How to deal with different types of client relationships and get the most out of them

Clients come in all shapes and sizes. There are the ones who don't listen or think they know best. Those who micro-manage but hamper the project. But just occasionally, you'll come across clients who are so utterly grateful you exist, they're happy with anything you produce.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Whether seemingly good or bad – all client relationships present their problems. But it's down to you, the freelancer or account manager, to handle them and turn every single one into a success.

How do you do that? We've picked out some common client types and offers some tips on how to deal with each one.

The Micro-Manager

The ultimate control freak, this client wants to micro-manage every tiny detail of your work, making your life a living hell. Their constant chasing, questions and input are only stifling your creativity and jeopardising the entire project.

The Solution

Relax. Control freaks are easier to handle than you think. This type of client will need regular communication to offer constant reassurance. Just be prepared to pick up the phone on a Monday morning and say "This week, I shall be working on…" and keep them updated on progress. One golden tip – don't allow micro-managers to have access to things they don't need. For example, don't let them see the test website you're working on – as they'll obsessively check every two minutes to see what progress you've made. Bottom line? Don't fuel the flame of their micro-management.

The Stick-With-Me-Kid

You know the type – they promise you the world if you do extra work for free or keep your day rates at the same price. They promise to introduce you to all their business chums and bring more work your way – all with the sinister ulterior motive of keeping you to themselves or impressing their business friends.

The Solution

We're talking big egos here, so the best way to deal with this type of client? Rub that ego. Make them think you're appreciative of their advice or promises of client introductions. Make your eyes sparkle with delight when they pat you on the back and give you the old schmooze.

Work hard, keep them happy and send them 'thank you' cards. It's an ego you're dealing with, so kiss that butt – only gracefully. But ultimately? Don't believe the hype – and don't get pulled into doing any work for free based on empty promises. Simply keep things professional and quote for every bit of work that comes your way.

The Passive One

There is nothing worse than a passive client. Especially those you ask for initial input, but then they attack your work when you present the final project. They knew what they wanted all along, but didn't share their thoughts.

The Solution

It's very frustrating when a client doesn't provide an initial brief. Or any helpful feedback along the way. Best way to deal with these types is to set boundaries and expectations before work even begins.

Make sure you get it in writing and spell out how many revisions are allowed based on the quoted price. Say to them "The success of the project and sticking to your budget depends upon us working together to get the best possible outcome, so it's essential we are open and honest throughout". You just have to dig out their thoughts and feedback as early as possible, so they can't turn around at the end and attack the work.

The Disinterested Shoulder Shrug

We've all had them: the client that doesn't care, shares no passion and wants to get the project sorted as soon as possible. Whenever you ask questions to help with the project, they shrug their shoulders and pull a face.

The Solution

Golly. How do you deal with someone who doesn't care? My advice? Try and get them excited about the work. Remind them how it'll help make a difference in their business. Show examples of how your work has helped others and how far they've come. Remind the client that you'll be able to help them look good by creating a better logo, website or by getting them into their local newspaper. Passion can be infectious, after all.

The Under-Valuer

There's just no getting away from it, but some clients don't 'get' what you do or appreciate your skills. They think a child of five could draw prettier pictures and don't see why they should spend 'so much money' on a graphic designer.

The Solution

Confidence is your secret weapon here. You have to hold your head up high, have faith in your skills and demand respect from the client in question. You are worth something and your skills are valuable – keep that in mind.

If they're asking questions like "It can't be that hard can it?" or "Surely, it'll only take you half an hour?" – Perhaps it's worth talking through the process of how you work. Or it's a lack of understanding on their part. Once they see how much work goes into creating a new brand or developing a website, you might earn their respect.

The Fussy Nitpicker

You've done a great job, the work is looking great, and it's a vast improvement on what the client had before. But they're nitpicking at every minor detail. They're focusing on things that just waste everyone's time.

The Solution

Be patient and detach yourself emotionally from the project. Try not to take criticisms personally. They might be making valid points, so talk through each one and work together to move forward.

You should also stand your ground if you disagree with one of their suggestions – remember, you're a consultant and should be offering your expertise. Just make sure you have a good argument ready to defend the work.

The Golden Child

They're the ultimate dream client. They're grateful. Love everything you do. They don't hassle or pester. They are just so appreciative of you being around. And even better? They pay well and on time.

The Solution

Holy moly. Keep these beauties happy. They only come along once in a while, so treasure them, nurture them and do your absolute best for them. However – even though they're dream clients – they could encourage you to coast. In which case, always strive to come up with new suggestions and ideas to help them succeed. Never rest on your laurels, because there's a chance someone else could impress even more.


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