How to Deal with a Difficult Client

Effective Approaches for Resolution

The job of a software development team is to help clients get the most for their money. Dealing with difficult clients is something that plagues those teams. Whether it’s because they’re new to the industry or this particular client has a history of being difficult, there are steps you can take to minimize the drama and stay on top of things. Spoiler alert, most of the time it’s not the client’s fault.

Your Client Isn’t the Enemy

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the drama of a difficult client and think that they are the enemy. But your client isn’t trying to make your life difficult, they’re not trying to take advantage of you, and they aren’t trying to make you fail or lose money.

When working with clients who can be difficult (or even downright evil), consider these four points:

  • You are not alone — you have support from other professionals who have walked this path before.
  • You will learn from your mistakes — and hopefully avoid making them again.
  • There is no such thing as a perfect solution for every situation; there will always be some type of compromise between what each party wants/needs.
  • Communication tends to be the root of most problems. Always opt for over-communication and transparency.

Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations is one of the most important things you can do to manage a client relationship. When you’re setting up your meeting, make sure that your clients know what they’re paying for and the cost of those deliverables.

If possible, give your client a written proposal outlining their responsibilities and deliverables so that there are no misunderstandings as they work together on the project. This also gives them an opportunity to clarify any details or concerns before moving forward with your project plan.

Over-Communicate (in the right way)

  • Don’t be afraid to share information.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your own feelings, ideas and concerns.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell a client that you have an idea or solution that might help them. If they’re receptive and interested in hearing it, then you’re well on your way toward creating a win-win relationship with them.

Manage Excessive Requests Gracefully

When it comes to managing difficult clients, one thing is always true: you have to be polite. While you may not want to work with them again (or ever), they’re still paying your salary and they deserve some respect. It’s important that you set expectations from the beginning, so both parties know what their roles are going into the project or service. You should also say no if you can’t do something — and make sure there’s no confusion about this in advance.

It’s important for both parties involved in any relationship (client or employee) to understand clearly who has authority over what and when; otherwise there could be miscommunication which leads directly back into the topic of this article.

Practice Patience and Empathy

Be patient. It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re working with a client who is difficult, but it’s important not to lose your cool in the process. Try not to take things personally or let your emotions get the best of you — this will only make matters worse for both parties involved.

Be empathetic. While being patient and understanding can help keep things calm and professional between clients, it isn’t always possible for everyone involved at all times; sometimes people just have different ideas about how things should be done (or even what they want). In these situations it’s helpful if both parties are able to recognize this fact without blaming each other for their own failings as well as those of others around them.

Be Prepared

Coming to a meeting unprepared will set you up for a difficult time. It’s not the client that’s difficult then, it’s you. Before the meeting, make sure that your entire team is on the same page. Anyone that’s on the call should understand their roles, when to speak, and where the project stands. If you’re presenting tasks from Jira, or walking through a timeline, make sure that it’s up-to-date.

If it was an important issue that needed to be addressed, make sure that you reached out to the client before the meeting. The meeting should be a recap of the project and a display of the progress so far, and is not really the time to bring up issues.

Document Everything (as legally appropriate)

Documentation is the single most important thing you can do when dealing with a difficult client. It’s not just about keeping track of what happened; it’s also about keeping track of who said what, and when they said it.

Documentation is also important for legal reasons: if you’re sued for damages by someone who feels wronged by your actions, having recorded evidence will help prove that what happened was not intentional — and thus avoid any claims against you personally or your business entity.

Clients Can be Difficult. But There are Proactive Steps You Can Take to Address Difficult Situations.

You can’t change the person, but you can change your approach. If a client is being unreasonable, try not to take it personally and understand that they may just have different expectations than you do — but also don’t let them slip past without addressing them directly when necessary (i.e., “Hey! I really appreciate your feedback on this draft; however…”).

You can’t change their approach (or lack thereof), but maybe if you talk about this together now, it’ll help clarify things going forward so you’re both better prepared for any future interactions.


So, that’s about it. If you follow these tips, your client will be able to work together with you more effectively and efficiently. You can also make sure that they do not have any unrealistic expectations of what the project will entail (which could lead to conflict).

From my experience, as long as you’re prepared and the communication is abundant, you won’t have any difficult clients.


Leave a Reply