Confrontation. What a dirty word!
I’m the master avoider of confrontation. You will see me running for the hills rather than face a confrontational situation!
However, we’ve all had that compliant from a client where they are unhappy with your work. Once you receive the complaint you’ll invariably have to confront the situation but have you confronted your emotions too?
Usually when you receive the contesting email you think, “I’m sure this is a mistake. I’m misreading the tone. I did an excellent job”. Soon, though, you’ll need to know you have a situation on hand. Don’t deny it. The sooner you deal with the situation, the better.
You will most probably proceed to draft that angry email with the nasty and disdainful undertone. It’s alright to be angry. Be careful though what you do with your anger. Many blog posts have been written about drafting the angry email, letting it sit, deleting it and replacing it with a courteous one. It is cathartic. But also be careful what social media platforms you use to air your grievances. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ are never good places to air your grievances. The internet has a long-term memory. You don’t want to make the situation worse by making your client angrier when he stumbles across your post.
Gmail also has a nice “undo” feature if you inadvertently send that angry email. You can enable it in settings and it gives you about 8 seconds to recall the email you have just sent.
Be careful how you bargain in trying to make the situation better. Depending on the circumstances, it may feel right to refund entire amounts of money or give a discount on the next job you do for the client. Whatever you choose to do, make it a good compromise for you and your client. This will, however, depend on the circumstances.
Some jobs may become a thorn in your side. Maybe the client has asked you for your third rewrite. Your heart may not be in it any more. You may be plagued by it in your down time and sleep. Just know that a job can never be never-ending. Soon the client will be gone and you will have moved on. Be careful though when you are feeling demotivated that you still do the job to the best of your ability.
Sometimes you will just have to accept that some clients will never be happy. Try to deliver the job with your integrity still attached. Sometimes, it may be necessary to either fire the client or refund the whole amount and refer them elsewhere. This is no reflection on you but it is sometimes a necessary step.
What can you do to avoid this in the future?
I have a list of golden rules stuck up on the wall which I refer to before accepting a client. There have been many blog posts on this but it always bears repeating. Here’s my list:
1. Research the client thoroughly!!
2. Is the brief clear?
3. Does the client respect your working hours?
4. Is it a reasonable time frame for you to complete the job? Will you be able to complete the work to the best of your ability and beyond, in the given time frame?
5. Take time to accept the job. Read through terms and conditions. Is this the right fit for you? Never hastily accept anything.
6. Your reputation is more valuable than gold!! Am I doing anything to compromise my reputation in the industry?
7. Tired? Rather reply to the email/sign the contract when you’ve rested.
8. Are there any warning signs from the beginning? Is the client difficult to reach? Has he not sent you requested materials?
What would you add to this list?
Corinne McKay in her book How to succeed as a freelance translator has an excellent checklist on researching potential clients and what to do when things don’t go as planned. I highly recommend this book for any freelancer.