Step Up or Stand Down?


I left publishing because I needed a creative outlet. I missed writing and, due to my full-time job — plus my long commute — I never seemed to have the energy at the end of the day to brainstorm and send out pitches, or even string together words coherently.

But that’s not the only reason I left.

I was also worn down by verbally abusive authors: those who thought they were my only responsibility, and who consistently treated me both rudely and unprofessionally.

Being unappreciated and verbally manhandled hurt, so I left.

But there are plenty of problem clients in the freelance world.

My question is this:

When you’ve delivered on all your promises, and a client responds rudely lor unprofessionally, do you stand up for yourself (in a calm or rational manner, of course), or do you politely bid them adieu, secure in the knowledge that you’ll never have to deal with them again?

I’m curious to hear your nightmare client stories, and details of how you handled yourselves.


  1. I hate to admit this, but I sometimes sit down and take it. I know I need to assert myself and leave if that doesn’t work, but I’m not someone who’s comfortable with confrontation.

    Last year I had a client who flat out refused to pay me for work already completed. I tried to assert myself, but it got ugly, so eventually I just backed down and agreed that if he took down the copy I’d written, I wouldn’t take him to small claim’s court. Part of me wishes I’d dragged him to court but another part knows it wasn’t worth my time.

  2. I once ate almost $2K on a project for a MAJOR client. AS in, you’d recognize the name instantly and wonder how things got to that point. Unfortunately I was caught between a client and a third party and I actually took the loss because I knew I could stand on principle and get paid, but I’d alienate my third party to the point where we’d never work together again in all likelihood.

    In the end, I got much more work from the third party than the 2K, but it was still a bad situation to be placed in and I’ve sworn NEVER AGAIN. Next time, feet go in the fire. Not mine…but hindsight is always 20/20, eh?

    PS-first time reader here, GREAT blog.

  3. Part of the beauty of being in your own business is having the freedom to choose the clients you work for. Hopefully they are people who value and respect you. I may give them the benefit of the doubt if they treat me disrespectfully once, but if it happens too many times, it is a sign, and life is too short, too precious to take this kind of abuse!

  4. Thanks for all your comments, guys (and welcome new readers)! It’s so frustrating to have to swallow your losses — and your pride — when it comes to problem clients. Especially when you never saw it coming. But Sharon’s right. Once we get going, we can pick and choose the best clients and the best projects, and that’s part of why I love freelancing so much! Fingers crossed that we don’t have to deal with the duds too often.


  1. […] Freelancedom. Step Up or Stand Down? […]

  2. […] being said, the customer isn’t always right. If you have a problem client, drop […]

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