How to Deal With Unreasonable Freelance Clients

top 5 ways to deal with problem clientsAn interesting article at FreelanceFolder by Laura Spencer got me thinking about how to avoid getting stuck with what Spencer calls a “vampire client”. Spencer’s advice was sound, but how do you avoid getting to the stage where you need to take her advice at all?

What the article defines as a vampire client is someone who keeps demanding revisions and is seemingly unable to be pleased–and all that after demanding a reduction in your usual fee. Sounds unreasonable to us!

The first thing you can do to protect yourself from an unreasonable client is to build in some parameters into your work agreement. What’s that? You don’t have a work agreement with your clients? Change that immediately.

In your agreement, build in a standard fee (which you can change to offer discounts for your valuable clients). Don’t accept less than your standard fee without a good reason, but when you do, be sure you add some additional consideration for yourself into the deal. That consideration could come as a more forgiving (and convenient for you) deadline or other concessions.

Most importantly, restrict the number of revisions you will do as part of the project. Don’t commit yourself to unlimited revisions or you risk the vampire client scenario Laura Spencer warns about. You can sweeten the deal by adding a fee for all revisions beyond the agreed-upon number, and you should make that fee go up for every extra revision.

Finally, if you suspect a client will become a nightmare, give yourself some added protection and incentive up front by requiring a down payment. That way you can warn a client when their additional for-a-fee revisions are approaching unreasonable. “Are you sure you want another revision? You’ve already paid for X amount of them and the bill is getting pretty high.”

Freelance clients can be managed most effectively by building in these kinds of protections into the front end of your agreement with them. If you don’t have terms in writing, you are always vulnerable to the vampire client.

–Joe Wallace

3 thoughts on “How to Deal With Unreasonable Freelance Clients”

  1. This is so true. I’ve tweaked my contract over the years so that it’s more specific and helps me avoid these common problems. I also ask a lot of questions about a project from the start, because some prospective clients can be very vague about what they need. You know what’s funny? I find this either turns clients off or it’s seen as a positive. Luckily, the clients that run away at the first sign of questioning are usually the ones I probably wouldn’t want to work with anyway. The others are happy to find someone who will get things right from the beginning!

  2. And include time parameters such as “completion time for this project is X weeks. Should the project exceed this timeframe, additional fees will be incurred…” Or something similar. I have been BURNED by projects that seem to go on in perpetuity. Time is what we as freelancers offer and once its gone, you can’t bill for it.

  3. That’s some good advice, Andrea–too true. If you don’t build in the safety nets into your agreement, you risk a project turning into a real nightmare. There really is no such thing as the old-fashioned “gentleman’s agreement” in this business. Sooner or later you live to regret it.

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