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Need Help With A Difficult Client

I've been trying to do a direct mail piece for a client for over a month now. At this point, it isn't even worth the money for the time and stress the project has caused me. 


I would rather just close it out and give a refund, but I am afraid this will hurt my Upwork score. The client seems to be unhappy with every edit I provide on this project and keeps saying it is "boring" or "needs to be modern", so "plain", etc. I have now made 4 edits to this mailer and it has been over a month of trying to work on this project. 


How should I handle this? I don't want to be rude or hurt my score, but I would rather just not get paid and give a refund as I have other client work I am busy with and truly don't have time to continue going back and forth on this project. 

Community Member

Have you asked for examples of what the client likes? At this point I would try to appease this client and end the project as quickly as possible.  Others might say to end the contract because if you continue this client will likely give you a poor review. Ending the project without getting paid will also hurt your JSS. 


In the future make sure you manage expectations re: # of revisions before accepting a project. 

@Robin, thank you, and yes, I asked for examples and she said "I don't really have any" and just gives vague ideas of "modern" and "exciting", which as you probably know, aren't very helpful. 


I think I have learned something with managing a difficult client as I should have been stricter with her from the get-go and not tried to just make something work without her giving me detailed instructions. On the next project I will definitely be setting clear guidelines of what I need before I start and number of revisions. 

Community Member

Others will probably disagree with me, but I would cut my losses and offer your client a partial refund. Your JSS is weighted now, and I can see that you're working on some high-value projects, so a lower-value project won't affect you as much.


I also wanted to say that I really like your portfolio, especially the holiday cocktail cards. Did you do the illustrations as well?


The other thing that you could try (if you can stomach doing one more draft) is to do the opposite of what you think looks good. Sometimes this works if your client hates everything that you've done. So, if she thinks that your design was too plain and boring, then go nuts - use at least three different decorative fonts and 18 different colours, and fill all available space with doodles, icons, photos etc. It's worth a shot. You don't have to put the end result in your portfolio. 🙂


LOL Chirstine that's a crazy strategy. Doodles?! Since you're suggesting it I guess it works sometimes. 

I'm going to try it and will report back lol

Hey Christine, I actually got on the phone with the client and am doing just this, I am going to try and incorporate some more flamboyant designs to see if that works to appease her... This project has been truly emotionally tolling for the $125 it is worth, which is why I would just end it and offer a refund, but don't want to hurt my JSS. 


And thank you! I am both a designer and illustrator, and I appreciate that you like my portfolio. That means a lot, especially whilst dealing with a client who is telling me my work is "boring" and that my design has "no hierarchy, no flow, and looks like I just put words on the page with no thought". 

Community Member



I took a 7% hit to my JSS when I gave a client a partial refund 2 weeks ago., although the client did leave 5 star feedback on the front end. (I left a 1000 word essay in the form of feedback to them on their client profile, so we're even.) 


The chances of you being able to appease the client are low at this point. You're being toyed with now, judging by the childish responses the client is giving you. (I'm a copywriter and this client's reponses are pure BS.) 


If the amount of money is over $500, I'd give them a partial refund of $100. And if they don't want to take that, hit the "submit work button" and watch them pay up or file a dispute. within 14 days guaranteed. Be sure to leave them a nice note suggesting they will probably lose the dispute if they start making unjust demands. 


Remember: you have more power than the client in this instance (as long as you did the work described in a FUNDED and ACTIVATED milestone.)  (Or if the project is hourly, as long as you tracked your time you're fine.) 

I personally kind of hate the JSS, my clients always leave good reviews and somehow the JSS will still dip sometimes. I feel like the algorithm of the JSS score doesn't very accurately reflect my actual job success. And gives me so much stress, but oh well. 


She is truly being rude to me, and I sometimes just ask if I need thicker skin, or if this behavior isn't professional and I shouldn't have to deal with it. 


I'm trying to do one last edit and hopefully we will get to a final agreement, but if not, I will probably take your advice. 


If a client won't pay and I file a dispute, does that help the JSS at all? I don't even really care about getting paid, this project is really low budget and I'm more worried about hurting my score. 

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