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How to deal with a potentially toxic client

Active Member
Ragini A Member Since: May 13, 2021
1 of 14

Hi! I just experienced this for the first time and while I'm dealing with it on my own, I want to know how others do it:


A man not too comfortable with English interviewed me for a job he posted regarding content editing and proofreading. In the interview, it was made clear that the interview was for something completely different from the job posting and after realizing he found someone for the job and was looking for another skill set, I respectfully declined and ended the interview. 


I'm new here and frankly, not that busy right now. I sent him a message thanking him for taking the time to speak with me and mentioned again that the reason we couldn't talk further was that his job required a skill set that I did not have. 


THIS MAN HAD THE AUDACITY to tell me that it was my lack of motivation that kept me from getting this job, that I wasn't eager enough to make money. 


I'm here to establish a career, not make petty money for skills I don't have. Respectfully telling him this, but he goes on and on about how it is clear in his head that I'm demotivated. Judging a freelancer's application and interview is something I understand, the client must do it to be able to choose a freelancer. But to pass moral judgements about a young woman's work ethic after only a 6.5-minute long zoom call is frustrating me beyond what I expected. 


How would you respond to this?


Community Guru
Aleksandr S Member Since: Jun 22, 2015
2 of 14

There are too many morons in this world. Not worth spending time on them. Just move on. You can block him btw, if he keeps annoying you.

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
3 of 14

re: "How to deal with a potentially toxic client"




re: "How would you respond to this?"


I wouldn't respond.

How would it benefit me to respond?

Ace Contributor
Aru B Member Since: Sep 19, 2020
4 of 14

Just ignore them. You were pretty professional and the person was not, the client don't deserve working with you. 

Community Guru
Luce N Member Since: Oct 9, 2016
5 of 14

Because we call clients "clients", we expect them to be adults, balanced and polite. But many aren't, and they're not worth wasting time on.

Community Guru
Jamie F Member Since: Mar 7, 2010
6 of 14

Ragini A wrote:


How would you respond to this?


I wouldn't. I'd just move on as though the discussion never happened.

Community Guru
Wes C Member Since: May 3, 2019
7 of 14

Block him and move on. He's not worth your time.

Community Guru
Mikko R Member Since: Dec 26, 2015
8 of 14
Just skip. 🙄

Next time, when you realize the communication is not good from the first messages on, do the same. Just skip. Repeat until you're Top Rated (minimum).

Business deals over here are so dependent on communication that it doesn't make much sense to take a risk and "try it out and see how it goes". One mix-up early on can kill your Upwork career before it even starts.

Make sure the first several projects go great. Later on you can afford some risk if that's your thing. Upwork is just about the last place where you want to "learn and grow" at the expense of someone else (as you mention in one of your reviews), so it is important to play safe when you're starting up.

All the best and good luck. 👍👍

May the Great Brown Coconut bless your freelance journey. 🙏
Ace Contributor
Shaun K Member Since: Feb 18, 2019
9 of 14

Here's a great way to approach this issue:

At the bottom, when you're starting out, you will have the *crappiest* clients. These folks are trying to squeeze every last ounce of energy and work out of you because they are (poor). They are also less happy because they are (poor).

As your career progresses, you will find it much easier to filter out these kinds of clients from the get go, within the first few seconds of the interview. Instead of second-guessing yourself, you'll second-guess the client.

In this case: someone who's got the time to respond back like that has too much time on their hands. This guy was at the bottom and was looking for someone to knock down so he could feel better about himself.

Over time, these abusive types of people become a lot easier to ignore.

As a learning experience and a way to fortify yourself for future interactions, be sure to read your clients reviews before submitting applications. That will help to keep the nasties away. Smiley Happy

You'll do great on here! I know a good freelancer when I see it.

Community Guru
Bill H Member Since: Aug 18, 2017
10 of 14

Ragini, the man in question is not potentially toxic, he is toxic. He is not, however, a potential client since you will never work for him.


No one can force you to say anything, no one can force you to listen to anything. Over the last thirty+ years I have encountered this issue repeatedly. The joy of freelancing is having unlimited access to the "off" button. Eventually you will get to the point where you intentionally shove gently against the client's ego in your written response. It's important to do that because you do not want to work with or for a narcissist. I also tell prospective clents I will not accept any work until we have explored a fit, and typically have a section in a proposal document outlining the client's responsibilities. The freelancer-client relationship is one of equals, and you should reject any client who doesn't sgree with that.