Effectively Dealing with Client Demands

Every business has had that client—that demanding, self-important, micromanaging client who is always nowhere to be seen come payback time. Such clients are a gigantic pain in the neck. They can suck the enjoyment out of work and make you question your decisions leading to their unwelcome entry into your business. What’s more upsetting is the fact that even reasonable and loyal customers can sometimes be a similar cause of stress and frustration. It’s inevitable for an entrepreneur to encounter people with impossible demands. But here’s the good news: there are ways to effectively manage them. 

Keeping Your Clients Happy 

Why should I put up with unreasonable customers, you may ask. There’s a simple answer to that: you need them to keep your business alive. It may not be inked in scroll or carved in stone, but there’s a general understanding that businesses function to serve customers. It’s your duty to make your clients happy—it’s not a favor you’re doing them for the sake of being kind. 

Of course, this duty you have towards your clients is not absolute. You need to serve them, true, but you also have to look out for your business. A healthy exchange in which both parties are happy is the goal of every business relationship. That said, invest enough effort on all of your customers, whether good or bad. In time, your positive attitude and actions might just turn the relationship around. However, if this attempt proves futile, there are always other ways to cope. 

Proper Ways to Deal with Impossible Client Demands 

There are proven ways to manage unbearable client demands. Here are some of them: 

1. Don’t overpromise on your portfolio. 

Your portfolio serves as a magnet that attracts ideal clients and repels ill-suited ones, so make sure it represents your business properly. If you want to find clients that best match your skills, adjust your portfolio accordingly. When listing your credentials, it’s better to undersell yourself. Don’t divulge everything so that when you go beyond what’s promised, your client will feel like you’re running the extra mile. 

2. Establish control by setting limits. 

Be clear about the scope and boundaries of your work. Define the nature of the project, the amount of time it will take to finish, your payment terms, your compensation for extended labor, and the conditions for rush jobs. Unless you’re a wizard who can magically make things appear out of thin air, it’s important to lay out your terms from the start to avoid future conflicts. Clearly define what the clients will be getting for their money. By delineating the parameters of the job, you are showing that you’re a capable and assertive worker. 

3. Plot timelines and define deadlines. 

Constant communication between the two parties is critical for the project’s success. You and the client should agree about the project’s timeline. Set a realistic timeframe—one in which you’ll be able to produce the necessary deliverables and reports on time. If possible, keep the verbal and written exchange going. Make sure that the client is constantly posted about the project’s progress.

 4. Acknowledge the client’s side of the story.

When the client talks, listen. This is the only way you can be on the same page. Pay attention to anything they have to say because they may have valuable insights that can make the project better. Listening to their thoughts will allow you to see the perspective from which they’re coming from. With this knowledge, you’ll know how best to respond to their concerns. Don’t worry, all you have to do is acknowledge their point, not agree with it.

 5. Make a compromise for your mutual benefit.

If the client’s demand is unworkable, find a solution that’s close to what they want, and present it in a way that appeals to their good side. In other words, meet them halfway by making a compromise. If the original demand is impossible to accomplish given your limited resources, look for alternatives and offer solutions that work for both sides. The key here is to find out what type of client you’re negotiating with so that you can package your ideas in a way that allows you to achieve desired results.

6. Be specific in naming problems and solutions.

Encourage the client to be point-blank in naming the problem so that you can offer specific solutions to address it. Every concern raised should be measurable because broad generalizations may lead to confusion. Pin down the outcome that your client wants, and work towards it.

 7. Take the higher ground and realize your role.

At least once in your career, you’ll encounter know-it-all clients who’ll act as though they know your job better than you do. You’ll need a great deal of confidence and tact to put such people in place without ruffling their feathers. Try to understand where they’re coming from so that you can be more tolerant of their attitude. Find gentle but assertive ways to reassure them that you know what you’re doing and that you’re the best brand to handle the job.

The Last Resort: What To Do When All Else Fails

In a perfect world, all of these would work. But let’s be realistic—sometimes, you’ll find yourself in situations so hopeless that none of the tips above would prove viable. When that happens, you’re left with two choices: either reassign the clients in question to a co-worker or fire them altogether.

Don’t worry about giving up on bad customers. If they’re more of a liability than an asset, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to drop them. Just remember to honor your history together and part with them in good terms. Who knows, maybe the time will come when they’ll realize how irrational they had been and come running back to you with a more positive resolve. For now, focus on working with clients who bring in revenue without causing anyone emotional drain.


Beard, Ross. “Why Customer Satisfaction Is Important.” Client Heartbeat. January 20, 2014. blog.clientheartbeat.com/why-customer-satisfaction-is-important

Cowan, Katy. “How to Deal with Difficult Clients.” Creative Boom. September 23, 2011. www.creativeboom.com/tips/how-to-deal-with-difficult-clients

Driediger, Jordan. “How to Deal with Difficult Clients: The ‘Know-It-All.’” Nectafy. n.d. nectafy.com/how-to-deal-with-difficult-clients

Duvall, Addison. “6 Tips for Effectively Dealing with Client Demands.” Six Revisions. November 21, 2011. sixrevisions.com/project-management/tips-client-demands

Greer, Allen. “5 Psychological Hacks to Manage Difficult Clients.” Hubspot. September 26, 2015. blog.hubspot.com/sales/handling-difficult-clients#sm.0000w6nx4vstbcwkqnc12umt2kzcx

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Zetlin, Minda. “8 Remarkably Effective Ways to Cope with an Unreasonable Customer.” Inc. June 18, 2015. www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/8-remarkably-effective-ways-to-cope-with-an-unreasonable-customer.html

“How to Control and Deal with Client Demands.” Design Disease. May 4, 2012. designdisease.com/how-to-control-and-deal-with-client-demands

“How to Deal with Demanding and Unrealistic Clients.” Freshbooks. April 15, 2014. www.freshbooks.com/blog/how-to-deal-with-demanding-and-unrealistic-clients

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