6 Negotiation Skills to Deal with Difficult Clients


Throughout your freelancing career, it’s likely that the majority of clients will be fair and easy to work with. Most will respond promptly and helpfully, respect their side of the contract, and let you focus on applying your skills. However, that isn’t always the case, and it can be hard for freelancers to learn how to deal with difficult clients.

Tough clients aren’t always easy to spot, and they can cause a variety of issues. Some clients slow with payments or communication, while others ask for more services than were originally agreed upon. Online sales training can help you identify and work with these clients. Regardless of the type of client you’re dealing with, there are some effective strategies that will help you manage difficult situations.

Stay Specific

One common issue freelancers face with difficult clients is that they give vague complaints about your work, claiming that you haven’t completed your tasks satisfactorily. They will often use this claim to justify giving you additional work beyond what you agreed to do.

Ask for Examples

Asking for specific examples will ensure that a difficult client justifies his or her claims while also helping you avoid similar issues in the future. While some clients will have good-faith criticism of your work that’s worth fixing, you shouldn’t let a stubborn client manipulate you into doing extra work for free.

Document Everything

Some clients will have no problem using deception to get their way, and it can be difficult to respond if you don’t have a record of previous conversations and transactions. By maintaining documentation at every stage of the contract, you give yourself a reference point in case of any disputes.

Create a Statement of Work

A statement of work document is critical for any freelancing contract, as it allows both sides to have a clearly defined understanding of the parameters of the agreement. You can include a clause indicating a rate for any additional work, building this contingency into the contract rather than renegotiating later on.

See the Other Side of the Story

Your clients aren’t only important for the work they give you; they can also refer their colleagues and friends, further expanding your freelancing business. This is one reason why customer service has such a strong impact on sales. It’s, therefore, crucial to maintain a calm, professional dialogue with every client.

One of the easiest ways to do so through a contract dispute is by making a real effort to understand their perspective. Even if you don’t agree, being receptive to their points rather than getting defensive will help both sides reach a fair solution. Your top priority should be keeping the tone calm and respectful.

Address Your Concerns as Early as Possible

When you notice that something isn’t going quite right with a contract, the worst thing you can do is ignore it and hope it will go away. If a client starts getting later and later on payments, for example, you shouldn’t expect them to reverse that trend on their own.

Instead, let them know when these issues first arise and what each of you can do to address them. This establishes a dynamic of open communication and prevents minor problems from becoming more serious. Of course, this means that they should feel equally open to telling you their worries.

Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away

We understand that ending a contract prematurely is never ideal, and it should only be a last resort when you’ve exhausted every other option. That said, there comes a point at which a difficult client is simply a drain on you and your business. Being willing to walk away at the right time will save you a lot of stress.


If you haven’t worked with a difficult client yet as a freelancer, count yourself lucky, as you’ll invariably come into contact with one. Difficult clients often take up a disproportionate amount of your time and energy, eating into time for your other contracts and your profit levels. Utilizing these skills, along with taking a sales negotiation class or negotiation workshop, will help you successfully deal with difficult clients.

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