Why Client Work Sucks. It Could Be You!

Have you ever hoped for the day you could walk away from client work because client work sucks? I certainly have. Working with people can be very demanding or draining, even when you find the perfect clients. It’s not easy being in the services industry. However, after countless conversations with freelancers about this topic, I often discover the problem isn’t the client but the one providing the services.

Client Work Sucks

If client work sucks, the problem might be you!

It’s easy to point the finger at our clients, but the reality is most freelancers suck at doing their job right. It’s a tough pill to swallow but it’s the truth. Independent contractors are notorious for not qualifying their prospects, educating people on their processes, or communicating clearly with the people who hire them. This is always a recipe for disaster.

While there will always be clients we need to fire, we also need to ask the hard questions about ourselves.

  • Did I ask the right questions and qualify the client before I took their money?
  • Did I communicate the expectations and deliverables clearly?
  • Did I provide my payment or business terms in writing?
  • Did I educate them on my process of how I work?
  • Did I drop the ball on project timelines or was it really their fault?
  • Did I onboard the client properly?

These are important questions to address. If you’re doing your job right from the beginning, client work should be a great experience for you and for them.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes.

Sometimes I fail to put myself in the client’s shoes. I forget they don’t know what they don’t know. If I begin to understand their challenges or frustrations, it can form the bond for a lasting (and profitable) relationship.

How a client from hell turned into the perfect client.

A couple of years ago, I partnered with a company for their web media needs. They paid me very well and allowed me to invest my expertise into the entire process. As we entered the midway point of the project, their requests started to get out of hand. The client also wanted to set up phone calls constantly with very little notice. It looked like a wonderful partnership was about to end up in a nightmare.

Instead of blowing up, I called the client to get the issues resolved. That day I walked away with a fresh perspective. Going into the meeting, I was ready to defend my viewpoints until the end of the earth. Coming out of the meeting I was ashamed.

I discovered I needed to do a better job of listening and communicating to the client.

They weren’t trying to be a horrible, life-sucking drain on my resources; they needed someone to explain the situation and patiently talk it through. All they needed was guidance and feedback — which is what I should have been providing in the first place. Ever since that day they’ve been the perfect client and have sent me over $20,000 worth of work!

Client work doesn’t always suck.

The last few years, freelancers have really shifted focus to creating products in order to escape clients. Membership sites, online courses, productized services, and others products are all the rage because “client work sucks.” From a business perspective, it’s a great strategy to follow. You create a product one time and get paid for it over and over again, even while you sleep. If you’re just trying to get away from dealing with customers, you’re in for a shock.

It's utopian to think the grass is greener on the other side. The grass is green where you water it. Click To Tweet

Launching a productized service or product business still requires people to pay you. You cannot escape this. I’ve built profitable businesses in both spaces and can assure you that product based customers can be way worse than service based clients. The people who spend the least are often the ones who expect the most.

Regardless of your business model, you will always have to deal with customers and it will be messy.

Client work is rewarding if you do it right.

People come to us because they need help. They’re searching for answers and solutions we can provide. We have the opportunity to make a difference in their lives and their business. This is very rewarding and a testament to our abilities.

Client work can be awesome and it can provide you with an incredible living. You can discover happiness and fulfillment if you do things right. Products will come and go, but amazing clients will stick by your side if you really take care of them. Over a lifetime, services usually tend to be more profitable.

Next time you begin to think that client work sucks, ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to make your freelancing business the best it can be. Maybe the problem isn’t them, maybe the problem is you.

2 Comments

  1. Bob Dunn on March 7, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    This is such a good post. I think there is this bandwagon that so many are jumping on that is based on the concept that it all sucks. When I hear someone saying this 2-3 years into the biz, all I can think is exactly what you said, or that they just aren’t cut out for it.

    I did it for well over 25 years and yes, sometimes it sucked, but most of the time it was great work and I had a lot of fantastic clients over those years. And that work never really sucked. Sure there were frustrating times, exhaustion, etc, but that came with the territory. Part of being a freelancer or having your own biz.

    After that many years of client work I moved away from it, because, well, I was basically tired of it. It also became drudgery and something that I no longer enjoyed or had the desire to put my energies into. Clearly time to move on.

    Thanks again for the great post James.

    • James Dalman on March 7, 2017 at 6:21 pm

      Thanks Bob! I appreciate your thoughts.

      Agreed that so many people are jumping on the bandwagon to get away from client work, especially when so many haven’t even spent time in the field. People believe it’s easier to create products, but it’s not.

      I think it’s different to move on, like you did in your situation. When you get to the point of burn out and don’t have the passion to keep doing the service work, then doing something new is a great plan. After 28 years in the industry, I can relate!

      If we choose to make client work a positive experience (and again, do things right) then it is wonderful and fulfilling. It’s all about perspective.

      Thanks again for sharing your wisdom!

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