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Freelancing Basics

Freelancing in Nigeria: Dealing with Difficult Clients

Last Updated on July 2, 2023


Freelancing is the act of working independently, providing services to clients without being an employee. Freelancers are majorly self-employed professionals who render services to both local and international clients.

In Nigeria, freelancing has become a popular profession, especially among young people, due to limited job opportunities. The country has a vast pool of talented individuals who are willing to provide their services in various fields.

However, one of the major challenges freelancers face in Nigeria is dealing with difficult clients. These clients may be demanding, abusive or not willing to pay for services rendered.

Freelancers must know how to handle difficult clients to avoid tarnishing their reputation, losing clients and damage to their morale. It is necessary to set clear boundaries, communicate effectively, and maintain professionalism when dealing with difficult clients.

In short, the freelancing industry has become an increasingly popular way of earning income for Nigerians. Despite the challenges of dealing with difficult clients, it is crucial to maintain professionalism and handle issues amicably to sustain a successful career as a freelancer.

Read: Freelancing in Nigeria: Understanding & Setting Client Expectations

Dealing with difficult clients

When it comes to freelancing, dealing with difficult clients is one of the biggest challenges that freelancers face. Difficult clients can cause frustration, stress, and even damage to a freelancer’s reputation.

In this section, we will discuss the definition of difficult clients, reasons why clients can be difficult, and the impact of difficult clients on freelancers.

Definition of Difficult Clients

  • Difficult clients are those who are hard to please, unreasonable, or demanding.

  • They may have unrealistic expectations, be unresponsive, or not communicate clearly.

  • Difficult clients may also be rude, disrespectful, or abusive to freelancers.

Reasons Why Clients Can Be Difficult

  • Some clients may not understand the freelancing process and what it entails.

  • Others may have had bad experiences with freelancers in the past and be distrustful.

  • Difficult clients may also be under stress or pressure from their own clients or deadlines.

  • Additionally, some clients may be relying on the freelancer for a critical project, leading to high expectations and less patience.

Impact of Difficult Clients on Freelancers

  • Dealing with difficult clients can lead to stress and burnout for freelancers.

  • It can also affect the quality of work produced due to distraction or lack of focus.

  • Difficult clients can cause delays and disrupt the freelancer’s schedule, leading to missed deadlines and lost income.

  • In extreme cases, difficult clients may leave negative reviews or spread word-of-mouth negativity, damaging the freelancer’s reputation.

Tips for Dealing with Difficult Clients

  • Set clear expectations from the start, defining the scope of work, timeline, and expectations.

  • Communicate frequently and openly with clients, ensuring that they know what is happening at each stage of the project.

  • Be patient and professional, even in challenging situations, and always maintain a positive attitude.

  • When facing unreasonable requests, try to find a solution that works for both parties.

  • Consider setting boundaries, including the number of revisions and hours included in a project, to avoid scope creep and unrealistic expectations.

In essence, dealing with difficult clients is a reality in the freelancing world. However, by understanding the reasons behind difficult behavior, and implementing strategies to manage challenging situations, freelancers can minimize the impact on their business and continue to thrive in the industry.

Remember, communication is key, and a positive attitude can go a long way in resolving issues and building lasting relationships with clients.

Read: Lessons from Successful Nigerian Freelancers: A Study

Tips for Managing Difficult Clients

As a freelancer in Nigeria, dealing with difficult clients is inevitable. However, it is important to know how to manage them effectively to ensure a successful business relationship. Here are some tips:

Effective communication

Clear and consistent communication is important in managing difficult clients. Make sure you listen to their concerns and provide timely feedback. Always keep them updated on progress and any changes in the project scope.

Setting clear boundaries and expectations

It is important to set clear boundaries and expectations from the beginning of the project. This will help avoid any confusion or misunderstandings that may arise later on. Make sure you clarify the scope of work, timelines, payment terms, and any other important details.

Establishing a contract

Having a contract in place can help protect you and your business from any legal issues that may arise. Make sure you outline all the important terms and conditions, including payment details, deliverables, and timelines.

Providing excellent service

Providing excellent service is crucial in managing difficult clients. Make sure you deliver high-quality work and exceed their expectations. Always go the extra mile to ensure their satisfaction.

Avoiding taking things personally

Dealing with difficult clients can be frustrating and stressful. However, it is important to avoid taking their behavior personally. Try to stay professional and focus on finding a solution that works for both parties.

Being proactive in resolving issues

When an issue arises with a difficult client, it is important to address it immediately. Be proactive in finding a solution and communicate effectively with the client. Remember to stay calm and avoid getting defensive.

By following these tips, you can effectively manage difficult clients in Nigeria and ensure a successful relationship. Remember to always stay professional, communicate effectively, and provide excellent service.

Read: Surviving Freelance Work Droughts in Nigeria: A Guide

Freelancing in Nigeria: Dealing with Difficult Clients

Case Studies

Finding and working with clients can be challenging for freelancers in Nigeria, especially when dealing with difficult clients. Let us examine some real-life examples of these challenges and how they were handled, as well as the lessons learned and tips for preventing similar situations in the future.

Case Study 1: The Demanding Client

A freelance graphic designer was approached by a client who wanted a logo design. The client was very demanding and kept requesting multiple revisions, even when the designer had completed the project according to the brief. The client also refused to pay extra for the additional work.

  • Result: The designer decided to stop working with the client and refused to make any more revisions. The client eventually paid for the initial design but went to another designer for the revisions.

  • Lesson learned: Set clear boundaries and educate clients on the revision process before starting the project. Also, document all discussions and terms of agreement in writing.

  • Tips for preventing similar situations: Create a contract that outlines the scope of the project, revision policy, and payment terms. Be upfront with clients about additional costs for more revisions outside the scope of work.

Case Study 2: The Late Payer

A freelance content writer was hired to write blog articles for a client. The writer completed the work but the client did not pay on time, claiming financial difficulties.

  • Result: The writer sent reminders and followed up with the client on the payments. The client eventually paid but delayed the writer’s next project by a month.

  • Lesson learned: Always discuss payment terms and deadlines before starting the project. Also, have a system in place for following up on late payments.

  • Tips for preventing similar situations: Set up an invoicing and payment system that specifies payment terms and deadlines. Include penalties for late payments in the contract to deter clients from delaying payments.

Case Study 3: The Micromanager

A freelance web developer was approached by a client who wanted a website built. The client was a micromanager and wanted to control every aspect of the project, including design and development decisions.

  • Result: The developer tried to work with the client but found it difficult to implement their ideas. The developer eventually had to take a more assertive approach and emphasize their expertise in web development.

  • Lesson learned: Communicate the value of your expertise and experience to clients. While it is important to listen to their ideas, remind them that you were hired for your knowledge and skills in the field.

  • Tips for preventing similar situations: Set expectations upfront with clients on the scope of the project and how your expertise will be utilized. Establish a clear process for decision-making and client input on the project.

Working with difficult clients is a common challenge for freelancers. These case studies highlight the importance of setting clear boundaries, educating clients on project terms, and communicating effectively.

By learning from these experiences and implementing preventive measures, freelancers in Nigeria can build better relationships with clients and achieve success in their careers.

Read: How to Scale Your Freelance Business in Nigeria


Generally, dealing with difficult clients is not an easy task in any industry, including freelancing in Nigeria. However, there are a few tips that can help you navigate such situations successfully.

  • First, always remain professional and respectful even when the client is being difficult.

  • Second, communicate clearly and promptly to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.

  • Third, always have a contract in place with clear terms and conditions.

  • Fourth, know when to walk away from a toxic client or project.

Managing difficult clients effectively is crucial because it can make or break your reputation and success as a freelancer in Nigeria. One dissatisfied client can tarnish your brand and hurt your chances of getting more work or referrals in the future.

Finally, to all freelancers, don’t give up on your passion for freelancing despite the challenges you may encounter. Remember always to value your time and expertise, believe in your capabilities, and stay focused on your goals.

With the right attitude, skills, and mindset, you can succeed in the freelancing industry in Nigeria and beyond.

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