Why Doesn’t My Client Take Me Seriously?

Lack of client respect is a huge problem for many freelancers. I hear the complaint often, “my client just doesn’t treat me like a professional.”

A client who doesn’t treat you like a professional can lead to a number of problems:

  • Mistakes on the part of the client
  • Communication problems
  • Lower payment

If you’re working with a client who doesn’t treat you like a professional, don’t despair. In this post, we’ll examine the reasons why some clients don’t take freelancers seriously. We’ll also discuss what you can do to win a client’s respect.

Why Your Client Doesn’t Take You Seriously

Have you ever had a client shoot down your suggestion or change your work? Does your client always try to get you to agree to a lower rate than you feel comfortable with? Do they ignore your emails and calls?

It could be that they don’t take you seriously as a professional. If they don’t, there’s bound to be a reason for that.

If you feel that your client isn’t taking you seriously, there are really only two possible reasons:

  • It’s their fault.
  • It’s your fault.

What you do to win the client’s respect depends on which reason fits your situation.

When It’s the Client’s Fault

It’s a fact of life that some people are harder to get along with than others. The world is full of difficult people, and freelancing is no exception.

Plus, personalities also play a role in how well people work together.

If someone doesn’t respect your work, it might just be them and not you. Sometimes the best thing you can do when a client doesn’t take you seriously is move on. You deserve better.

When It’s Your Fault

But before you move on, you might want to examine whether the client’s lack of respect is something you can change.

It’s possible that your interactions with the client have sent the wrong message. If that’s the case, then you may able to fix the relationship and get the client to take you more seriously.

Here are some areas of client contact to consider:

  • Relationship to client. Was the client a friend or family member before they became a client? Sometimes these folks can be the most difficult to work with. But all is not lost. Stress that this is what you do to earn a living. If you’ve given them a discount, be sure to let them know what your usual rate is and that this discounted rate is a rare exception.
  • Communication. Are your communications with the client professional? Do you stick mostly to business, or are your contacts mostly personal with a little business thrown in? Are you consistent in what you tell the client, or do you waffle back and forth?
  • Work agreement. First of all, do you have one? A contract lets the client know that you are a professional. Lack of a work agreement shouts that you are not. Make sure to get a work agreement (preferably a contract) from every client before you start work.
  • Your Work. Always put forth your best effort. Your work should be top-notch, even if it’s not what you’d ideally want to be doing. Double-check everything you do and make sure there are no mistakes. Also, take deadlines seriously. A missed deadline tells the client you aren’t serious.
  • Your website. Both the look and feel of your own website are important when it comes to your professional image. A sloppy or badly designed website tells a client that you aren’t a professional. Poorly written content or overly personal content sends the same message.
  • Your social media interactions. Many freelancers forget that their clients have access to their social media accounts. And, depending on your privacy settings and the social media tool, even people who haven’t connected to you on social media may be able to see your statuses.

The key to getting a client to take you seriously is to behave like a professional. You may be able to get away with working at home in a sloppy tee shirt and old pair of sweats from time to time, but your behavior shouldn’t reflect your sloppy attire.

Your Turn

Have you ever had a client treat you as though they don’t take you seriously? How did you deal with it?

Without naming client names, share your story in the comments below.

Image by briannaorg

Comments

  1. says

    While I agree that there are some client who just don’t treat their freelancer’s professionally, I’ve noticed that most of the time, clients react to their freelancer’s attitude.

    As unfair as it is, it falls on the freelancer to set the tone for professionalism.

    Simple rule to follow when striving for professionalism in the beginning of the client-freelancer relationship: Never befriend your client but always be friendly.

  2. says

    Samar,

    Good points. I haven’t personally experienced this problem much, but am constantly reading comments from freelancers who do. So, I felt compelled to write a post addressing the issue.

    Thanks for adding your excellent suggestions.

  3. Dimitri says

    Excellent article.

    This is exactly the reason why I decided to stop my freelance activities (unfortunately).

    If I also may add, all the mentioned points differ greatly, I believe, depending on “local culture”.
    For example here in Europe, or at least in my country, people are not to fond of contracts. Although I agree they reflect a sense of professionalism, it’s often the lack of a “contract” that differentiates you from the big ($$) companies, and that’s where you want to be.
    Of course this also depends on the kind of work.

    But I agree that it’s very hard to stay on that thin line between being a friend and a professional resource.
    In a nutshell: you charge too much, you don’t get the job, for that money they ‘ll take a “real company” (with offices, secretaries and all)
    You charge too little, they don’t think you’re serious enough.

    Then you have the ones that wants to be your friend for maintenance. The little occasional msg or phone call asking to do this little thing quickly (as a friend), when I have time or in the neighbourhood…Not enough to be actual work.

    Anyway, I could tell a bunch of stories but it all comes down to the same thing, which is in my opinion what’s killing the freelance business: Everybody wants more and more (functionality, design, flashy stuff the competition has, etc…) for less money.
    People don’t realise anymore what the work behind some of the projects is ..

    In conclusion, it was a tough decision to take but I think I ‘ll sleep better in the future…

    cheers,

  4. says

    Dimitri,

    I’m sorry freelancing didn’t work for you. It definitely isn’t for everyone. It sounds like you made the right decision for you.

    Thanks for sharing your story. Best wishes to you.

  5. says

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  6. says

    I think one of the main reasons clients don’t take freelancers seriously is the fact that they think there are so many other freelancers who’d do anything to land a project; some of them think we’re dispensable.

    Such clients think we’ll succumb to every whim, which can be really frustrating.

    Thankfully, not everyone is like that.

  7. Tina says

    I am in a situation where I am to freelance for a company. The contract hasn’t even been signed yet and I find they are trying to treat me like some random employee.

    I landed the gig through an agency and they are the ones behaving that way.

    They made a mistake on some paperwork and waned me to drive back up to sign some other things. I told them I couldn’t and so they make a veiled threat of how bad I would look in the client’s eyes if I didn’t start the next day. I have other clients besides them and could not drive the hour back.

    Then when they sent me details on the contract, the rate was lower than what was agreed upon and now I find out they expect me to come into the office and sit there and work 40 hours like an employee.

    Needless to say I am hopping mad at the disrespect and nonsense from these people.

    I find the best way of dealing with them is either not at all or very firmly.

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