I use a few different strategies to deal with difficulties. The strategies I use depend on the situation as well as what led up to it. My strategies may or may not work for you. The longer you work from home, the more experience and confidence you’ll gain. Then, you’ll be able to deal with difficulties in your own way.
Related: Upwork Client Training 101
Client Difficulties When Working from Home
If you’re working remotely because of COVID-19, replace the word “client” with “coworker, manager, or boss.” You’ll still get just as much out of this as those of us who just decided to live where we work.
Not all clients end up being awesome. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it goes. I mean, you know this is true no matter what job or industry you’ve ever held or worked in. Humans are just shitty sometimes. It could be that someone just has a bad day. It could be that the two of you were never on the same page about the project to begin with. It could be that they truly don’t understand the scope of their own project. They could be a micromanager. You could be *gasp* taking more control over the project than they wanted you to ever have to begin with. Pro tip: it isn’t your project. It is their project. You are the hired help.
I’ve had that happen, too. I’ve ran the gamut of issues. A lot of times, you know when a client is going to be a pain in the ass before you agree to take on the project. I discuss the importance of why you should vet your potential clients in this post. Or you can listen to it here. Dealing with it before it ever becomes a problem, when a client is truly a problem client, is the best strategy. And, no, I haven’t always taken my own fucking advice.
Past that, how you deal with what happens depends on the root of the problem. The unethical client I dealt with acted ethically for quite sometime, or borderline ethically.
- From the initial contact, you must watch for red flags. If the job is “super easy,” don’t believe it. If it were, why would they need you? They wouldn’t. If you’re on Upwork or another freelance platform, read previously left feedback. Google them. There are times when I do take negative feedback (as opposed to no feedback) with a grain of salt. I know people can be dicks. I once had a client leave glowing feedback who got angry over something they did to their own content and site and then go and delete their public feedback. Whatever. If it feels like a bad idea to work with them, it is. Go with your gut…every single fucking time.
- Understand that everyone is entitled to a bad day…even you. You expect grace from others. Give your clients the same. Clients have bad days. They misspeak. They word things incorrectly. A generally well-received client can still have a bad day. Give them grace. You don’t appreciate it when others jump your shit for a bad day. Yes, it is okay to have and enforce boundaries. You should never tolerate racism, sexism, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc. Yes, I’ve ended contracts over verbal abuse. Oddly enough, that was with a woman.
- Get clarification. If things don’t seem to get any clearer through email, pick up the fucking phone or jump on whatever video conference you like. Not everyone is a great writer. Sometimes, writing can inflame things because you’re implying a tone. They may imply a tone. You’re getting pissed and they think things are great. Pick up the fucking phone or schedule a video call. Don’t let things get out of fucking control. You’re a professional. You do this for a living. Solve the problem. Be a problem solver.
- When in doubt, strategize together. When there truly is a problem for both you and the client, work on it together. Just because you think you have the best fucking solution ever doesn’t mean the client will agree with you. Again, you are the hired help. Yes, you’re the expert…the professional, but you’re there to solve a problem and you need the client happy. It is much easier (and more cost effective) to sell to an existing client (and gain referrals) than it is to convert someone over to a new client.
Working from home is not easy. The new work from home folks courtesy of COVID-19 are learning that…some of yall were the same people who used to talk about how working from home wasn’t really work. I’d just like to say welcome to the freak show, baby.
Some of y’all owe the rest of us an apology. Clearly, I am not talking to those who are now remote workers who were respectful of any stay at home or work from home parent who in awe said, “I don’t know how y’all do it.” Working from home isn’t for everyone. I’m only laughing at those who thought it wasn’t hard to work from home. You assholes deserve it…but don’t treat your kids like shit over it. They didn’t ask for this pandemic. You’re a parent. Buck up and take care of business.
Anyway, let’s talk about dealing with family difficulties when you work from home…because they happen. Again, if you’re a remote worker of a more traditional job, please exchange “clients” for “boss, manager, or coworker.”
- Consider your deadlines. I’ll tell you this isn’t the very first thing I do. It depends on what’s happening. My children are 22 years old, 19 years old, and 10 years old. When I started doing this, I had a 16 year old, a 14 year old (because my 19 year old turns 20 this year), and a 5 year old (because my 10 year old turns 11 next month). My older two are now on their own, but if the shit hit the fan for them, I’d still drop whatever without a hesitation. #momlife My youngest son has autism and is non-verbal. He will never be able to live on his own. He can do quite a few things, but he couldn’t shop alone or prepare his meals or pay his own bills. He will never drive or make his own doctor’s appointments. So, again, depending on what’s happening that I consider a family difficulty given my personal life, I check my deadlines. I use Clickup. You can find a link on the Work from Home Resources page. Full disclosure: the link on the resources page is an affiliate link. Most of my clients don’t have projects that will sink their entire lives or businesses if I had an actual family issue that required I move a deadline. However, that rarely happens in my life. I follow the 6Ps. I also tend to push deadlines out (unless I am being paid not to do that) and deliver early where possible.
- I try not to make my clients feel the pinch of family life, within reason. All of my clients know I have children, three dogs, and a pain in the ass cat. They know my business hours. My super long-term clients know during the heat of the summer, they’re more likely to hear from me (email!) around 5 or 6 am because I hate working during the heat of the day (although they can email me anytime and I’ll probably still respond). They know the days my youngest son has therapy, if those days and hours change, and when I might be out for some reason (including the use of my out of office on my email). I don’t tell them about every little thing or every time my youngest kid has strep throat and pukes on the carpet. I just work around stuff. I have CPTSD and I work weird hours because I have a lot of nights I do not sleep. And no, I don’t sleep during the day, either. Guess what? They don’t feel that pinch. I just work around everything. That isn’t their problem. Yes, we are human. Yes, we should all have compassion for each other and build human relationships. However, my clients shouldn’t suffer because I’m not doing what I said I would do. That is called commitment. It is one pillar of my business. Those little things are not emergencies.
- Take care of business and don’t take it out on your children. Kids aren’t the problem. They aren’t why you are stressed. They are children. They didn’t ask for a pandemic. If you volunteered to work from home, they are only little once. Just once. Before you know it, they are out living on their own. You’ll go through pictures often and remember the time you did X with them and then wish you had done it more often. I treasure every single moment of being the house where my sons ran in and out with their friends and tracked in dirt and we played outside. When you need to take care of your family, do it. Love them well.