale signs that what you’re dealing with is in fact a difficult client. Below we will discuss 5 types of difficult clients that you may encounter, and how to recognize them. 

The Indecisive Client

Difficult Clients -- Indecisive

Dealing with indecisive clients can be a challenging experience. These clients have a tendency to delay making crucial decisions, frequently change their minds without notice, and require several follow-ups before providing a final answer. As a result, completing any one task takes much longer than it should, and may be accompanied by many last-minute changes. 

The Overly-Critical Client

The Overly-Critical Client

There is a difference between constructive criticism and plain criticism, and if you’ve dealt with these clients, you will know that the difference is often in the frequency of the critical comments. These clients will often bombard you with negative feedback about how they feel you are doing things wrong and are rarely satisfied with your work, even if previous clients have given good reviews.

The Impatient Client

The Impatient Client

These clients expect everything to be done within a certain time frame, regardless of whether or not it is reasonable (or even possible). Even when you give them an estimate of when they can expect a task to be completed, they are not satisfied. Impatient clients often have no regard for your other clients and responsibilities and expect you to drop everything to accommodate them. 

The Frugal Client

The Frugal Client

Overly frugal clients may scrutinize your invoices and insist on discounts based on other quotes they received. Occasionally, these clients may try to avoid paying you for your work, insisting that they received poor service. This is a frustrating situation and can lead to late payment or non-payment as a result.

The Verbally Abusive Client

The Verbally Abusive Client

Occasionally, a client will go further than just being difficult and unreasonable. Some clients may berate you for seemingly no reason, use aggressive language or imply that you are bad at your job. These clients are rarely salvageable, and you should never feel bad for refusing to work with them if you feel as if they are being unfair. 

How To Deal With Difficult Clients

Unfortunately, you may not have the financial resources to fire every difficult client that you encounter. However, there are several effective strategies for managing such clients in a calm and professional manner, and often simple communication can help resolve the issues. next, we’ll explore some practical tips on handling difficult clients and reaching a win-win outcome for all parties involved.

Remain calm 

The most important thing to remember is to remain calm at all times when dealing with clients, in order to uphold your professional reputation. Listen to what they have to say, and take their concerns seriously. Keep your composure when responding to them, and make it known that their issues are being taken seriously. 

Determine any underlying issues

More often than not, the client’s seemingly unreasonable reactions can be based in a much deeper underlying concern that may have nothing to do with the quality of your work. Perhaps the impatient client is unfamiliar with the project that they have given you, and is unsure whether the timeframe you’ve given them is ordinary. In this case, soothe their anxiety by ensuring them that everything is on track, providing them with milestones that are clearly stipulated in your proposal.

Look inwardly

In situations where you perceive a client to be difficult, they may have a valid point that they are trying to communicate. Try to see the situation from their perspective, and determine whether or not you would react in the same way if you were in their shoes. If so, be grateful for their feedback, apologize to the client, and work on rectifying the issue. 

Offer solutions

If you are in the wrong, be honest with the client and offer them a solution for the problem. If you still feel as if they are being unreasonable, explain to them calmly but firmly why they are mistaken, and offer them a compromise. It is important to be careful here to avoid tarnishing your reputation. According to this study, 13% of unhappy customers will share their negative experience with 15 or more other people in their network. 

Fire the client

If you have tried all avenues for conflict resolution and have had no luck in appeasing the client, it could be that you are simply incompatible with one another. They may have expectations that you cannot achieve, or refuse to work with you to figure out a compromise. In this case, politely and professionally inform them that you will no longer be working with them, apologize for any inconvenience, and be honest about your reasons. 

Learn from the situation

Bill Gates delivered the famous line, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. Reviewing your interactions with unhappy clients can help you to improve your overall service, and offers a valuable insight into how you are perceived professionally. 

How To Avoid Difficult Clients

In order to prevent difficult client relationships in the future, it is important to take the following things into consideration:

Set clear expectations

In your very first meeting, ask the client what their specific expectations are for you and the project. Determine if their expectations are reasonable, and be honest about your abilities. This way, all parties can start off knowing exactly what to expect, and there is no room for confusion.

Adjust your client contract

Make sure that your contract is clearly defined and checked by a legal professional to prevent any misunderstandings and to outline the procedures when dealing with non-payments and other issues. You should also make sure you are protected against lawsuits in the event that you do have to fire a client

Set boundaries

It is important to set boundaries with clients from the start. Let them know what your working hours are, how they can contact you, and what your turnaround times are. This can help prevent clients from becoming too demanding or overstepping any boundaries. 

Trust your instincts

Trust your instincts if something feels off during your initial interactions with a potential client. If they are difficult to communicate with or seem overly demanding, it may be a sign that they will be difficult to work with in the long run and are not worth the trouble. 


Dealing with difficult clients can be a challenging aspect of any business, but it’s important to handle these situations professionally and effectively. By recognizing the signs of a difficult client and utilizing strategies to manage conflict, you can reach a satisfactory outcome for all parties. 

By implementing these strategies and tips outlined in this article, you can maintain a positive reputation, build strong client relationships, and achieve success in your professional life. 

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How to Deal with Difficult Clients

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