14+ Things Your “Client” Says That They Probably Don’t Really Mean

Do you ever wish your clients would take a lie detector test?

Often clients and prospective clients make statements during project negotiations or in the course of the project itself that just aren’t true.

Sometimes they do this on purpose (such as when they try to manipulate you to lower your price or turn in the work more quickly). Other times, they just don’t know any better.

As a freelancer, it’s your job to figure out when the “client” is being upfront with you and when they are not. Believe me when I say that this is not always an easy task.

Well, I don’t have a lie detector for you. But I have created a list of over 14 common client statements that are likely not true. Use this list as a guideline in your client interactions and negotiations.

It’s Probably Not True When They Say…

If you’ve been a freelancer for a while, you may have heard some of these common statements. Here’s the real scoop on each of them.

  1. “I have no questions.” This is a very scary thing to hear from someone who is about to invest money in your services. It’s natural to have questions and if they don’t, it could be a red flag for trouble later on. Or, maybe they are just timid about speaking up. Encourage them to discuss any concerns or worries about the project that they might have.
  2. “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.” Designers, in particular, hear this one a lot. What it usually really means is “I have no idea what I want and I probably won’t like what you do.” When you hear these words, just say no.
  3. “I can’t pay your deposit, but I’m good for the money.” Really, do you believe them? You probably shouldn’t, unless they happen to be your best friend or related to you. Even then, you may not trust them. Tell this “client” that the deposit is always required–no exceptions.
  4. “I’m just a start up, I can’t afford much.” This is often said by prospects and clients who are trying to win your sympathy so that you will charge less. But the thing is, services have a price. I can’t imagine them going to their electric company, for example, and telling them that they are just a startup and should receive a lower rate for their electricity. Can you?
  5. “I don’t see what’s so hard about what you’re doing.” This one is usually a blatant lie. After all, if what you did was so easy then the client wouldn’t need you. And talk about disrespect from the start… In my opinion there’s almost no way that a freelancer can salvage this relationship, but occasionally the educational approach works.
  6. “My Brother/Wife/Cousin does what you’re doing.” Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But for some reason the client has hired you and not the Brother/Wife/Cousin, so my guess is that they don’t. On the other hand, the client may just be looking for something they have in common with you. When I hear this I usually politely ask why the relative wasn’t hired.
  7. “I know how to do this, I just don’t have time.” Sometimes this is true. People do get busy and people change careers. It’s possible that your client fits into one of those categories. However, it’s also possible that they don’t really know how to do it and just think they do. See #5.
  8. “I absolutely must have this by 4:00 p.m.” This statement is usually made at 3:00 p.m. True freelancer emergencies are rare. I mean, what is really going to happen if they have to wait another day for their new web copy? Rather than indicating an emergency, most of the time this statement indicates a lack of planning on the part of the client.
  9. “Let’s have a short meeting.” Meetings can be valuable, but they can also waste time. Some people go off topic easily. Try to control your time by making it clear that you only have a limited amount available. Say something like, “I can fit you in at 1:30, but I have another commitment at 2:00.” You may have to remind client of your time constraints during the meeting.

You can find six more client lies in this post.

Your Turn

What client untruths do you hear a lot? How do you respond to them?