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How to Deal with a Bad Client: a Guide for Virtual Assistants

Although you don’t plan to work with nasty clients, it’s important to learn how to deal with a bad client. Because you can never tell when you will have one of those bad days in the office.

A difficult client may undermine your VA business, feed your insecurity, and make you doubt your abilities, lower your confidence, and even make you hate freelancing.

That’s why as part of your growth in freelancing, it is important to learn tips on identifying and managing all the different types of difficult clients. So that no one will bring you down at any one time.

Types of Difficult Clients

The first step to understanding how to deal with difficult clients is knowing the various types of difficult clients in freelancing. These clients fall under the following major categories.

  • The angry customer - is a customer who is always unhappy despite your best efforts to impress them with your best work.

  • The indecisive customer- a customer who takes longer than usual to make even the simplest decision.

  • The demanding customer- a customer who will keep wanting more from you and is not ready to respect your schedule.

  • The vague customer – a customer who is never sure what they want for their business. Some of these customers are not ready to admit it or aren't open to your suggestions.

  • The critical customer - the customer who will always find something to criticize in the services you offer. Most of the criticism is negative and is offered in an unfriendly manner.

No matter the type of client you’re working with, the following strategies will help you deal with them effectively.

Set Clear Expectations from the Beginning

Setting expectations from the start could determine whether a working or personal relationship works out. There is a whole concept about the psychology of expectations, such as when expectations are not met, it will lead to disappointments. Unmet expectations can change your attitude towards someone or what you think about the person.

And you do not want this happening in a working relationship with your client. A client's change of attitude in you may prompt them to take actions that may harm your online virtual assistant's reputation.

Avoid this by setting clear expectations in your working agreement with the client. Make sure that the following details are captured in your working agreement.

  • Project objectives

  • Communication procedures

  • Protocols for managing changes

  • The budget involved

  • The agreed working hours

  • The expected deliverables

  • Agreed performance metrics

Your working contract should be comprehensive enough to capture all these details. These clauses form the foundation for lasting relationships with your clients.

Having ambiguous VA contracts leaves room for possible conflicts with your client. There is always the possibility of human beings wanting more, and depending on their working ethics, the client may take advantage of ambiguous contracts.

Make a point of preparing a working proposal based on the terms you agreed with the client and have the client sign the contract before making the first payment. Don't just download and blindly adopt working contracts from online sites.

Take Time to Understand the True Issue at Hand

Francis de Sales once said, "Never be in a hurry, do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset." The quote almost has the full guide to handling a difficult situation with a bad client.

There is a certain urge to respond to unfair negative feedback from a bad client immediately when the heat is still hot; talk of throwing more gasoline into the fire.

A calmer approach will diffuse the situation better and not leave bad blood between you and the client. Take time to decompress and assess the situation objectively.

Does the client present a valid point even though harshly? If so, the situation can be dealt with by reminding the client of the communication procedures you established in your VA contract. Then you can take the criticism and use it to improve the quality of your work or take a course online to improve your skills.

In the event of unfair criticism without a valid point, you will have to let the client know. Make the client understand that this cannot happen again as it harms your working relationship.

Become Solution Oriented

One of the reasons your client may be giving you a hard time is that they are also facing a crisis in their business. Hence, they may misstep and vent their anger toward you.

But despite the client's inappropriate handling of the situation, it doesn't change the fact that a problem exists.

Therefore, you will change the situation by helping your client figure out the solution their business is facing. Take time to understand the challenge, research solutions, and calmly approach the client for a brainstorming session on the available resolutions.

The approach is also fit for confused clients. A little guidance on workable solutions would go a long way in getting the relationship back on track.

Practice Active Listening

Active listening is a vital skill for a virtual assistant. It improves comprehension and communication in your interactions with your clients.

Active listening entails focusing all your attention on the speaker, hence understanding what they are saying. It makes it possible for you to respond thoughtfully, which is essential in a conflict.

It also means giving your client enough time to talk without interruptions. It will be easier for the client to either express or give you hints on their point of view.

You will be surprised how active listening will resolve conflicts before they emerge.

Build Empathy with Your Clients

Human beings are social beings. Remember this when working with your client. Because you cannot afford not to develop empathy for your clients. How else will you develop lasting relationships with them?

Your empathy skills help you understand your client's feelings and intentions. It will be easier to detect your client's emotional state and adjust your interactions.

For example, you can handle difficult clients by shifting to more personal communication means. A simple trick like shifting from email communications to face-to-face video calls can help repair your difficult relationship.

Perhaps your communication challenges were because you have not read each other's non-verbal cues. It is also easier to express one's problems in a more personal conversation, like in therapy.

Also, be open to being held accountable for your errors. Encourage your client to have a constructive way of addressing your mistakes. And also show the willingness to acknowledge when you are in the wrong.

Get More Tips on How to Deal with a Bad Client

There is a possibility you’re experiencing a uniquely difficult time with a bad client. In such a case, the best help you can get is from another VA who has faced a similar situation with their client. Join the Royal VA community and interact with top experienced VAs who will share more tips on dealing with your situation.


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