Empowering the Freelance Economy

How do I communicate to a client that their demands and manners are unacceptable?

Dealing with demanding clients can have a negative impact on your self-confidence and bottom line as a freelancer
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A writer asks The Freelance Informer what to do in a tricky situation and we offer our suggestions to make your concerns heard in a professional way including an email template

As a freelancer, you may sometimes encounter clients who make unreasonable demands or who behave in an unacceptable manner. That is the case with one of our readers who has asked for some assistance in dealing with their situation.

This can be difficult to deal with, as you want to maintain a good working relationship with your client. However, it is important to set boundaries and to communicate effectively when a client’s behaviour is unacceptable. Whether they haven’t used freelancers before or have for years, there is no reason for a client to be hostile, rude or over-demanding.

Here we share some tips that you can consider if you find yourself in this situation:

  1. Be direct and professional. Don’t beat around the bush or try to sugarcoat things. Be clear and concise about what the client is doing that is unacceptable.
  2. Use “I” statements. This will help to keep the conversation focused on your feelings and experiences, rather than on attacking the client. For example, instead of saying “You’re being unreasonable,” you could say “I feel frustrated when you make demands that are outside of the scope of our agreement.”
  3. Focus on the solution. Don’t just complain about the problem. Instead, offer a solution that would be acceptable to both of you. For example, you could suggest that the client revise their expectations or that you work together to come up with a compromise.
  4. Be prepared to walk away. If the client is unwilling to change their behaviour, you may need to walk away from the project. This can be difficult, but it is important to protect your own boundaries and mental health.

Here is an example of an email that could communicate to a client your concerns that their demands are unacceptable or beyond the scope of the contract:

“Hi [client name],

I wanted to address some concerns I have. I am confident they can be sorted out with a few changes. I feel the demands from [name of client’s company here] are growing outside the scope of the scope of our agreement, and it’s making it exceptionally challenging to meet deadlines. I want to deliver quality work, but these additional demands are eating into the time to get the priority work completed to deadlines.

I understand that you’re eager to get your project finished, however, I feel we may need to adjust schedules slightly to meet more realistic expectations. I’m happy to work with you to come up with a solution that meets both of our needs and eliminates demands outside the scope of our agreement.

Please let me know a date and time this week that you are free to discuss how we can adjust expectations and timelines. I think it is best we come to an arrangement this week to not delay the project.

With regards,

[Your name, company, email and phone number]”


It is important to remember that you are not obligated to work with clients who make unreasonable demands or who behave in an unacceptable manner. If you are unable to reach a resolution with the client, you may need to walk away from the project. This can be difficult, but it is important to protect your own boundaries and mental health. If they are asking for more work and you are not paid for them then it is most definitely time to discuss the issue. If the client starts to avoid the conversation then they probably have no intention of changing.

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