If you’ve been working in the gig economy for a while, you’ve probably met the problematic client who pretends to know it all. The sort that’s confidently wrong in most assertions and ignores your professional opinion on critical matters.
These clients want things to be done a certain way and expect stellar results that you know are improbable based on your experience. Here are a few tips for dealing with such a client if you have the misfortune of landing one.
1. Document Everything in an Email Chain
Aggressive clients have a way of dismissing concerns about uncertain outcomes. No argument can convince them to change course when they demand things to be done a certain way. In such cases, get everything documented in an email copied to all stakeholders.
When things go south, you will have ready proof that your professional advice was dismissed out of hand and the course of action taken to complete the project didn’t have your stamp of approval.
Alternatively, you can learn how to use project management software to keep everything in one place and use the communications tools within to get faster responses in addition to documenting everything.
2. Describe Your Recommendations With Expected Results
Share your recommendations, strategies, and other inputs via detailed presentations that underline what you hope to achieve with each step. Share these documents with all stakeholders before commencing work on any project.
Besides demonstrating your professional expertise and attention to detail, this method will ensure that your client will need to emulate the same format when putting forth their ideas and suggestions. This makes it easy for you to understand their level of expertise, underline errors in their strategy, show how doing x will not result in y, and push back on useless ideas with ease.
3. Use Data to Back Up Your Claims
There’s nothing like disproving a theory or assumption with the help of data. Experiences can be dismissed as anecdotal, but there’s no denying the efficacy of hardcore data. Use tools like Microsoft Excel or Numbers on a Mac to create interactive graphs and charts to get your point across.
E.g., If you’re trying to convince a client to use local celebs for brand endorsements instead of traditional newspaper advertisements, create a spreadsheet of local influencers and the brands that effectively used their celebrity. This would convey the point more effectively than just mentioning it verbally.
4. Put Clients on the Spot to Clarify Expectations
If your client insists on other ways of executing the project, request them to email their recommendations along with the kind of results they’re expecting. Ask pointed questions and hash out each and every relevant detail. If they fail to provide all the information you need to proceed, ask them to fill in the gaps, rather than coming up with patchy solutions by yourselves.
This will deter them from making too many suggestions, as detailed plans require extensive work, which is usually not their working style. It will also prevent unnecessary edit requests later when you start submitting the work.
5. Make Your Objections Politely
When an arrogant client rejects your recommendations and suggests an unfeasible course of action, push back with politeness. It’s tempting to be passive-aggressive when you can point out your client’s mistakes, but that aggravates the issue. De-escalating is the best way to avoid unnecessary drama and dial down your client’s hostile attitude.
If you can convince them with kindness, they’ll be more receptive to your suggestions. Remember, you’re dealing with someone who’s confidently clueless. Pointing out their cluelessness will only make them double down on their folly, leading to unnecessary work and corrections for you as the service provider.
6. Explain Steps in Terms of Value Propositions
If your explanations keep falling on deaf ears and the client tends to ignore data, try marketing speak to get your point across. Explain each step or process in your plan in terms of its value proposition to the overall project. Break down what each step will achieve and why it’s essential to nail these goals to proceed to the next step in the project.
Having a sales pitch for each and every step of the process would require a lot of work. But you can come up with one or two sales pitches for a few crucial buy-ins you need for successful project completion. Ditching technical jargon for marketing and sales language might help the client better understand the overall strategy and the why and how of what you’re saying.
7. Renegotiate Your Prices
Some clients habitually micromanage the project after they agree to your initial ideas. The constant change requests can derail the entire project and create additional work for you that’s not accounted for in the final payment.
In such cases, do not hesitate to gently remind them of the billable work hours and extra charges that might accrue due to the edit requests before you agree to the edits and not after the fact. Renegotiating prices is one way of deterring them from making irregular demands. Use apps like Harvest for tracking time, reporting, and billing of projects.
8. Have Clients Sign Off on Change Requests Officially
As a last resort, if the client refuses to budge from their chosen course of action, do not just go with their suggestions without securing all your bases. Clients who think they are the subject-matter experts will blame you when the results are less than stellar. It’s essential to have such clients sign off on any suggestions and change requests via proper documentation.
Agreeing to verbal directions is a mistake you should avoid at all costs. Include notes in your contract with the alternative course you would have followed to complete the project. You can loop back to these suggestions when things start going south. You may use contract management software to keep everything organized and updated.
Make the Most of a Tricky Situation
A confidently wrong client knows very little about the details of a project, but projects an air of authority by using all the right buzzwords. If you could, you would fire this client for being desperately incompetent. Unfortunately, that’s not always an option, and you need to learn to deal with such demanding clients professionally.