What is the common between a broken tooth and a difficult client? That you can’t just ignore it. It’s painful, it doesn’t let you sleep at night and sooner or later you’ll have to take care of it.

The expression “The client is always right” was consistently thrown around by many companies in the past decades. As a result, we are surrounded by people who behave completely inadequately once they see themselves in the role of a client.

It doesn’t matter if you are working from home or if you have your own small business – in case you are dealing with clients, you will meet those people.

The difficult clients might not always be reasonable, but they are paying our bills, right? In very rare cases you can afford to reject a client. Therefore, better for your pain-in-the-ass-dealing skills and for your business is to learn how to work with them.

Approach the topic as an experienced general officer would approach the enemy during wartime in order to win the battle. A good start would be to check this…

Step by step guide on how to approach difficult clients

Step by step guide on how to approach difficult clients

1. Be prepared

Read this whole article until the end to get to know the difficult clients who might come on your way. You’ll quickly learn how to recognise them from afar so that you can mentally prepare yourself for the challenging situation you will get into.

2. Understand what drives their behaviour

Let’s be honest: everyone has been a difficult client at least once in their lifetime. And that’s alright, as we are all different people with different backgrounds, needs, approach, reactions and temperament. But if you think about the moments in which you were that unhappy arguing customer, you had your reasons, right? So do the difficult clients you have to deal with. Once you get these insights, you’ll be able to approach the situation in a mindful way.

3. Learn how to deal with them 

Do not ignore them. Do not avoid them. Deal with them. Imagine, if you can turn difficult clients into happy ones. They will be yours forever! They will tell everyone how for the first time in their life there was somebody who was actually capable of doing their job properly. And that person would be you.

Now you have this checklist, dive into the world of difficult clients and their characteristics.

7 types of difficult clients and how to deal with them

7 types of difficult clients and how to deal with them

Client №1: “I don’t really know what I want (or I am incapable of communicating it with you)”

Every single day there is a new aspect of the project popping up. Sometimes it replaces old requirements. At other times it’s completely new and irrelevant to what you have been discussing so far.

This is how some people approach life – they are not able to make decisions so they change their mind all the time. Not knowing what would be the best thing to do in a certain situation paralyzes them and in the end, they do nothing at all.

It’s entirely their problem how they’ll get through life with this attitude. Unfortunately, they somehow got into your surroundings, so you’d better put an end to this torture as far as it concerns you.

How to deal with them?

It would have been great if you were able to say “Look, you should make up your mind first and then you can get in touch with me” without losing a client forever. The reality is a bit different though. You should find a way out of this mess without actually showing to the client your sincere frustration.

Make it clear that you want to agree upon all of the main project aspects during your initial meeting or conversation. What do they want from you? How much will they pay you? What kind of corrections are included in the offer and how much would each extra thing cost?

After discussing all those details, write them down and send them to your client. Then get a written confirmation that they agree with everything. Once you have this, you can reject any corrections or changes in the project’s direction, citing your written communication.

Client №2: “I want it all and I want it NOW!”

Nope, unfortunately, that’s not another Queen fan who is so happy to work with you and serenades you, but a client who won’t leave you alone. All of their emails have the subjects “URGENT” or “IMPORTANT”, with capital letters. And three exclamation marks.

What’s up with this client? They either feel oh-so-special and they sincerely believe in the idea that they are the only client you could possibly have. Or somebody is breathing in their neck and they are trying to compensate the deadlines they missed with rushing you.

How to deal with them?

The moment you show weakness, they’ll eat you alive. Don’t participate in this circus, because it will bring you only negative emotions – from a headache to an anxiety attack.

Instead set some milestones together with your client and meet all the deadlines. Show them that everything is under control and there is really no need to freak out.

They have to be aware that your word is your bond. Once they realise that they can rely on you, the workflow will go way smoother.

Related: 6 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism That Really Work

Client №3: “Yes, I hate that. No, I don’t know why!”

This type of client is extremely picky but for no valid reason. Actually, if you try to decode the situation using only their feedback, it might look like there is no reason at all.

Most probably the key to the dispute lies in a tiny detail such as the font of the headings, an expression you used or the logic behind a small functionality.

It’s not like they have serious arguments against your work. But they want you to redo it.

How to deal with them?

Strive for a clear communication in order to understand what are the client’s needs and goals. Then demonstrate your level of expertise by not only offering solutions but explaining why they will work.

Of course, this will take more time then just finishing the job or refusing to work on this particular project. But today you are learning how to deal with difficult clients. That’s why we won’t talk about dumping them.

Client №4: “Do whatever you want, I couldn’t care less”

This might seem like the perfect client but think twice. Yes, you can do whatever you want. But usually, those clients don’t participate in the process at all. Their hands-off approach will quickly make it difficult for you.

In order to do the best job on a project, you have to understand what is required. Unfortunately, this client won’t provide you with any key information even if you press them. Therefore, you’ll have to shoot in the dark, waiting to see whether you are on the right track.

How to deal with them?

Don’t be afraid to set your professional requirements beforehand. This will guarantee that you won’t end up with a sloppy project only because there wasn’t enough information.

Always require feedback and approval in critical stages of the assignment. Otherwise, you risk being almost ready when you realize you have to change more than a half of your work.

Apart from this, you can definitely enjoy the creative freedom you’ll have in this case. Just don’t forget that you can have too much of a good thing!

Related: How to Beat Procrastination Once and For All

Client №5: “I want just a tiny correction” 

Let’s make this clear: it’s completely normal to provide your client with a tiny correction. But not if afterwards comes another one. And another one. AND ANOTHER ONE.

This type of customer thinks that they require only two more minutes, not a big deal, right? They have the belief that you are so experienced (or your job is so easy?) that you’ll be ready in no time.

How to deal with them?

Be straightforward – if they expect the impossible, educate them back to reality. You will do us all a favour!

Explain why а certain correction doesn’t take only two minutes and patiently guide your client through the thought process that will follow. Don’t forget to mention your rate for making any additional changes.

You may also consider discussing all those details upfront. As soon as a client approaches you and you start discussing the job, make sure you are on the same page regarding what is included in the price and what isn’t.

Client №6: “My budget is tight, can you lower the price?”

Money is often a limited resource because that’s how life works. Somebody’s budget is tight and that’s alright. But it doesn’t mean that you have to run a charity and end up with a tight budget, too.

You should learn something and you’d better learn it now:

Decline a project if you are not happy with the payment.

The reason for this is simple: if you have the feeling that you are working for free, inevitably your motivation will reach a critically low level. This will affect the quality of your work as well as your relationship with the client.


They might pay less compared to your standard rates but according to their comprehension, this is just the right amount of money for this task. Therefore once you agreed on working with them, they won’t accept lower quality service. Their budget is tiny and their expectations are huge.

How to deal with them?

There are clear signs that will help you spot such client on time. They might even start the conversation with an attempt to barter. “I need a logo, business cards and brochure design. In return, I will put your name on my website.”. In case you don’t see the issue here, I have 6 words for you:

Exposure does not pay your bills.

Exposure doesn't pay your bills.

Always calculate your rate carefully and refrain from making any exceptions.

The most simple yet effective way of explaining to a client why you cannot lower your rate would be using the following example:

“You are not bargaining in the supermarket or in the restaurant, are you? You see the price and decide whether you can afford this or not. Well, it’s basically the same situation but you are buying a service, not a product. Capisce?”

If you don’t feel like getting into polemics though, you can also simply say “No”.

Related: The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make as a Freelancer

Client №7: “I’m a workaholic and I hate weekends”

This client…

  • sends emails at 3 a.m. and calls you on the next morning to ask “Where have you been? Why don’t you answer my emails?!”
  • schedules meetings for 8 p.m. on Friday even though you are in the same time zone
  • calls you on the 1st of January to ask whether you are ready with that project. Yes, that one, it wouldn’t matter if the deadline is a week later.

They want an answer promptly, 24/7. Work is their life and they would like to turn you into a zombie as well.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to an Effective Digital Detox

How to deal with them?

You have to use all of your charm and communication skills to deal with this one. Set your boundaries and stop adjusting to somebody else’s pace. Don’t be afraid to say “No!” if what they want is unrealistic or unnecessary.

For example, the next time they send you three emails within an hour requiring an urgent response, you should make a statement. Worldwide replying within the next 24 hours after receiving a message is considered absolutely normal. It’s worth mentioning this fact in a polite manner.

Most probably the person who requires your constant attention had heard this before. You won’t be the first one to make a remark that they’re being too pushy. But you also won’t be just another freelancer with whom they can do whatever they want.

As an attempt to help you find zen in the chaos of everyday freelance life, I started “Freelance Tips With…” – a series of interviews with freelancers who have somehow inspired me. They all share their story and give useful advice on various topics related to achieving success as a self-employed.

Check out the interviews published so far:

1. Freelance Tips With Danielle From The Breakfast Club Blog

2. Freelance Tips With Emilia, Marketing Automation Specialist

3. Freelance Tips With Taylor, Copywriter For Small Businesses

What is the most difficult type of client according to you? Share your experience and spread the knowledge.

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Learn how to deal with the 7 most common types of difficult clients.