Dave Meier
August 1, 2021
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Dealing with client issues

Most people don’t wake up and plan to ruin your day. You’re not that important. 

Difficulties are usually down to communication issues, unaligned expectations or personality clashes.


Don’t bury your head in the sand and expect the problem to go away. Speak directly to your client. 

Email cannot create a tone of voice, and you read it from your own perspective. Pick up the phone. You’ll quickly understand how big an issue it is. Sometimes people just want to feel listened to, or to vent.

Approach clients in the order below. 

01. Convince

A lot of people don’t read the contract. They don’t understand how you operate and have their own expectations of how things should work.

Sometimes a simple explanation of how you work and what is outside the scope can help clients reframe the problem and change their perspective. 

Use an Actions After Win checklist and Before we can start checklist to make sure nothing gets overlooked.

02. Compromise

Delays are your fault, even when they’re not your fault. You need to plan with a ‘worst case scenario’ in mind. What will happen if you don’t get images, feedback, approval or payments?

Add fallbacks that keep the project moving forward even when clients don’t give you what you need.

  • No images by [YY-MM-DD], I will use free stock or filler images. 
  • No content by [YY-MM-DD], we’ll use garbled/filler text. 
  • No design feedback/approval after a set number of days, it is assumed design option one is approved. 
  • No payment by Sprint 3, we will pause the project.
  • No payment on a paused project for four weeks, we will close the project.

03. Concede

Look at what is the fastest way to get the project closed or the issue resolved. Will updating all the changes be quicker than back and forth bickering with this person? 

Focus on the end goal you want and get there fast. 

Chalk it up to experience. You’ll always learn from difficult projects/people. The key is to inoculate the issues you encountered, to make the next project smoother.