How To Handle Conflict as A Freelancer

In the beginning, you’ll be excited about starting your freelance career. You’ve done the research, have a good portfolio, and you’re ready to start making some money. You get your first few clients, and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself.

After a while, you might begin to notice that your clients are not all the same. Some of them are really nice, but others are not so nice. You might begin to have conflicts with your client and then realise you are not having fun with them; you’re not enjoying yourself, and you’re not making a lot of money.

So, what’s going on here? Why is it that some clients are nice, and others are not? How do you handle conflict with clients?

Identify the Conflict

You cannot resolve a conflict with your client without knowing the root cause of it. You can only address the conflict if you first know the cause.  Was it caused by miscommunication, lack of trust, a lack of respect, breach of information or is it simply due to differences in personality?

All these are not unusual when you’re working with other people. When you are dealing with people, some can be very blunt and forthright about how they feel, and others might be very subtle and not all forthright about how they feel. It’s part of our human experience.

Keep calm. Try to understand the situation from the other person’s perspective

Conflict is an inevitable part of any professional relationship. After all, no one likes to do things that they don’t want to do, and you aren’t any different. Understanding your clients is foundational to conflict resolution, but it doesn’t mean you will always get your way.

It may seem obvious, but it is important to remember that the other person has his or her own viewpoint. This then allows you to adapt your approach. You should try to understand why the other person feels unhappy with your work. Communicate with them about the situation calmly and rationally until they feel understood or acknowledged.

Offering an apology for your part in the conflict can help

It can be a tough decision to apologise, but it is important to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Give them a solution to fix the problem or reassure them that you are open to brainstorming.

Don’t talk about difficult issues over text

It can be so easy to miscommunicate with someone over text. It’s even worse when you two have never met in person. You could misinterpret something they say or not have the right tone, especially if you are talking to someone overseas.

Be prepared to negotiate (and be okay with not getting your way)

One of the biggest reasons why conflicts arise between clients and freelancers is due to the different expectations. If you’re a new freelancer, it’s important to know that your clients have their own way of doing things.

Usually, what they want is the best for them, just like you want what’s best for you. You can’t demand that your way is the only way. Instead, you should be open-minded and flexible enough to be ready for negotiations.

Get protection for freelancing errors

It is in everyone’s best interest when things go well. However, if things turn sour, you will need to be properly protected so that you can ensure that any claims made against you by your clients. Freelancing, like any other profession, comes with the possibility of error, and professional indemnity cover can help to protect you financially in case of this occurring.


Conflict with clients is inevitable. It is part of freelancing because you have to handle many clients, and each of them has varying expectations and priorities. You will have to make compromises if you want to make the most out of your freelancing business. It might feel like walking the edge of a tightrope, and it takes a lot of courage and focus for a freelancer to do that.

Claire James
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