Based in Chicago, Illinois, The Freelance Beat is a blog exploring the triumphs and challenges that freelance journalists encounter in their early and mid-careers.

Freelancers, the customer is not always right.

Freelancers, the customer is not always right.

Being a freelancing means you don’t have a boss anymore. You don’t have a boss assigning you tasks and standing over your shoulder to make sure those tasks were completed. However, you also don’t have a boss who handles displeased clients, social media trolls or legal battles.

As a freelancer, you quickly realize that you’re responsible for creative projects as well as the not-so-glamorous legwork. It means you’ll have to do the hard work of evaluating clients and making difficult business decisions.

Don’t worry! It’s not all bad. It just means you’ve got to step up and handle stuff that used to be out of your purview. (I go into this a bit more in “How to Spot Client Red Flags”).Most of your clients will understand your work and push you to produce your best stories. Some of them, on the other hand, will make the work harder than it has to be.

Since you don’t have a boss, it’s up to you to find clients who work well with you. In the beginning, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to please your clients no matter what, especially since our income fluctuates and client referrals put more money in your client.

You should always do your best to make your clients happy. But at some point, you have to stick up for yourself if things aren’t right. There are a few times when the customer isn’t right… 

The work slides out of scope.

Check your contract. If you and your client agreed to a certain amount of work, the client can’t add onto that scope of work in the middle of the project. Going into a project, you should know your expected word count and whether you need to provide multimedia materials (photos, audio, video, etc.). If more work needs to be done, it’s time to renegotiate the contract. Nothing should be added at the end of the agreement.

Your client starts using profanity or slurs.

This is a no-brainer. If your editor can’t handle disagreements like an adult, you can take your talents elsewhere. No one deserves that. Make sure you warn other freelancers so no one else faces abuse.

Your payment gets lost or isn’t processed on time.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you deliver the work on time, you should be paid on time period. I’ve already gone over a list of common late payment excuses in my “Freelancer Payment Pet Peeves” post. If a client can’t pay on time—or worse, get an attitude when you inquire about the status of payment—don’t send them any work. Keep records of when your invoices are sent, when they’re opened and any payment inquiries between you and your clients. 


Your client brings in another creative professional to finish the project.

You were hired for a reason. You come up with good ideas, and you have a track record of delivering the work. If the client decides to bring in another writer, photographer, designer, etc., it’s time to go. You can’t have too many cooks in the kitchen.


I’m sure there are other situations where the customer isn’t right. Tell me about a time when you had to address a tough client situation. Leave a comment or email me at





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