Dissatisfied Client: Now What?
You just finished a six week long project. You thought it came out great, so you didn’t expect their email, telling you they just weren’t happy with it. Now what?
Park your emotions. It’s easy to get worked up from negative feedback, particularly for a freelancer who is naturally quite tied to their work. But separating business and emotion are key to success anywhere. It’s okay to get heated up, but just give yourself some time to simmer down before you react. Go for a run, sleep on it, or vent to a friend until you feel more level headed.
Find out what went wrong
You need to understand the reason for their dissatisfaction before you can move along. Schedule a time to discuss it with them. Don’t just call and talk about it spontaneously; set aside a planned time so that everyone can gather their thoughts and directions.
Look for the origin of the problem, such as:
- Poor communication: They didn’t clearly describe to you what they had in mind, or, you walked away without fully understanding it.
- Change in ownership: The project may have shifted hands from when it originated, resulting in different expectations.
- Breakdown in communications: You made decisions along the way without consulting them, or they incurred changes without alerting you.
- Creative differences: You had one vision, they had another.
- Difficult project manager: Your contact person is a known, difficult person to please.
Try to pin down exactly what caused the disconnect.
Since the client approached you, they are probably expecting some type of correction. Fixing their project may give you grief or shift your workload, but in the long run, it keeps your reputation in tact and avoids potential bad press.
That doesn’t always mean you have to offer the fix for free. If you realized you were at fault – you misunderstood the project, or made poor decisions – then you may have to eat the cost. But if the weight of the problem fell on the client – they changed their scope or were unclear about their specifications – it’s reasonable to discuss compensation for your time.
The end result
It’s never enjoyable to rework something you thought you were finished with. But in the long run, a freelancer’s reputation is their best calling card. Most of the projects you complete will go off without a hitch, so don’t be too ruffled by the occasional upset. With a rational approach, you can eventually bring this project to the same successful end result as all your others.