The client from hell does not exist

This is probably unpopular opinion, but I truly believe the most clients that are described as ‘the client from hell’ aren’t really difficult clients. Sure, some clients are easier to work with than others. But the real client from hell? No, that is a myth.

So why do you hear so much complaining about these so called difficult clients?

In my experience, most difficult clients become that way during a project in which the communication is bad between a client and the company. It is really that simple. Clients get annoying when they receive something from you that doesn’t match with what they where expecting to get from you. Because there is nothing more annoying as paying for something and receiving something (completely) different. This is what your client is feeling in such a situation: ‘This isn’t what I paid for’.

Who is to blame?

Well, blaming one person for this is maybe a bit harsh, but it is probably your fault. You are the professional and you should guide your client through the process of the project you are doing with them. This includes managing the expectation your client might have. You are responsible for figuring out what it is what your client wants, or even better, needs.

You should be very clear in your communication towards your client about what they can expect from you. This includes (but is not limited to) deadlines, delivery dates, including features and features that are out of scope.

Also, when you are going to miss a deadline or are not sure if you are going to make a deadline, tell your client right away. Most of the time the deadlines are not set in stone and when told in advance, clients are able to act on the changing deadline. Ofcourse when you move a deadline, you should tell your client when they do can expect you to deliver the promised work.

Keep your client updated with the progress throughout the whole project. Even if you are going to make you deadline, tell them! Don’t be silent for 3 weeks and then say: ‘Surprise, here is your website!’ — they are humans, so threat them like humans. They will forget about the exact details, so make sure that all decisions and everything you agreed on is in writing. And send them a reminder a few days before a deadline. Especially when action from their side is required.

‘Hey, next Tuesday I will send you the URL of the test location of the new website.’

Don’t become the exception that proves the rule

Ofcourse there will be rare cases where the relationship between you and your client is ‘less then optimal’. Don’t let this become your client from hell! If you believe you cannot fix the relationship, it’s time to say goodbye.

Inform your client that you can’t work for them anymore, discuss the terms on which you will part ways and be done with it.


In short: A client that receives what he/she is expecting is a happy client. And a well informed client, is a client that is pleasant to work with. Even when he might not be a happy client at the moment.