How to Treat Clients who treat you poorly

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where in spite of doing your best, your client just doesn't value you and your work?

It's common for designers to get stuck with clients who do not communicate their requirements clearly, or are always complaining, or always delaying the payments. 

If you ever feel that your client is not treating you with respect, it's best to end the collaboration, but if you would like to save the working-relationship and get your way around this grouchy client, then read on. 

Firing a client may not be as easy as it sounds. As a freelance designer, it may seem like you're the boss but it's not entirely true. You definitely get the opportunity to work your own hours, work from home or anywhere in the world but you still have someone you need to answer to.

And if you're working on platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr, there's always that concern about reviews / ratings.

So how do you tolerate and work with someone who treats you poorly as a professional? Let's find out!

Establish Boundaries

Working hard does not and should not mean checking your emails or texts at all hours. It should definitely not mean missing out on weekends or holidays.

If you set healthy boundaries with your clients, and let them know about your availability (and non-availability) in advance, you would be saving yourself a lot of unnecessary explanations.

In fact, it's best to discuss your work hours in the beginning of the project itself, especially if you're working remotely in different time zones. 

Likewise, you must also respect the client's time. Make sure that the meetings are not scheduled at an inconvenient time for your client, if they have to wake up super early or stay up late every time to connect with you, then you can expect them to be snappy.

Choose the best time that works well for you both. 

Mode of Communication

This is one of the most important factor for any working professional relationship. It could either be professional email, Zoom meetings, or communication platforms such as Slack.

If your client is added on any of your personal social media or chat then it's a big red flag. You want to be friendly with your principal but not to the extent of having them snoop on you when you're having your own time. 

So, if you're still texting back-and-forth with your client on Whatsapp, it's time to put an end to it, and switch over to a more professional platform where you only talk work, and you're online only whilst you're working. 


Always make it a habit to start a new project with a well-documented agreement especially if you're working directly with a client.

More often it has been observed that freelancers who're new to the web design profession, have complained how 'demanding' their clients are, but a very simple way to avoid this situation is to have the instructions clearly written down at a common place.

This will not only avoid confusion as to what's done and what's not but also help you to tick off the tasks on your plate. 

If your client has an idea what you're going to be working on, and can actually see the progress there would be very little place for resentment. 


A client not paying up in time, can be really discouraging. If you find yourself stuck in a situation where you're not paid for any reason, just stop working.

A good way to not let such situation arise is to define payment terms before the start of your collaboration, but if you landed up with someone who has been delaying the payments, chances are they will continue to do so.

It's better to close the contract than losing sleep over it. 

If you're working on platforms such as Upwork, Fiver or Freelancer your payments are protected but make you adhere to their terms and conditions. 

Saying "No"

I know it can be difficult for some people to say "no" to someone but as a professional, saying no is something that we must all learn early on.

If you're not comfortable working with someone, say no to taking on more work with them, say no to working extra hours, say no to being underpaid.

No one else knows your worth better than you, so if you find yourself in a situation where you're not being valued or made to something you'd rather not, just say no. 

It will give out a strong message to your client who has been mistreating you, that you're not comfortable with their attitude and if they want to get their work done, they ought to show respect. 

What's Next?

Okay, so now that we have established, how we can deal with clients who treat us poorly, let us also find out a few mistakes that we might be making to irk the client in the first place.

Are you making your client feel stupid (unintentionally)?

Your client hired you because they're convinced that you are knowledgeable and worthy to do the job.

If you keep throwing web design & development jargon at them, they're more likely to get confused and wonder if they should be continuing with this project in the first place.

Try to communicate with your clients using words both tech and no-tech people will understand. 

Are you matching the client's energy?

Starting out a new venture, hiring professionals and growing one's business is quite a big deal for most people but if your client gets the feeling that you're not at the same energy level as theirs, you are giving them a chance to think that maybe you're not the best fit for this job.

Try and redirect this energy into action and see the results!

Are you owing up to your mistakes?

Nobody is perfect, you know that, everyone knows that, your client knows that. So, if you have made a mistake own it, make up for it. Do not focus your energy in hiding it. It can do more harm than good. 

And with that, we come to an end to this article, we sincerely hope that you find this helpful. If you do, please share it with your friends and community. If you have a story of how you overcame a nagging client successfully, do let us know in the comments below. Happy Designing!

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