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ard1997x
Community Member

Bad Experience with a Client

Hi Upworkers,

 

I'd like to take your advice about a difficult situation that I have with an actual ongoing client. A week ago, this client reached out to me and asked me to do a brand book for them. I told him that the brand book is the end product and that they need a brand identity first.

 

He did send me some documents which tell about the company's mission, values, vision, etc. The problem is that the document was incomplete so I made some suggestions but those suggestions were ignored.

 

Anyway, after a few days of back/and forth along with some questions from his side about the price being too high, he finally decided to move forward and sent me the contract.

 

I have a certain process that if executed well gives the best results possible. 90% of my clients ended up selecting my designs from the first draft thanks to the process and their collaboration.

 

With this client, things are different, he didn't want to do a call with me (I respected that since I imagined he might be busy), ignored most of the things that I was saying (closed an eye for that as well), I did send him a questionnaire where there's a section that asks who are the decision-makers. He wrote that it was himself so I started designing with everything that I got.

 

After a few days, I finished the first draft by the deadline that we had agreed upon and sent the first draft. He looked at them and requested 3 more designs from the 3rd concept of the first draft. The next day, I did that then surprisingly, I got 15-minute video feedback from their marketer who lacks knowledge of branding (He calls everything a brand book and doesn't even know the basic concepts of branding).

 

They immediately responded negatively by saying do 1 more draft and if we don't like it, we're going to move forward with the next designer. Then, I recorded another feedback video, outlining my concerns and explaining points that I agreed with their marketer, and those that I disagreed, with also told next steps.

 

I even agreed to revise their logo for the same price and to follow this process this time. Then came the second 30-minute feedback video from their marketer, this time, he criticized them and he clearly mentioned that they should work on their documents first.

 

After few hours, he reached out to me and told me to screw all the designs that I made and start something new then I told them that I'll do moodboards first since this will ensure that we were on the same page or not. He said sounds good.

 

I worked all day and created the moodboard then I sent it to him along with a video explaining how I reflected their marketers and their feedback. He responded it seems things will not work out, I'll cancel the contract.

 

Now, it's possible that he will end the contract and request a refund or he will end the contract with bad feedback. Btw, I tried and will continue to try to find a solution that would favor both of us but considering that he refuses to talk (He jumped on many calls with his marketer though), I may end up giving a refund to make this project like never happened despite being right and having worked hard or insist on receiving the money that I deserve.

 

Apologies for my long message but I thought it was necessary to explain everything in detail. 

 

Looking forward to hearing your ideas about this situation.

 

Best,

 

Ardi

14 REPLIES 14
2bfd3e02
Community Member

Hi Ardi,

 

Other than this bad experience of yours I hope you are having a great day! I've read your entire message and understand your situation as a freelancer. I've also visited your profile, and your work is great. However, as you grow on Upwork, it's important to understand that you should not accept every contract sent by a client without clarifying everything upfront.

 

I understand that you put a lot of effort into the project, but I think you're at fault in this case. You mentioned that the client sent you incomplete documents, and you suggested that they complete them, but they ignored you. This shows that they didn't care about your process or your expertise. Additionally, the client said that your price was too high, which is another red flag.

 

I suggest that you skip these kinds of clients at all costs. If a client genuinely cares about their project, it'll be evident in how much interest they take in you and your work, and they won't be overly concerned about price.

 

You also mentioned that you have a specific process that, if executed well, gives the best possible results. If a client isn't willing to follow your process, there's a good chance that the results won't be as good as they could be. If a client declines to follow your process, I strongly suggest that you move on.

 

Many clients don't know what branding is, so why work for them if they don't value what you do? Focus on clients who genuinely care about their business and are willing to put in maximum effort from their side.

 

As for your current project, I suggest refunding the amount. The time you spent on it was the price you paid for a lesson.

I hope this helps!

 

Best,
Sohail

Thanks for your advise Sohail.

 

Yeah, as bad as it sounds, choosing my clients that respect me and my approaches is the way to go but I guess was a little desparate to take that job.


Sohail A wrote:

As for your current project, I suggest refunding the amount. The time you spent on it was the price you paid for a lesson.


Refunding the money is a bad idea. The client can still leave bad private feedback, and this is what impacts your JSS score the most. Ardi could give a refund and end up with bad feedback anyway, so all of their hard work will have been in vain. It's not even necessary at this point, since the client hasn't requested a refund or given any feedback.

You're right Christine, that was what I'm worried as well.

 

I think since it is small amount, it will not impact drastically but he will most likely leave me 1 star negative feedback.

 

The only plus side is that it won't show on my contract history.

williamtcooper
Community Member

Ardi,

 

Consider this a lesson in business on prequalifying a prospect before bringing them on as a client.

 

You could close the Contract and tell the client that you are giving them a full refund. There will be no public feedback left if you refund.

I messaged client one last time to see if he can recognize my hard work and find common ground.

 

The project was devided in 2 milestones so I told him at least to finish first, he can give other one to another freelancer.

tlsanders
Community Member

There isn't much you can do with this contract at this point. They may request a refund, and you can dispute it and see if you can work something out. If you can't, you'll have to decide whether you want to pay for arbitration. They may leave negative feedback. The most important thing for you now is to realize the risks of taking on a client who can't or won't tell you what they want and make sure not to accept a contract until you have adequate information in the future.

 

It sounds like you have a good system that works for you and clients. If clients won't cooperate with it, you probably shouldn't work with them.

While client had some red flags, it was a bit of luck situation since I was completely ignored when marketer steped in.

feed_my_eyes
Community Member

First of all, don't jump the gun by worrying about refund requests or bad feedback; you can cross those bridges when you come to them. If you get extremely negative public feedback and/or your JSS ends up below 90% at the next update, you're top-rated so you can use your feedback removal "perk" to get rid of it. Feedback removal – Upwork Customer Service & Support | Upwork Help

 

I would recommend that you don't continue trying to please this client, just send them a polite message saying that you're sorry that the project wasn't a good fit, that you wish them all the best with their next freelancer, and that you're happy to turn over the work, mood boards etc. that you've done so far so that they won't have to start from scratch (it's to the client's benefit that they've started going through the branding process with you, so at least they know what they DON'T want, which is valuable information to have).

 

And, try not to obsess about this - you can't win 'em all - but take some lessons learned. I send clients an onboarding questionnaire before I even agree to work with them, and that really helps to uncover any red flags. Someone who's too busy to answer questions and/or won't agree to an interview is a definite no. Another red flag is a client who thinks that your prices are too high; it's not impossible to work with such people, but if you have to go too far out of your way to convince someone to hire you, it rarely goes well.

You're right, you can't win them all. I once had a client with whom I chatted for over a week in long paragraphs. They seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say, and it was clear that they cared about their business.

If you're unsure whether a client is a good fit, here are some red flags to look for:

 

  • They take days to reply to your messages.
  • They're always trying to negotiate your price.
  • They ignore your professional opinions and push their own.
  • They say your price is too high.
  • They threaten to find another freelancer if you're not a good fit.
  • They don't cooperate well with your proposed strategy.

These points apply to most clients, but there may be some exceptions. Be smart and responsible when choosing who to work with.


Sohail A wrote:

You're right, you can't win them all. I once had a client with whom I chatted for over a week in long paragraphs. They seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say, and it was clear that they cared about their business.

If you're unsure whether a client is a good fit, here are some red flags to look for:

 

  • They take days to reply to your messages.
  • They're always trying to negotiate your price.
  • They ignore your professional opinions and push their own.
  • They say your price is too high.
  • They threaten to find another freelancer if you're not a good fit.
  • They don't cooperate well with your proposed strategy.

These points apply to most clients, but there may be some exceptions. Be smart and responsible when choosing who to work with.


I do think there are some exceptions to your red flags. Taking days to respond to messages? My clients are busy people and sometimes take weeks or even months to get back to me. Why is that a problem? If they're not in a hurry, and the project that I'm working on isn't a priority, that's up to them.

 

"They ignore your professional opinions/don't cooperate well with your proposed strategy." That's a tricky one, but I think that all too often, creative people - especially graphic designers - obnoxiously tell clients that they're wrong/have bad taste/don't understand design principles etc., instead of respecting that they're entitled to their opinion. Obviously, I try to explain what I think is best, and you have to always get across that you're trying to help them achieve their goals, instead of it being about who's right and who's wrong. But again, it's their project, not mine, and if they insist on using a comic-book font and pink-and-purple colour scheme for their investment banking flyer, I'll grit my teeth and give them what they want. The basic priniciple of "the customer is always right" holds true. 

I mentioned that in the last sentence, because there may be some exceptions. Be smart and responsible when choosing who to work with. These points are like a general rule, and there can be many good or bad derivatives taken from them. You are not bound to follow them. They can vary person to person obviously. 

Everything can be actually solved with a good communication.

 

I have experience handling very difficult situations where clients didn't like my work or something was off by communicating respectfuly without judging as Christine said.

 

This client is a situation of bad luck, unfortunately, I saw his true face after the contract was started and first draft was presented.

Usually, I hop on a call or communicate with clients before the contract but this client seemed a type of client that didn't want to even chat properly.

 

While I did have also great clients who werent talkative but they at least collaborated somehow, this one has very bad attitudes and is inconsistent in his actions/words.

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