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5 Things You Should Never Say to Clients

To keep your design clients happy, here are few things you should never say to them.

Relationships between clients and freelancers can be trying.

Generally speaking, clients want the best possible work for the least possible amount of money and freelancers want to be paid fairly for their time and skills. With those parameters in place these working partnerships can get difficult very quickly.

Unfortunately for freelancers the power usually lies in the hands of the money holder – the client. While it is important for freelancers to put boundaries in place for their working relationships, they also need to tread a fine line between educating their clients while still maintaining a positive working relationship that hopefully results in ongoing contracts and referrals.

To keep your design clients happy, here are few things you should never say to them.

“It’s going to take a few more weeks.”

If the client provided a brief with a reasonable deadline that you agreed to, you must deliver on time. It can be difficult to predict how long a design project will take but it’s much better to overestimate, than underestimate how long it will take.


The length of time a project takes you to complete is irrelevant – if you deliver it before the deadline, the client will love you. If you deliver it after the deadline, they’re not going to be impressed.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Even through freelancers are hired for their expertise, most clients will want to get involved in the process. It’s important to avoid belittling the suggestions of your clients. They’re the people who are paying you for your work so they deserve to have some input.

It’s obviously important to manage difficult clients who nit-pick over every pixel but no one wants to hear that their opinion isn’t important.

“It’s going to cost a bit more than I quoted.”

Educating clients on freelance pricing is difficult enough without adding additional costs at the end. Again, there’s a bit of guess work involved in quoting for a client job but it’s better to over-quote slightly than to ask your client for more money half way through a project.


As a freelancer if you underestimate the cost of a project and it was your oversight, not the clients, the best thing to do is absorb the cost and learn from the mistake. Keep in mind though, If the client asks for additional work, you’re well within your rights to charge them extra.

“That’s not possible.”

If a client is asking for something that you’re not sure you can do, you should always try to under-promise and over deliver. Avoid definitive phrases like ‘I can’t do that.’ or ‘that’s not possible.’

Use softer language so the client knows you’re on their side and offer them tangible alternatives to their far-fetched suggestions. It can be difficult, especially with demanding clients but no one likes to feel stupid.


Clients hire freelancers for a reason – it’s because they don’t have the skills or the time to do the work themselves. They don’t know everything about the field you work in so be patient and courteous with your responses no matter how ludicrous the request.

“That was the intern’s job.”

If a client is unsatisfied with the work you’ve done, you need to own it. Laying blame on other people won’t get you anywhere. The quickest and easiest way to deal with unhappy client is to fix their problem.

Tip: Keep good records of your correspondence with all clients and make sure that all communication is via email so you have a record of the client’s requests. Most clients are reasonable but there definitely clients out there that need reminding of the terms of your contract.

Featured image: Pressmaster

Carly Jacobs

About the Author Carly Jacobs

Carly is the founding editor of popular Australian blog Smaggle, which launched in 2007 back when blogging was weird. She has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Cosmopolitan and Cleo, among other top publications.