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7 Things Successful Freelancers Never Say to Their Clients

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If you’re not careful as a freelancer, it can be easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment when talking with a client.

But whatever you do, don’t let one of these phrases slip out while you’re working with a client or you may find yourself regretting it later!

1. “That’s just a bad idea.”

If you ever get a hankerin’ to use this phrase, you wouldn’t be the first freelancer in history to feel that way. Let’s face it, lots of our clients have ideas (when it comes to design) that are just aren’t that good.

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No matter how “bad” their idea is, however, hear them out, don’t criticize, and do your best to steer the conversation in the right direction.

2. “Yes, yes, yessity yes yes.”

If something isn’t going to work, don’t say “yes” to it. It’s that simple. If your client calls you on Friday at 6pm and needs something on Monday at 8am on a weekend when you have family in town, don’t tell them you can “make it work.”

Just tell them “no.” Offer another solution that works for both of you, but don’t turn into a mindless “yes-man” or you lose one of the biggest motivations for working solo: freedom.

3. “We don’t need you.”

Okay, maybe you’d never come out and say this directly, but it’s all too easy to send this message by the way you act.

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If you never take any of their advice or incorporate their feedback, soon they’ll feel like you don’t think you need them. And that’s a place successful freelancers avoid like the plague.

4. “We really want…”

Guess what: it’s not about you. Working in a client/freelancer relationship means you’re working toward what your client wants.

It’s been my experience that the most successful freelancers understand that the hardest part about freelancing has nothing to do with Photoshop, vector paths, or even contracts.

The hardest piece of freelancing is figuring out what your clients need and then giving it to them better than anyone else can.

5. “You’re wrong.”

Even when they are, don’t ever tell your clients they’re wrong.

Why? Because when you say “you’re wrong,” you’re attacking the person whose opinion it is instead of the opinion itself.

What do say instead? Try something like “that’s an interesting idea. What if we tried it like this…”

6. “What we were thinking was…blah blah blah”

There may come a moment when the client wants you to talk about the work you’re about to do or the work you’ve already done.

But for the first 3/4 of your first meeting with a client, ask questions and shut your mouth.

Let me say that again. A successful first meeting consists of 2 steps:

Step 1: Ask lots of questions.
Step 2: Shut your mouth and listen to your client.

7. “But”

As in “that’s a great suggestion, but…”

The word “but” has this amazing power to negate everything that preceded it.

For example: which of the following movies would you like to see?

A: “It started to drag a little at the end, but that movie was amazing!”
B: “That movie was amazing, but it really started to drag toward the end.”

See how the first movie is still worth seeing even if it had a bit of a lengthy third act?

And you’re still not sure if seeing the second movie is worth it.

So instead of saying something like “That’s a great idea, but we’ll have to do a little more research to see if it will pan out.”

Flip it:

“We may have to do some extra research to see if it will pan out, but that’s a great idea!”

Huge difference.

More things you shouldn’t say?

Have you ever said something to your client that you regretted later? Share them with me in the comments, I’d love to get a huge list going.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

Leave a Comment



  1. Samantha says:

    Point 7 is great advice! Such a huge difference after reversing the sentence around.

  2. Fully agree with you – and it is true not just for freelancer but for any clients relations I think. If you work for a client – it’s his wishes and ideas should be fulfilled. He actually pays you to do what he wants but can not do himself. At the same time it is very bad practice to agree with everything – you can’t work 24/7 – everybody needs rest even to stay productive

  3. Where is number 8 and 9?


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