Every so often, I’ll work with a new client who will tell me something like “I used to work with somebody else, but they stopped responding to my emails”. I try not to pre-judge but I tend to build a picture quite quickly about why they simply stopped responding. Sometimes it appears to be the fault of the freelancer but more often than not it’s something the client has done.
Now, I don’t advocate freelancers simply going quiet or ignoring attempts to connect – that’s unprofessional and the client will not learn from the experience. Each time I have ended a working relationship I have been clear about my reasons. Freelancers should always be clear about why they no longer want to work with a client. Here are some possible reasons for why they don’t want to deal with you any more.
Whether it’s the constant demand for discount, the expectation that you are their top priority or expect them to feel grateful for work, being demanding is not the way to treat a freelancer. The freelancer may initially think that short term hassle is worth the money but there will come a time when they will re-evaluate that opinion. Demanding clients set blood pressure rising and eventually, they will stop responding.
You Don’t Respect Boundaries
Boundaries such as “I’m on holiday in another country”, “It’s 11pm, I’m just about to go to bed and will do this in the morning” and “It’s Christmas Eve and I’m spending it with family” should elicit a single response – “Ok, thanks for letting me know. Let’s talk when you get back.” The wrong response is “but I need this done now. Please do it? I will pay you extra.” There is a time and a place to be a little more insistent and a time and place to bow out gracefully. One particular annoyance of mine is when a new client assigns me work on a Friday afternoon and expects it done before they return to work on Monday morning. But they don’t respond until the following Wednesday. This is unprofessional and an abuse of the working relationship.
You’re a Micromanager
This is one of the worst attributes in a client. I think many (especially those hiring a freelancer for the first time), expect the same standards as they expect from a fully-paid employee. They expect to be kept up to date every few hours, pressuring for information and effectively telling the freelancer how to do his or her job. I know what I’m doing. A long list of happy clients over four years and Top Rated status on Upwork shows the quality of my work. When I tell you it will be done by a certain day or time, I mean it. Even with agreed deadlines, do I still get clients who expect me to check in every morning? Yes. Do I get clients who expect progress on half-finished projects? Yes. Do I get clients correcting my English that doesn’t need correcting? Yes.
Believe it or not, freelancers like getting paid. It’s how we pay our rent or mortgage and put food on the table. Are you regularly late in paying invoices? Do you quibble over every costed item? Do you attempt to negotiate down on every invoice even after payment terms have been agreed? Do you make lots of excuses about why they should wait a bit longer? The problem isn’t so much the payment, but the amount of time and resources we have to waste chasing you for payment.
Saving the biggest until last, there is nothing worse than a flaky client. I’m talking about clients who send a request for work, you agree a deadline, tone and content. You’re on the same page – or so it seems. Then the freelancer sends precisely what was asked for. But in response you say “Hi. That isn’t really working for me as it is. I guess I didn’t know what to expect. Can you change it to this?” Usually they want it in a different tone, double the length and with a variety of other changes. The problem is not the pay (they will pay), it’s the time resources already wasted on the content you’ve sent through that will now need to be reworked or started from scratch which takes much more time in the long-run.