Dealing with angry clients – a step by step guide with a template


Let’s face it: No matter who you are and how great of a job you do, there will always be mistakes. And there will always be people that complain. A lot. As a freelancer, this is something you will have to deal with and how you deal with it can determine whether or not you retain these people as clients.

Here’s how to do it right – step by step, with a template at the end.

1. Take a breath

Staying calm is the first and most important thing about dealing with angry customers. You don’t want to reflect back their anger, since that is unlikely to lead to a solution for either side. Don’t write a furious email right after you see their complaint – take a breath and actually try to be helpful.

2. Pay attention to what they have to say

You cannot solve a problem without knowing what the problem really is. So don’t make assumptions about what your clients are trying to achieve or to tell you. If there’s something you don’t understand, just ask them about it.

3. Admit mistakes

As I said in the beginning, everybody makes mistakes (Check out our article on the biggest mistakes a freelancer can make). It happens. How you deal with them is what separates the successful freelancers from the rest. So don’t try to blame a client for something you did wrong or didn’t explain when you should have. Admit your mistakes. This also has the advantage of helping you realize errors and fixing them in the future. If you just hide from the things you do wrong, you’ll never get them right.

4. Avoid clichés

Don’t waste your clients’ time with some lofty apologies or beating around the bush. Nobody has time for that. They have a problem and either expect you to fix it or to reassure them that it’s not going to happen again in the future.

5. Offer solutions

Once you’ve identified the problem, it’s time to look for solutions. Maybe your client just misunderstood how the service you provided is to be used – that’s alright, just explain it to them. Don’t be condescending though! And maybe you have to do some work in order to alleviate what is an actual issue – that’s not something you can charge for.

The best solutions provide alternatives. Give your clients multiple options for dealing with the issue at hand and let them chose one.


So here’s how an answer might look when you follow the five steps above:

Dear X,
Thanks for sending in your complaint, there seems to be a mistake on my part. I’m not completely sure what caused it, could you please describe step by step what lead to (the site crashing)? I could try to (solution A) or (solution B), let me know what works best for you.

That’s short and simple. It takes the complaint seriously, admits a mistake and offers multiple solutions. Depending on the problem you’ll have to vary it up. Making communication feel personal is an important part of talking to clients, so don’t always use the same phrases – be authentic. And there’s one last tip:

6. Check up on angry clients after a while

Don’t just react to people when they’re angry – check up on them after a couple of weeks have passed to make sure that the issue they had was really solved. This is how you win back their trust and show them you really care. There are different types of clients, who don’t react the same when a problem arises. However, everyone will be happy to see you care about your relationship.

Have questions or comments on the article? Post them in the comment section below, we’re always happy to hear from our readers.
Pic: ©Markus Spiske
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