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What To Do With Bad Clients: I Fired My Client


That’s right, I fired my client. It wasn’t an easy decision, after all, we all need clients to survive as freelancers. The thing is, we need to know when to say it’s enough. During my freelance career, I have met and worked with all kinds of clients, but never until now was I in a situation like this. Some clients were good, some not so good, some were patient, some were stressful, some were professional, and some had a tough time explaining their idea and so on.

As a freelancer, I do all I can to devote myself to every project. As I am building my own career and having great reviews and recommendations is really important to me. So far, 40% percent of my work is for my long-term clients, 85% of my clients would recommend my work and 30% of my clients re-hire me. I do my best to make every endeavor for my clients as simple as possible, after all, my mantra is that online business should be simple. My clients have other work and worries, so I tend to play my part as good as possible. My client’s success is my success.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an article at which states:

Research carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that 85 percent of your financial success is due to skills in “human engineering,” your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Shockingly, only 15 percent is due to technical knowledge.

When I negotiate the project with my prospects, during the interviews I try to ask as many questions as possible. If I don’t understand any part of the project I ask for explanations or examples. Never have I had communication problems with my clients if the requirements were clear. When I deliver the project, I send a few follow-up emails to check if everything is going well. And even offer some services for free, as a bonus, and clients appreciate that.

Now, let me get back to the story. This client invited me for an interview on, the work was my specialty, Moodle consulting. The project was clear and pretty straightforward. My task was to develop an eLearning platform for delivering online courses. Nothing new, I developed hundreds of eLearning platforms using almost every LMS there is. But the story is about to develop into something very uncomfortable.

I saw this article after I fired my client, but it really pretty much sums it up. The article at mentions three main reasons to fire clients:

  • They Insist on Old Pricing
  • Breach of Contract and Abusive Behavior
  • Lack of Integrity
  • New Business Model
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The company which hired me was really serious and prominent in its niche. No one would assume that anything bad could happen.

Reason 1: False promises

There were problems in the first month. The client allocated bits of work to me, like 3-5 hours per week, constantly promising after this phase there will be more work. That was not the deal, we agreed that I’ll have a full load of work, up to 40 hours a week. Usually, the good clients don’t make tests or games like these. If they are not certain about any of my skills they negotiate that during the interviews. That made my first red light go on.

Reason 2: Additional requests

My job was to develop the eLearning system, their work was to upload the content. After a while, they asked me to teach them how to add certain content to the LMS. I was happy to help, I even recorded a few tutorials on how to do stuff, without additional costs. Later on, they asked me to teach them things that were my part of the job. That was a no, no, and I told them that my developer fee is $50/hour but my teaching fee is $100/hr, which they categorically rejected. That was the first time we had a problem. They went with a story that they like to work with me, they had other options, they have 2-3 developers on standby, but they enjoy working with me etc. My response was that they should hire somebody else if they don’t like my work. We blamed it on bad communication.

Reason 3: Lack of trust

There were no emails or requests for a few weeks. Then I got an email asking if I had time to do some work. They allocated some tasks to me, but when I logged it to the system, it was full of errors and things needed fixing. The CSS was broken, full of dead links etc. When I asked who did this, they response was “well, we hired another developer thinking that you don’t have enough time”. Maybe asking me would help? So I had to fix problems that the other guy caused. That was really bad. I only regret that I didn’t fire them at that point.

Reason 4: Abusive behavior and bullying

You never actually can truly appreciate the good things in life until you see the worst. After the realization that they wanted to replace me, I got a new cold shower. Those errors and a lot of development had to be done in few days as they needed to present the system to the directors. That was a huge pressure, and I was ready to work up to 16 hours a day. Now, that would be something I could accept. But what really annoyed me was a skype call from the “other” guy. There were two people I was getting tasks from. The call was unpleasant and full of threats, I remember that he said: “I am a really heavy hitter and I’ll get to you if you don’t finish the work”. Now, that is not how civilized people talk, do you agree? I swallowed that one. I managed to fix everything just in minutes before the presentation. The directors were satisfied, they were too and they went on a vacation. After a week, they contacted me again, and asked for some tasks which I had trouble finishing, it was really complicated and it needed more time to be done. They kept pressuring with emails like:

“We need to know you are reliable and are responding to emails. We are under tremendous pressure to deliver. We need a higher degree of communication and follow through from you. “

“You are not paying attention to emails Salim, are we just another client? Or are you committed to our success?

Please Advise”

My last email sent to them was:

“Good morning *** and ***,
I really enjoyed working with you.
But your requests are unorthodox and are stretching the possibilities of Moodle and my own skills.

If you have a car, that has a wheel, the wheel can’t look like a square.”

After all this, I realize that these two are actually not the representatives of the actual company. They were rather the ones that had to make the job done, which they outsourced to me. Nothing against that. In that situation, I was actually helping them, and they acted upon me as I was some kind of lower species or a slave.

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As a conclusion, I would say, lesson learned.

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Salim Šabić
Salim Šabić
Hi, my name is Salim Šabić. Thanks for visiting my website. How can I help You? WHAT I DO: I help you grow your business online by developing and optimizing amazing business websites and applications. I can help you promote your business and reach more customers online easy! I am a certified web developer and eLearning consultant offering over 10 years of experience on both client and server sides.

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