3 Things You Do That Drive Your Clients Nuts

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You might be driving your clients nuts and not even know it!

It’s a popular opinion in the freelance industry that clients are always at fault. Sites like Clients From Hell popularize this idea, and many “gurus” run around and advise others to fire clients at the slightest hint of trouble.

I’m not saying that everyone you work with will be amazing and that there aren’t any jerks out there. But can you really afford to place the blame on everyone who hires you and give them the boot?

Not if you want a good reputation and to actually make money.

Look, I’m all for firing clients when necessary. But I’m also all about taking responsibility for things I’m doing wrong that make projects less enjoyable for everyone.

You should be, too.

Here are the things you do that drive your clients nuts (so you can stop doing them!).

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Taking on projects you’re a bad fit for

You know you’ve done it. We all have.

Sometimes we take on projects we don’t want to do or that are over our heads because we need the money or we just don’t have anything else lined up.

Or maybe because we’re bad at saying “No.” The point is, we’ve all done it, but we shouldn’t.

When you work on a project you’re not excited about, you resent it and your client. And they can tell.

You also don’t produce your best work. Every time you work on the project, it feels like a chore and a struggle to complete.

That’s not fair to you or the client.

Or what about the projects you take on that are over your head?

While I do believe we should challenge ourselves, I’ve seen the inside of a LOT of websites where the original designer/developer obviously had no idea what they were doing. I’ve spent many, many, MANY hours fixing these sites.

If you ever want to NOT to impress a client, take on a project that completely baffles you, slap together a solution so it appears to be working correctly on the front end, and then hand it off to your client, who will have to spend twice as much as they paid you actually to get things working correctly.

Be honest with yourself about whether you are the right person to complete a client’s project.

Whether it comes down to the tech or just interest, you should only work on projects that excite you and you are capable of completing correctly. If you’re a terrible fit, your clients will figure it out.

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Speaking jargon

Clients don’t speak web designer.

If they did, they’d likely be web designers and not your client.

That’s why it’s essential to drop the tech talk and industry lingo and speak to clients in a way they can understand.

Many business owners don’t understand the difference between a logo and a brand, or a logo and a header image, or a server and a domain registrar.

And what the heck is a widget and why do you want one in a sidebar?

Not knowing these terms doesn’t make your client stupid–it simply means that they’ve spent their time running whatever their business is and not focusing on learning YOUR business.

That means that you’ll need to spend some time educating clients on any jargon you can’t get around and using simpler terms whenever possible.

One of my favorite things to do is hop on Zoom with a client to review a design or website so that we can share screens and actually see what the other person is seeing.

This means that we BOTH know what the other is talking about, whether we are using the same name or term for it or not. Another option is creating pre-recorded videos using something like ScreenPal, or using screenshots in emails of just the element that you’re talking about so that there’s no question whether you’re talking about the font in the footer widgets or the footer credits.

Not communicating at all

What is the best way to drive your clients nuts? Not communicate. At all.

The last thing a client wants from you is radio silence.

How would you feel if you paid someone a few thousand dollars to start work and then didn’t hear from them for weeks?

Probably not too good, and you’d start getting antsy and wondering if she ran off with your money to sip mai-tais on the beach.

I’m not saying you must have daily, hour-long phone calls with your clients. When would you get any work done? But you can alleviate a lot of anxiety for your clients by shooting them a quick email each week outlining what you’ve completed and what’s happening next.

Feel free to steal my Friday email template:

Hi ____,

Here’s an update on what I accomplished this week on your project:

  • Brand moodboard (approved)
  • Initial logo designs

Next week I’ll need the following from you:

  • Your choice of logo to tweak

Once you do that, I’ll start working on:

  • Logo tweaks
  • Website layout

Have a great weekend!
-NAME

This email tells the client what you’ve been up to and lets them know what you’ll be working on next and if they need to do anything. This keeps clients in the loop and happy!

Tl;dr:

Are you driving your clients nuts? If you are, you might be creating nightmare clients. Ack! Don’t let that happen!

Take responsibility for the role that you play in creating great relationships with your clients today. Projects will run smoother, and you and your clients will be happier.

Stop taking on projects you have no interest in or that are over your head. Clients can tell when you’re not happy to work with them, leading to resentment on both sides.

And if a project is entirely over your head, pass it on to an expert. Not doing so can lead to a terrible reputation and cost your clients a lot more when they have to pay someone else to fix your work.

Don’t use jargon. Or, if you need to use jargon, educate your clients so they know what you’re talking about. Hop on Zoom, create pre-recorded videos, send screenshots, and make things as easily understood as possible.

And finally, remember to communicate! It doesn’t have to take long, but you must let clients know what’s going on, or they’ll get antsy, angry, and think you’ve run off with their money. A weekly email reporting your progress goes a long way in keeping clients happy and informed.

All three steps will help you improve your business and make your clients happy (which can lead to great referrals!). But you have to step back and look at what you’re currently doing and what you can do better.

These simple steps can help you avoid working with bad clients–or creating bad clients out of good people.

Raise Your Web Design Rates by Creating a Luxury Client Experience

Get your step-by-step checklist to create a luxury client experience that you can charge more for.

It’s FREE, so grab it now!

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Originally published 7/13/2018. Updated 11/13/2023.

About Erin Flynn

Erin Flynn is the founder of Design Bread and has been making websites professionally since 2012. Erin has made it her mission to help web designers raise their rates and create profitable web design businesses that support the life of their dreams!