As a freelancer or creative business owner, you've likely experienced clients who micro-manage every detail of your projects. You want to give them the satisfaction they need without becoming their puppet! We understand that managing controlling and micro-managing clients can be incredibly difficult — it requires some savvy negotiation skills, clear communication, assertive boundaries, and emotional intelligence. In this blog post we'll explore how you can create effective strategies for handling these types of challenging client relationships in order to balance quality control with respect for your time and creativity.
Set clear boundaries from the jump
It's important to set clear boundaries and establish expectations with your clients from the start by way of written agreement & verbal communication during discovery sessions. For example, if you prefer to receive phone calls during specific work hours, create a set of contactable hours and communicate this. Have this information readily available in your e-mail footers and websites.
This way, you're not only letting the client know what to expect from hiring you, but also what you will need from them in order to have things run smoothly and efficiently - helping to prevent misunderstandings and frustration on both sides.
Try not to react out of emotion
It can be tempting and all too easy to lose your cool when dealing with a difficult client, but it's important to maintain as much control of your reactions as you possibly can. Remove yourself from the interaction if you feel you're far too peed off to communicate with them in that moment.
If you need some time to cool down, take a break - go and do something that relaxes you, eat something nice and come back when you're feeling more level-headed. Sleep on it if you need to. What can also be helpful is to note down the things you want to say (making sure to stick to the facts, not feelings) and leave it to sit for a day. Have a read the following day once you've simmered a bit to double-check tone and delivery.
I understand the urge to rage (guilty) but it's almost always made things much worse.
Be assertive, firm & fair
If a client is starting to cross the line, it's important to be assertive in setting them straight. Remind them of the agreed-upon terms and boundaries as set out at the start of the project and reiterate that you're happy to answer any questions they have within those parameters.
It's also helpful to offer alternatives, for example - if they insist on daily updates and you know your schedule won't allow this - suggest intensive weekly catch-ups instead. Put forth ideas that will provide similar impact that won't impinge on your boundaries as much.