3 Tips for Handling the Challenging Client

We’ve been in business now for over 5 years and we’ve had our share of challenging clients.  We all know the clients, whether their being very demanding, unrealistic or just downright bossy and mean – we’ve all run into them.  In fact, this blog post is probably relatable by most small business owners, not just creative individuals.

Below are some tips that we’ve learned over the course of many years of trying to provided excellent service to EVERY client.


Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it’s important to be able to back-away from the situation and try to understand where the client is coming from. For some clients this may be their first interaction with an agency/creative individual, so they don’t understand the dynamic. Many new clients don’t understand that a good designer pours a lot of their heart and soul into their work – only wanting the best for the client. Or, maybe they’ve dealt with agencies in the past and didn’t feel their point-of-view was reflected in the work. We’ve found having an honest conversation with the client, breaks down barriers and creates an environment for an honest exchange of ideas and feedback that fosters the best work.


When it comes to the design process it’s important to set expectations for you clients. Many clients require a formal RFP or a simple quote prior to starting a project and these can be very difficult to provide an accurate quote, because there are so many variables out of a designers control. Without putting parameters (safeguards) in place up front, it’s almost impossible to tactfully put them in place once the project has started.

A great example is a recent design project we we’re sub-contracted for. We were getting paid an hourly rate and the client we were working for quoted a project to their client based on how many hours they felt the project should take. They didn’t give their client any expectations on turnaround time or the number of revisions they would be allowed before incurring additional design fees. The project underwent a total of 15 rounds of changes/revisions over the course of 3-weeks. Our client quoted their client 4 hours for the project and because of the revisions, the project took 10 hours. From what we’ve heard, their client was extremely upset when they received their final bill for almost 3x they were originally quoted. This could have easily been remedied, but telling the client upfront they would be allowed X revisions and any additional changes would be billed at the hourly rate.

We take the time to explain to our clients upfront that quotes provided include 3 rounds of changes (for most projects). Additional changes are billed at our hourly rate in 15-minute increments. We also educate our clients that what might seem like a simple typeset change, can easily take 15-minutes when dealing with large files – the process of opening a file, changing it, saving it and sending it back takes time.

When the invoice arrives there are no surprises and everyone is happy!


Kenny Rogers said it best, “You’ve Got to Know When to Hold Them and When to Fold Them.” While we would like to help every single client we speak with, sometimes the relationship isn’t a good match. While at first this may seem a bit harsh, let’s think this through. If you’ve tried everything in your power to satisfy a client, yet they’re still not happy with the work you’ve provided – it might be time to part ways. Now I’m by no means advocating parting ways at the first speed-bump. I’m saying if you’ve followed the steps above and you’re still running into issues, the relationship might not be healthy.

This conversation can go something like this, “, we’ve been working on the X project now for X time and I don’t feel we’re seeing eye to eye on the design direction. While I really appreciate your business, I want to make sure you’re happy with the end result and I’m not sure our agency is a good fit for your business anymore.” This is a very difficult conversation, but in the end will save both you and your client a lot of frustration in the end. Hopefully the client will respect you for being upfront and having the client’s best interest in mind.

At Risen Creative our goal is to make every client happy and produce some awesomely creative work. We work hard to make sure we have an excellent relationship with our clients and we always have our client’s best interest in mind. To find out more about our services or to get a quote on your next project, please visit: www.risencreative.com.

About the author

Rick is a technology and business-savvy, results-oriented leader with 12 years of experience with proven success in managing $1.5M Marketing budget in a challenging, fast paced direct response environment. He founded Risen Creative in 2008 with the goal of helping small to medium businesses grow their businesses.

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