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Client Management

Managing Difficult Clients: A Guide for Freelancers in Nigeria

Last Updated on July 28, 2023


Managing Difficult Clients: A Guide for Freelancers in Nigeria

Brief Definition of a Difficult Client

Dealing with difficult clients is a challenge that most freelancers experience. A difficult client is anyone who makes the freelancer’s work hectic, challenging, or frustrating.

Managing difficult clients is crucial because it helps you to maintain a healthy relationship with them.

Importance of Managing Difficult Clients

It is essential to learn how to manage difficult clients because it can hurt your reputation if you can’t deliver quality work.

Additionally, dealing with difficult clients can be time-consuming and emotionally draining.

Therefore, as a freelancer in Nigeria, it is necessary to have strategies and techniques to manage such clients.

Preview of the Guide

In this guide, we will provide you with practical tips to manage difficult clients successfully. You will learn about the different types of difficult clients, how to identify them, and specific communication strategies to use with them.

Furthermore, you will discover how to set boundaries, manage expectations, and handle situations where you need to terminate the working relationship.

In summary, we understand the struggle of dealing with difficult clients as a freelancer. It is not a pleasant experience, but it can be managed. By applying the practical tips and strategies outlined in this guide, you can effectively manage difficult clients, avoiding burnout and protecting your reputation.

Understanding Difficult Clients

As a freelancer, one of the challenges you may face is managing difficult clients. It can be tricky, especially when you depend on their income to survive. In this guide, we will discuss how to handle difficult clients in Nigeria.

Before diving into how to manage difficult clients, it’s essential to understand what makes a client difficult. Essentially, a difficult client is someone whose behavior causes problems for you.

Different Types of Difficult Clients

Here are some examples of different types of difficult clients:

  • The Nitpicker – This client wants everything to be perfect and may nitpick your work to death.

  • The Late payer – This client takes forever to pay, causing cash flow issues for your business.

  • The Never satisfied – No matter what you do, this client is always unhappy with your work.

  • The Rude – This client is downright disrespectful and makes your work more difficult than it needs to be.

There may be other types of difficult clients, but these are the most common.

Common Reasons for Difficult Behavior

So, what causes difficult behavior from clients?

Here are some common reasons:

  • The client is stressed – Maybe the project is high stakes, or they have other personal or professional issues going on.

  • The client has unrealistic expectations – Perhaps they expect you to do more than what was agreed upon or within an unreasonable timeline.

  • The client doesn’t understand the creative process – Oftentimes, clients don’t understand the hard work that goes into creative work.

  • The client has communication issues – Maybe the client doesn’t know how to give feedback effectively or communicate their needs.

Now that you understand the different types of difficult clients and their common reasons, it’s essential to assess your client’s behavior.

Assessing the Client’s Behavior

When assessing a client’s behavior, consider the following:

  • How well does the client communicate?

  • Does the client respect deadlines?

  • Does the client respect your work and professional boundaries?

  • Does the client give clear and concise feedback?

If the client fails to meet these criteria, then they may be a difficult client.

In essence, managing difficult clients is a common challenge for freelancers, but it’s not impossible.

By understanding what makes a client difficult and assessing their behavior, you can better manage their demands and expectations.

In the next section, we’ll discuss strategies for managing difficult clients.

Read: Effective Client Management Techniques for Nigerian Freelancers

Strategies for Managing Difficult Clients

Difficult clients can be a challenge to handle. As a freelancer, it’s essential to understand how to manage challenging clients to ensure a successful work relationship.

Here are some strategies for managing difficult clients:

Effective Communication

  • Good communication is essential for successful client management.

  • Always make sure you communicate with the client in clear terms.

  • Be frank about your capabilities and limitations.

  • Maintain an open line of communication throughout the project, and inform them of any changes or issues as they arise.

  • Promptly respond to all inquiries, and keep your client well-informed about the project’s progress.

A lack of communication often leads to misunderstandings, which can lead to a breakdown in the working relationship.

Setting Clear Boundaries and Expectations

Setting clear boundaries and expectations early on can help prevent problems down the line. If the client’s needs and expectations go beyond the initial project scope, you must discuss and renegotiate the terms.

Always have a contract or agreement in place that outlines the terms of the project, making sure all parties agree to it before starting.

Be clear about deadlines, turnaround times, and deliverables. This ensures that both parties are on the same page from the outset.

Active Listening and Empathy

Active listening and empathy are vital in managing difficult clients. Listen to their concerns and understand them from their point of view. Take time to learn how they operate and what their goals are. Express empathy by acknowledging their feelings and concerns.

Address their concerns head-on and demonstrate your understanding of them. By doing so, you build a rapport with the client, which can help alleviate potential confrontation.

Offering Solutions and Compromises

When faced with difficult situations, always have a solution or compromise ready. Instead of dwelling on the problem, offer solutions that work for both parties.

Present options that can be executed, highlighting the benefits of each. Be transparent about potential consequences and possible risks. Always be open to compromise, but make sure both parties leave the negotiation satisfied with the outcome.

Staying Calm and Professional

When dealing with difficult clients, it’s essential to remain calm, collected, and professional. Engage with the client in a respectful and positive way, even if they are antagonistic or unfair.

Keep your tone friendly and neutral, avoiding any contentions or arguments. Keep a level-head, and do not allow their negativity or criticism to affect you. Your professionalism can distinguish you and generate positive reviews and referrals.

Knowing When to Walk Away

As a freelancer, you must know when to walk away. Sometimes there’s no reconciling an issue, and a working relationship becomes untenable. Working with a difficult client can become time-consuming, leaving you frustrated or feeling undervalued. If the client continually breaches the contract, demands unreasonable requests or becomes abusive, then it is acceptable to terminate the relationship professionally.

Make sure that you provide prior notice and a clear explanation of your decision to back out.

All in all, effectively managing difficult clients as a freelancer requires communication, boundaries, empathy, solutions, professionalism, and a willingness to walk away when necessary. These tips can make your works processes more comfortable, especially with challenging clients, making them a valuable asset for your business growth.

Read: Understanding and Implementing Value-Based Pricing in Nigeria

Managing Difficult Clients: A Guide for Freelancers in Nigeria

Preventing Difficult Clients

As a freelancer in Nigeria, you can take certain steps to prevent difficult clients from coming your way.

Prevention is always better than cure, and in this section, we’ll discuss some measures you can put in place to avoid problem clients.

Screening Clients Before Accepting a Project

  • Don’t accept projects without proper evaluation of the client.

  • Ask questions that will give you an idea of what the project entails.

  • Find out if the client has a history of being difficult or unreasonable.

  • If you feel uneasy about the client, trust your gut and decline the project.

Establishing Clear Terms and Conditions

  • Define the scope of the project in clear terms.

  • Agree on the timeline and milestones for the project.

  • State your payment terms and the consequences for late payment or non-payment.

  • Include clauses that protect you from unreasonable demands or behavior from the client.

Asking for References or a Portfolio

  • Ask for references or a portfolio from prospective clients.

  • Check the references provided to confirm the client’s reputation.

  • Review the client’s portfolio and see if their work aligns with your standards.

  • If the client has a proven track record, it’s more likely that they’ll be reasonable to work with.

Setting Reasonable Expectations Before the Project Starts

  • Be clear about what you can deliver and what you can’t.

  • Discuss the project objectives with the client and agree on what success looks like.

  • Make sure the client understands the limitations of your skills and resources.

  • Help the client set realistic expectations for the project.

By taking these steps, you’ll be able to identify and avoid problematic clients before they become a headache.

It’s important to remember that as a freelancer, you have the power to choose who you work with. Don’t be afraid to decline a project if you feel uncomfortable about the client.

Read: Retainer Agreements: A Guide for Freelancers in Nigeria

Case Studies

Dealing with difficult clients can be a challenging task for freelancers. Below are some real-life examples of difficult clients and how to handle them to avoid similar situations in the future:

The Demanding Client

  • The client wanted constant updates and changes to the project.

  • Solution: Establish clear boundaries and timelines at the beginning of the project. Set realistic expectations and communicate progress regularly.

The Late Payer

  • The client was consistently late in paying for services rendered.

  • Solution: Discuss payment terms and expectations at the beginning of the project. Consider using payment platforms that offer escrow services to ensure timely payment.

The Micro-Manager

  • The client wanted to control every aspect of the project, making collaboration difficult.

  • Solution: Clearly define roles and responsibilities at the beginning of the project. Establish lines of communication and encourage open dialogue to build trust and create a collaborative environment.

The Ghost Client

  • The client disappeared without notice, leaving the freelancer in limbo.

  • Solution: Inquire about the client’s availability and communication preferences before starting the project. If the client disappears, send follow-up messages and consider reaching out via phone or email.

By analyzing these case studies, freelancers can learn how to handle difficult clients successfully.

Establish clear boundaries and timelines upfront, discuss payment terms and expectations, define roles and responsibilities, and communicate regularly to build trust and create a collaborative environment. Being prepared for different scenarios can help prevent difficult situations from becoming dealbreakers and can lead to happy, long-term client relationships.

Read: Escaping the Low-Payment Trap as a Nigerian Freelancer


In this guide, we have explored various strategies for managing difficult clients as a freelancer in Nigeria.

We started by acknowledging the challenges that come with working with difficult clients and understanding the reasons behind their behavior. We then looked at practical tips for managing difficult clients, such as setting clear expectations, effective communication, and problem-solving.

It’s essential to note that managing difficult clients is a skill that can be learned and improved on.

By employing these strategies outlined in this guide, freelancers can enhance their ability to manage difficult clients, and in doing so, reduce stress and increase the chances of project success.

Finally, we encourage freelancers to apply the strategies mentioned in this guide and to approach client management as an essential part of their freelance career.

It can lead to more positive working relationships, increased client loyalty, and better business outcomes. Effective client management is essential for the growth and success of any freelance business.

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