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The dos and don’ts on disagreeing with your clients

Gert BangelsGert Bangels

It happens to all freelance profiles, you land a gig and get all hyped up on an amazing project only to find out there is work to be done on things you just can’t agree on. This blog post will provide some tips on how to tackle, when to challenge or when to admit defeat on certain uncomfortable situations.

Naysaying

1. Naysaying

You’re quite sure that your solution is preferable over the suggestion of your client. By all means, they have chosen to work with you as you are the freelance expert in your field. Instead of blatantly disagreeing or saying no, here are some tips on how to sound less harsh on their input.

Dos  

Find out their motivation

First of all, you should try to get the motivation behind the client’s request you are disagreeing on. It can shed a light on what your client is willing to accomplish. You can use this knowledge to your advantage or it may change your view on the matter completely.

Provide reasoning

Whenever you are determined to deny a client’s request, always provide them with a detailed description of the ‘why’ part behind your denial. It gives them insights on your thought process, enforcing the reason why they hired a freelance expert like you.

Provide evidence - disagreeing with clients

Provide evidence

If the topic of discussion is widely documented on legitimate sources, consider attaching them to your reasoning. This approach will back you up and can be a good way to point your client in the right direction.

Indicate what can go wrong

A request might not seem like a drastic measure at first. If you feel that it can influence further work and hurt you or the client in the long term though, consider listing the short and long term effects. Alternatively do an exercise that lists pros and cons where both parties get a say. These approaches show the client that you are thinking along with them and aiming for success.

Don’ts

Make it personal

Even if you’re more knowledgeable in your field, belittling your client never works. “How stupid, why would you do that?” or “No! That’s just wrong!” just makes you seem like a jerk. Instead, thank them for the effort or say you understand their reasoning but explain that an alternative approach is more suitable.

Be too kindBe too kind

Although a gentle approach on saying no is preferable over a harsh one, being overly kind is also a no-go. Sugarcoating the situation may give your client the belief that it’s not a big deal and they will flat-out ignore your feedback. This behavior will put you in the position of executioner rather than a partner in crime thus lowering your success rate in further endeavors.

Get emotional

As a freelancer you should always approach your client on a professional level. Getting emotional over a certain hiccup in that relationship is fine as it indicates you are passionate about the subject. However, showing this to your client is not the right way to go. Consider the “May I get back to you on this matter later?” approach whenever you feel that you are overly driven by emotion.

Ignore the problem

It’s easy to just ignore the conflict state you may be in. Our advice, however, is to be clear and transparent about the situation by indicating why you are disagreeing. Ignoring the problem will only make things much harder for your freelance business as it negatively affects your relationship with your client.

 

Disagreeing - truce

2. Calling a truce

Although you may believe that your solution is preferable over the client’s, most often making an agreement on the matter is a suitable approach. Our life consists of making compromises, here are some tips on how to make it work for both parties involved.

Dos   

Give in to the small conflicts to win a bigger one

When there are multiple conflicts, there is always one you are most reluctant on executing. While other issues may be just minor nuisances, it may be a great time to drop those in favor of a bigger win.

To the drawing board

When you seem to be disagreeing, organize a brainstorm session. Both parties actively search for an alternative approach which leaves no bitter taste in the end. Everybody happy!  

Offer additional services

Sometimes, not being able to give in to our client’s needs is solely a contractual issue. Instead of just saying “No, it’s not in the contract”, you can take a more customer-friendly approach and work towards an offer that’s suitable for both parties. If it’s out of your league, you can also forward them to other freelancers or businesses that can handle the situation.

Don’ts   

Keep up with shenanigans

If you get the feeling that an initial truce is going south, don’t just suck it up because it’s a nice job or pays well. Find the balance between an awesome outcome and being taken advantage of, and dare to speak up or take action if necessary.

Contract-bending agreements

Whenever your client wants to break contractual matters in order to come to a truce, you should never give in to the prior agreement. Unless it means more work. Then you should charge more and create an additional contract 😉

 

Disagreeing - defeat

3. Admitting defeat

We get it, your client is the worst and wants everything done their way. They wave off your suggestions and it’s impossible to change their mind. If you reached this state and already tried all of the above techniques, we suggest using the following tips.

Dos   

Stay professional

It’s your client who provides your paycheck at the end of the month. You may no longer like the project, or even the client, but don’t let it get to you on an emotional level. If you stay professional in both communication and deliverables, the client or project may still be a great reference despite things not ending up your way. 

A rule of thumb: always keep in mind that not every single ‘why’ of the project can be answered. Some details might not be able to be disclosed to you as an external party, but are still very important.

Don’ts   

Breach of contract

Breach of contract

You should always be able to finish what’s stated in your contract, even if it means having no say in anything project-related. However, if you’re already disagreeing before there even is a contract, it can indicate a red flag. Tread lightly as this client is most likely not the right one for you.  

 

Looking for a new project or advice on your freelance business? Don’t hesitate to contact IT MATCH!

Gert is a UX/UI Designer and Front-end Developer for the ACA Creative Team. He has a strong interest and opinion on UX. Being the teams technical lead, he likes to explore new technologies in the fast-paced front-end environment.

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