Having differences with your client can be a tricky one. You just handed in some of your best work and were waiting for the cash to come in but instead your client comes back with a list of complaints.

Before you rush to defend your work or call the client an idiot, think about what they’re saying. Don’t get on the defensive because you’ll find it harder to come to a resolution.

It’s important that you hear them out, particularly because they’re the ones who’ve asked and paid for the work in the first place. So first ask yourself these questions:

Are you on the same page?

When you first agree to do a project you have to make sure that you’re both on the same page and you know exactly what they’re asking for. You don’t want to make assumptions and end up handing in something they weren’t expecting.

The best way to do this is to have a simple conversation at the start where you discuss the expectations from both parties. Sometimes you need to prompt the client to be a bit more specific unless they’re happy with you to use your own ideas. The next step is to put this in writing and create a contract. This can then be referred to later on if complaints come up.

Are they asking for something different now?

Sometimes clients will try to get away with asking for a bit of extra work by saying what you’ve created is not what they had in mind.

Even if this is true, try not to be outright rude or call them a liar. Your best move is to calmly explain that anything extra they ask for will have to be charged for. If you’ve got a contract, then this will put you in the best position to argue your case.

Are you taking it personally?

Sometimes it can be difficult for creative freelancers to remain detached from their work. So when the client has a problem with your work, no matter how big or small, it’s easy to take it to heart.

You’ve got to remember that after all, you’re not creating art, you’re creating something useful for the client. The client wants you to solve a problem or produce something that becomes profitable to them.

With this in mind, try not to take it too personally as this will cloud your judgement and will get in the way of a productive conversation.

So what’s the next step?

If you’ve determined the cause of your client’s upset, then this will give you better direction on where to go from here. Here are some things you could do:

Explain your choices

If this is a case of confusion or crossed wires, your first step should be to explain what you’ve done and why. It could be that the client simply doesn’t understand your process or choices. If this is the case, then it’s worth going through your work and explaining the reasoning behind what you’ve produced.

If the client still disagrees then you’ll have to come to a compromise. This could mean that you both rewrite a contract in order to clarify what’s expected.

Apologise

If you’ve made a mistake then you’re going to need to apologise for that. You’re best off coming straight out with it and then offering to correct it as soon as possible. You might even want to add something extra in for free or a discount.

Know when to walk away

If the client is being rude or aggressive then there’s no reason why you should have to take this. Calmly explain that it’s unacceptable and that you’ll no longer be working with them in the future if it gets to that stage.

If they’re asking for extra work for free, you don’t have to accept that either. Don’t back down or they’ll expect you to do it again.

 

Have you ever had creative differences with your clients? How did you come to a resolution? Let us know how you got on in the comments.