6 Types Of Stressful Clients and How You Can Handle Them


From time to time, we all deal with clients who are a tad challenging to work with. The thing with those kinds of clients is, if you know how to handle them, your relationship with them will be seamless. In fact, you'll find tips on how to deal with them in this blogpost.

We're not talking about those kinds of clients today though. We're talking about actual nightmare clients. The ones who cause your blood pressure rise when you have dealings with them. 

You can't make those kinds of clients go away completely, unfortunately, but you can learn to identify who is likely to turn out to be a nightmare client even before you sign them on. Whether you decide to work with them or not, will then be a choice you can make.

In this post, we’ll explore 6 common client scenarios faced by freelancers and how to deal with them

Scenario 1: The client who has no respect for boundaries

I think this is the most common freelancer scenario. Clients who call outside business hours, clients who keep trying to expand your scope of work but don't want to pay for the additional work. The ones who spring things on you last minute.

Every now and then, you might find it necessary to accommodate additional requests from your longtime clients, especially the ones who are your main sources of income. You'll even find that these clients reward your extra effort with their loyalty as well as referrals. This is perfectly acceptable and I’m not referring to those.

The weird thing is, the cheap clients who don’t want to pay what you’re worth that are the most likely to keep asking for more and more.

The best safeguard is to have a contract or terms of service in place for every client. It must be signed and agreed to before you start work. It doesn’t have to be complicated. But it should clearly spell out what the client should expect from you and vice versa. If your a client wants more than they’ve paid for, politely tell them it’s not covered in their contract, but you’d be happy to handle it for x amount. If you accommodate them once, they’ll keep asking for more so best not to even start.

Scenario 2: The client who doesn’t want to sign a contract

I once had a job where my employer kept finding excuses for not giving me an employment offer letter for over three months. You see, it was my first gig out of school, and I was so excited to have found a job, I overlooked this minor detail.

As can be expected, I never got paid on time or in full. All we had was a verbal agreement and it was never honoured by my employer.

I think the moral of my story is that anyone who refuses to sign a contract or agreement doesn’t plan on being forthright, and it is never a good idea to work with that type of person. These types are best avoided.

 Scenario 3: The client who can’t clearly articulate what they want

You know the ones who aren’t exactly sure of what they want - whether it is a logo or website - , but say they’ll know it when they see it? That my friend, is a recipe for time wasting and frustration, because you'll keep going back and forth with no end in sight. They might even tell you to do what you think is best, but each time you submit something, they have a million and one reasons why they don't like it?

I don’t expect a client to know all the ins an out of what you do if that’s not their area of expertise, but they can at least show you samples of what they want. Depending on what is standard practice in your industry, you might find it helpful to have them show you samples of what they like, then tell you what features in particular appeal to them. You could also have a few leading questions on a questionnaire for them to fill, so you get a sense of what they want.

Scenario 4: The client who has no respect for your expertise

A graphic designer friend of mine once had an angry client tell him ‘’your job doesn’t even require any intelligence!’’

You’ve probably had similar sentiments expressed to you, along the lines of: ''It shouldn’t take long to do, just a few clicks of your mouse''. Or ''why does your service cost so much? I could get it elsewhere for way cheaper''. My personal favorite is ''I can even do it myself, i just don't have the time''

Not only is this disrespectful, it is almost always a clear sign of a problem client, and trying to convince them of your worth is almost always a waste of time. 

I've found that it is best to ignore their disrespectful jabs, stick to your price/timelines, state your terms of service clearly and ensure you do a solid, professional job. 

 Scenario 5: The client who give you tests to complete

These types of clients are the reason why you should always have your portfolio and feedback from satisfied clients, ready to go. If anyone wants to see what you can do show them what you've done in the past. If you must complete a test, then it should be something simple, not too elaborate. Anyone who wants more is looking for free labor 9.9 out of 10 time, and free work does not put food on the table. 

Scenario 6: The complainers and nitpickers.

You can almost always tell who will be a wahala client from your initial interactions with them. From the kind of questions they ask and the expectations they have, you’ll be able to tell who is likely to message you at 11pm to complain about one insignificant detail.

Should you choose to engage, your sanity and well-being will suffer with these kinds of clients if you don't make your terms of service crystal clear and adhere strictly to them. For instance, you could state that only three revisions will be entertained, and any additional revisions come at a cost. 


The freelance life can be tough but knowing how to identify and handle challenging clients is really half the battle!