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Difficult Client Situation Question

Community Leader
David D Member Since: Jun 8, 2016
1 of 11

First off I hope this doesn't come off as bragging or whining or me turning my nose up at anyone.


I have a client who is supposedly an "expert" in a certain field. I really enjoy working for them because they're very communicative and give me consistent work.


However, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that they are not really the "expert" they think they are. Not only do I disagree with some of their ideas and plans, I feel pretty confident in saying they're just flat out wrong when it comes to certain things.


This is the part I don't want to come off as me turning my nose up or bragging about my expertise. I'm not suggesting I'm the end all be all answer when it comes to things. I appreciate other viewpoints and approaches. Most of the time if I client wants me to write or work on something in a way I don't necessarily agree with I just go ahead and do it, deferring to their experience, their mission statements, their ideas, etc. They are paying for it after  all: I'll do it how they want.


But.....when I say I think they're wrong, I'm talking about thinking 1+1+=5 kind of wrong. IF it was just a method or technique I wasn't a fan of I'd politely suggest a different approach, but they're also very sensitive. The last time I tried this they did not respond well. 


So I'm at a bit of a loss of what to do. I truly think they're going about things the wrong way and causing their business harm in the long run. And all of that would be "okay" by me since I've made my feelings known on a few occasions and have pretty much been ignored. Again: They're paying. I'll do it how they want. But it's becoming increasingly frustrating to purposely do things "wrong" because they think it's "right."


It's not like I can't sleep at night, and my name isn't going on anything (it's all ghostwriting). Do I just suck it up and keep on keepin' on? 


Has anyone encountered a situation like this? What do you do when a client flat out wants you to do something you think/know is not the right thing?

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
2 of 11

re: "What do you do when a client flat out wants you to do something you think/know is not the right thing?"


If you don't want to work for the client because of the approach they're using, you tell the client that you would like to help, but you don't think the job is a good fit because you use Method A, and the client wants to use Method B, and you just aren't sufficiently familiar with Method B to be the best person for the job.


Tell the client that you're really only going to be able to use Method A, and will be happy to continue on with the project using Method A, but if they need to go with Method B, you respect the decision but you won't be able to stay on.


Or you continue to do it the way they want you to and accept their payment.


It's your choice. I don't think either way is wrong


It's not like you're treating a cancer patient the wrong way and they're going to die. What you're dealing with right now is important to you and it is important to the client. But if you explained all the detail to most of us, our eyes would glaze over and we'd just think to ourselves: "Who cares."


In my work, most of the decisions I'm passionate about, if I explained the distinctions and differences to people outside of my field, they would just be looking for a way to get out of the conversation and talk to somebody less boring.

Community Guru
Jennifer M Member Since: May 17, 2015
3 of 11

Yeah, it's happened to me but I don't think on Upwork. Not that I can remember anyway. The most I've had on Upwork is me disagreeing with someone on approach like you said, but I just go with what they want.


When I worked at Demand Media, the editors were the gatekeepers and if you argued or disagreed too much with them, they would kill your account so I would just put completely wrong stuff in the articles so I wouldn't put my account at risk. Their system was pretty bad though.


The only thing I'd worry about if I were you is doing the "right" thing and the customer disagrees. So if you're writing 10,000 words and the customer is way off on their expertise, you might find yourself rewriting everything. Is it something you can avoid? 


Personally, I disagree in a question style. Like "Oh, I thought if you did x, y happened. Is that not true?" Usually, I know the answer and just disagree like that so it's not confrontational. If I'm really sure, I might link them to info. But, I don't push the subject too much. If they are set on something a certain way, I just do it.


Is it possible this isn't hte customer but a middleman?

Community Leader
David D Member Since: Jun 8, 2016
4 of 11

It's definitely the direct client. 


It's not something I lose sleep over, it's just I'm a very opinionated person lol and I have trouble keeping my mouth shut sometimes. 


You know how it is with writing clients: everyone has their ideas of the perfect structure, the perfect keyword density, the perfect everything. Varies from client to client. That I can deal with. I've given up arguing with clients who have it in their mind that they have the golden ticket SEO structure to make their blog go viral. I don't even bother arguing anymore. Just tell me how you want me to write it and I'll write it that way.


This is more like the content and technique is just all flat wrong....


I don't want to call the client out so this is a completely made up example. but imagine I was writing an ebook on dieting and the client wants me to say "okay, the goal of this chapter is how eating 10lbs of butter and smoking a carton of cigarettes a day is the perfect way to get healthy."


Oh boy....

Community Guru
Jennifer M Member Since: May 17, 2015
5 of 11

lol oh boy. This is kinda where the JSS bites everyone in the butt. I would just do it. I would hate it and I wouldn't be proud, but I wouldn't lose money and take a massive hit on my JSS over it. 


I might ask questions and gently disagree to see if the client is open to feedback. If he seems like he's one of these people who just thinks he knows it, meh I'd do it. I would want someone to correct me, but not everyone is like that. For me, it's not like I'm going to kill anyone.


I work with IT people and they are some of the most egotistical people on the planet (yeah I know me too lol). I'm really gentle when I disagree with my questions that are really saying "you're wrong" and if they respond in a  way like "OMG I've been doing this for so long and I am brilliant and lalalalaala" I just know that OK I'm going nowhere with that, so just do it.


Maybe it's some guy who read one of these $40 ebooks that people keep writing and now he's an expert. lol

Community Guru
Jennifer D Member Since: Feb 15, 2016
6 of 11

David, I guess the biggest problem is the potential for the client to eventually realise or otherwise find out they're wrong, and to blame you for enabling their wrongness. If there's a possibility it could come back to bite you, it's probably better to do something about it sooner rather than later. If not, well, it sounds like it just comes down to whether you want to continue doing the "wrong" work for the client's money.

Community Guru
Tiffany S Member Since: Jan 15, 2016
7 of 11

I think this is really just a question of your own boundaries. Personally, if I just thought the client was making bad business decisions and I'd attempted to raise it, I'd go ahead and do it their way. But, if they were actually providing misinformation to the public or their client base or whomever the content is created for, I wouldn't participate in that. 

Community Guru
Reinier B Member Since: Nov 3, 2015
8 of 11

I also would not lose sleep over how a client chooses to aproach a subject or topic, but I would certainly call a client out if he insisted on using incorrect, or false information. Here is an exampe of just how wrong experts can be... 


A while ago I wrote an article for a client (who turned out to be the management committee of a professional observatory in the UK) about constellations that are visible from the UK specifically.  The contact person at the observatory responded to the article I delivered thus (paraphrased):


"Thank you for your efforts, but we must point out that some of the constellations you mentioned in your poorly researched article can NOT be observed from the UK. Since we planned on using this article during an outreach program, we are disappointed to say the least, and we are looking to you for reimbursement of the payment made to you for material we cannot use."


Professional astronomers said that- I kid you not. I must also add that I was hired for the job because of my 40 years' experience as an amateur astronomer, so in the end, I used  professional-grade software to draw a map of the sky over London on the date that the outreach program would kick off- in London, no less. My map clearly showed the disputed constallations in clear view, to which the observatory responded thus when they were presented with the evidence: 


"Thank you for the map. However, we feel that in view of your demonstated lack of knowledge of the northern hemishere, we cannot in good conscience continue this collaboration."


Long story short- if you know your subject, stick to your guns. If the client cannot be reasoned with, the fallout is all on him. Alternatively, don't work for that client if you feel you have to defend your knowledge and experience at every turn.


By the way, I never refunded the observatory, and I have yet to lose any sleep over it.  

Community Leader
Peter G Member Since: Aug 1, 2015
9 of 11

Hi David,


I've encountered these types of problems several times.


At least twice, I was hired by clients who wanted me to write "thought leadership" articles based on their expertise. Very soon, however, I discovered that they had little or no expertise. Instead, they expected far more research from me than I was led to believe.  (But they weren't willing to pay for it.)


On another occasion, the client wanted me to insert information that was misleading - if not downright false.


My solution with the first two clients?  I politely fired them, saying I wasn't a good fit for their needs, and they'd be better served by another writer. 


After arguing with the other client for weeks - and nearly getting into a formal dispute - he eventually agreed to exclude the misleading info.


When I was younger, I'd put up with these sorts of clients for a while, but after 15 years of freelancing full time, my patience is long gone.  Save yourself some headaches, and look for a better class of clients!


Hope this helps.



Community Guru
Melissa T Member Since: Dec 5, 2014
10 of 11

Reinier, that's awesome! By the way, a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing all 5 visible planets with the naked eye at the same time. The horizon was flat enough and there was little light polution where I was in North Carolina. I didn't have my scope with me, but that particular night was such a fantastic "naked eye" night. Between the planets and the perseids I was elated. 


David, the only similar experience I can offer is this: I have a long-term client with whom I've worked for more than a year. I produce lots of work for them, mostly 3rd party websites. One day only a couple of months into our relationship a site came across my desk to be produced for a customer who was blatantly shilling incorrect medical information. It happened to deal with Type 1 Diabetes, which I am intimitely familiar with because my husband has T1D. This customer included info on her site that was full of lies - pineapple can cure diabetes, massage is a substitute for insulin, and all sorts of malarky that is actually dangerous information because if taken as fact by a gullible person it could land that person in the hospital or morgue. I hemmed and hawed for a day about what to do because I felt incredibly against working on such false content, but I was concerned about how the client would react. I explained that I did not feel comfortable working on sites with content that was patently false and could do public harm. The client understood and it hasn't harmed our relationship at all. In fact, I had a similar situation several months later with some horrible pray-the-gay-away isolation camp for teenagers which I also declined to work on. Awful stuff. Granted, the content wasn't my client's content, it was their customer's, but I still had to refuse to do the work and it all worked out in the end.