A client wanted me to change some of the things for his project but I refused. I argued that it was unnecessary, and that the project at present was more in line with the client's goals and requirements. Even though I complied with one of his requests (but not the other ones), he was absolutely furious and then stormed off without compensating for the initial work that I had done for his project.

What should I do to prevent angering customers so that they don't ghost me?

It seems like the "customer is king" motto holds true and nowadays they have this sense of entitlement to absolute power.

  • 17
    Was there a reason to refuse? If I want X and someone refuses, I will take my business to someone who does X for me. Seems natural.
    – nvoigt
    Aug 23, 2020 at 12:21

6 Answers 6


They have a sense of entitlement to absolute power? Of course they do. They're paying you. If I pay you for goods or services then I am entitled to receive those goods or services. If I change my mind about a project then it's your job to counsel and advise me, but ultimately it's your job to do as I ask. If you can't do that then fire me as your client.

My clients pay me to perform services. They pay me to serve their needs. They do not pay me to serve my own needs. I do not take my ego into the business relationship. If they ask me for something to which I disagree then I talk to them about it. I explain why I disagree. I give them alternatives that I think better serve their needs. If they insist on doing things their way then that's their absolute right to do so. I either acquiesce or I fire them. There are no other alternatives.

Like it or not, agree with it or not, our job is to serve our clients, not ourselves. Our ego has no place in the equation. If their opposition to your recommendations are so egregious as to be untenable for you, walk away.

Let me recap:

If I am your client, then ultimately it's your job to serve me. That means doing what I ask. If you can't do that because you disagree with me then fire me as your client. Take your ego out of the relationship. It has no place there. Stop serving yourself and start serving your client.

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    We're talking about a client making a request about what they want and a contractor refusing that request. It is the absolute right of the client to determine what work is performed. They're paying for said work. Whether they have the slightest idea or not is irrelevant. If you find their request to be so egregious to you as to be untenable then you should terminate the business relationship with the client. It is not my right as a contractor to impose my will upon the client.
    – joeqwerty
    Aug 23, 2020 at 16:26
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    @Steve, I'm not speaking to the contractual legalities nor to the employee/contractor legal or tax classifications. I'm speaking strictly to the scenario of the client asking for a specific solution and the contractor refusing to implement said solution. Client: "I'd like you to implement Solution A." Contractor: "Solution B is a better solution and I refuse to implement Solution A." - In this case, the contractor is wrong, which seems to be the crux of the question.
    – joeqwerty
    Aug 23, 2020 at 17:06
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    To renegotiate the scope of the project or the terms of the contract are perfectly acceptable. To refuse a client request because you disagree with it is not acceptable.
    – joeqwerty
    Aug 23, 2020 at 17:12
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    I should add as well, where there is any doubt as to the contractor's professionalism and judgment and the client feels his own is better, or where the client desires to exercise total ongoing control over the work, then the appropriate method of engagement is via employment, and then the worker is paid on a time (or salary) basis, and the employer correspondingly assumes all risk as to budget, schedule, and final quality.
    – Steve
    Aug 23, 2020 at 17:44
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    This answer reads very American to me, with multiple mentions of "serving" and being fired. I think I agree with the premise but would frame the relationship very differently.
    – Borgh
    Aug 25, 2020 at 12:19

When the client tells you, "This isn't what I wanted," believe them. You are not going to convince them their feelings are wrong. Instead of arguing, try asking more questions to see if you can figure out the disconnect between what you think they're asking for and what they think they're asking for.

That being said, I would suggest getting more feedback on design and expectations before you start the work. Perhaps they were unclear in communicating what they wanted, or maybe they were mistaken. It doesn't really matter because they did ask for changes when they didn't get what they were expecting. If you have design improvements that you think would be helpful, get them to agree to it first instead of just delivering what you wanted to show them.

Above all, do what they're asking, even if you really think it's the worst idea ever. It's their idea and they're paying you to help make it happen. If you won't help them get the job done, they'll find someone else who will.


You don't refuse a client, they're the ones paying. It's not your project or product, it's theirs.

You give advice and if they want changes outside the scope you tell them it will cost extra and give them a quote.

Some clients are pretty stupid about changes, but this is not a given, many know their industry intimately and I've been surprised when silly sounding specifications (to my knowledge) actually have made a big positive difference. Sometimes the client is looking at a bigger picture. Either way it doesn't matter, you build to spec, if the specs change dramatically, you charge more.


a client wanted me to change some of the things for his project, but I refused arguing that it was unnecessary and that the project at present was more in line with the client's goals and requirements

The way you formulate it what you said seems rude. You can't know that the present solution is "more in line with [their] goals". If you claim to know that, it sounds something between extremely naive and arrogant and you not wanting to do your job.

The key is having a good contract specifying what you're obligated to do and what not. But even if you have one there will be situations which aren't regulated but need to be solved. You should try to at the very least not be rude towards your clients.

Working with customers/ clients isn't easy and requires a bit of patience.


Here's what I do. My background first: I'm chemist specialized on statistical data analysis and machine learning for chemistry-related applications. What I do is the full range from teaching over consulting and implementing software solutions for such data analysis tasks to doing the actual data analysis - whatever the client needs.

A client wanted me to change some of the things for his project but I refused. I argued that it was unnecessary, and that the project at present was more in line with the client's goals and requirements.

  • You deciding that something is unnecessary for your client in itself is not a good reason for a point-blank refusal.

    • Don't argue. Explain and ask/learn. In German, we say "überzeugen, nicht überreden": convince them, don't talk them into something.
    • At the very least, you need to explain why you think it is unnecessary, what drawbacks you see and why you think it would not serve them well.
      This gives your client a chance to detect that you did not understand their requirements sufficiently well (see also below).
    • Giving a quote for implementing the changes in the requirements specification the client asks for is much better.
  • I'd conclude that I did not understand the client's goals and requirements (or their data generation processes, the project background, ...) sufficiently well to implement a good solution for them.
    Also: since my clients they are not experts in my domain (that's why they want my expertise), it is very difficult for them to judge what pieces of information are crucial for me - and what amount of background knowledge that is obvious to them I need to be told.
    (This is a notorious problem in statistcial consulting)

    => Rather than refusing point-blank and arguing that this is necessary, find out why they need/want this change. Once you understand this, think whether the new understanding has implications for the rest of the project.

  • I have had situations where a client told me that they want to save the money on state-of-the-art techniques.
    E.g. assume a client refuses to pay for unit testing.
    In that case I explain the risks that come with omitting such tests and state both in the final offer and the invoice that the client insists to not have unit tests against my recommendation. And that the deliverable is therefore untested code. (I may add that I typically deliver source code, so it would be quite possible for the client to implement their own validation)

    => Unless that would violate professional legal requirements, I'm fine selling semi-finished software as well. To me, semi-finished parts and DIY kits are perfectly valid markets. However, I make sure that the client cannot blame me if they find out later that their decision was stupid.
    If there are legal implications that cause inacceptable liability risks for me, I'd refuse to make an offer/contract.


Maybe, at times like these, we could borrow a lesson from the vaudeville performers who were struggling to survive during the Depression. "If we flopped in any town, we just changed the name of our act and went back again."

Not every "customer" actually represents a viable long-term business engagement ... and, this actually is not "the fault of either party."

Beneath every business relationship, there is a human relationship, and not every one of them works. At this point, "the representative of the customer's business" must choose the course that (s)he feels is best for that business, and you must do the same with yours. "Move along ... move along."

Please: "don't take it personally ..." This is "business."

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