Currently working in a digital agency as a project manager. We currently have a client who is extremely challenging to work with for the following reasons:

  • Error prone. Often sends us content for the project which has errors, that we end up spotting.

  • Often delayed when sending us content and assets needed to complete the project. Following this, the client then sets extremely aggressive non-negotiable deadlines which recently caused one of my developers to work till 6am. Not very happy about this.

  • Disrespectful when communicating with me in person or via email, at any opportunity tries to boss me around taking advantage of being a 'paid' client.

For example: We are contracted to provide on-site support for this client, where I do this role, the client recently sent an email telling me that I needed to come into their office on x day without first asking me if I have availability that day.

Finally, client often ignores my advice and does things their way.

I have repeatedly told the client of our processes, to ensure smooth delivery. I have been careful not to be too confrontational in case I burn the account.

I have since:

  • Escalated this issue to my boss, he has acknowledged that there is a serious problem and is going to set up a meeting with them to figure out how we can work together.

I am concerned that the client's attitude may not change despite this, where we continue working with them for the money. If not how should I approach this situation.

  • 4
    Who decides whether to keep this client or terminate the relationship? You, your boss, his boss, or some coalition of those? Some clients are not worth the effort. Feb 23, 2017 at 2:13
  • Just miss the deadline. Send them a change order and how much it added to the timeline. If they are late with a deliverable then it moves the timeline. When they talk down to you just let is slide off.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 23, 2017 at 2:16
  • 3
    Fire the client - unless they're bringing in millions, they aren't worth the hassle and you can get paid more by spending the same time and effort on more, better clients
    – HorusKol
    Feb 23, 2017 at 8:39
  • 1
    If you can't "burn the account" then that's it: your client can ask whatever they want and this question is a non-starter as the answer is simply "do whatever they tell you to do". Is terminating the account or rather refusing their absurd demands (which risks them terminating the relationship) an option or not?
    – Lilienthal
    Feb 23, 2017 at 9:49

7 Answers 7


At this point do nothing, wait until your boss has met with them and attempted to resolve the issue and then move forwards from the outcome of that. Nothing else is constructive and you may undermine your own boss.

  • 1
    That ended up happening in the end. Pretty annoying since I have felt that my credibility has been damaged from this project.
    – bobo2000
    Mar 4, 2017 at 15:35

At a certain point, it's time to pull the contract and reread the fine print. Generally the most difficult clients are the ones who never bothered to read the original agreement, started throwing their weight around, and were repeatedly apesed despite their bad behavior.

If you have a contract go through it carefully and keep in mind what you are actually on the hook for and what the cleint has arbitrarily added or changed.

Sometimes saying something as simple as "sure we can push up that deadline, it'll cost this much extra..." Or "sure we can wait for that content, but we may not make your deadline..." Or "sure we can edit your content for errors, but keep in mind that those are billable hours..."

Often times reminding a paid cleint that they are just that a "paid" cleint can clear up some of their nonsense. Particularly if their nonsense starts to cost them extra.

Of course this all depends on the original contract... If the contract doesn't cover the edge cases consider it a learning experience for next time.


Error prone. Often sends us content for the project which has errors, that we end up spotting.

Eventually one slips through the net and a misprint is published. I'm assuming they get a final copy before publishing. State on these emails that no more changes can be accepted after approval of the proof. If one gets through, you have provided a hard stop in revisions.

Often delayed when sending us content and assets needed to complete the project. Following this, the client then sets extremely aggressive non-negotiable deadlines which recently caused one of my developers to work till 6am. Not very happy about this.

If a project has a date, you need to set dates for copy etc. So today is the 23rd Feb. The project needs to be done by the 28th. So this is only achievable if the copy is in by the 25th. Every day the copy is late will add a day onto the final deliverable.

Some clients just aren't worth the hassle. But some pay loads of money so it's deemed they are.

Try to set hard deadlines, but you will need management backup. In my example above, if they send late copy, bitch and moan to your boss and he says just get it done, then they will continue.

There needs to be one instance of something not being done/being charged extra to expedite the work or whatever, to then let the client know that there are rules. It could cost you the contract. Or it lets them know that you are in charge of the timescales and they have to meet your deadlines, so you can reciprocate and meet their deadlines.


The project manager should set the deadlines for each piece of work, based on an achievable schedule. You can't go into a car dealership and say "I want you to change my engine out; you have two hours" - you tell the dealership what you need, and they tell you how long it will take. If you're a nice customer, you might get it a little early, but that's about all the leverage you have. Similarly, the client tells you what they need, and you tell them - after consulting your teams schedules - when they can have it.

One of the roles of a Project Managers is to protect developers; if a PM is asking developers to pull all-nighters to get work delivered for an unorganized and un-managed client, they'll soon decide that there are better places to work. What if you had a developer who had a life? You wouldn't have been able to deliver that work from his all-nighter (and he deserves a bonus for doing it...).

There is no such thing as a non-negotiable deadline, only an incorrect deadline. If the deadline is for a hard date such as an event, and you don't get the request early enough, then you'll give your best efforts, but make sure the client is paying extra for the rush job. (and if it's not a great client, I wouldn't even do that...). A great line is "When did YOUR problem become MY crisis?" - annoys them, but puts the truth out there...

  • 1
    Ended up setting a meeting with the client next week to discuss the issues raised in my OP and how to do things better based on the process we have proposed. It is beyond a joke.
    – bobo2000
    Feb 24, 2017 at 20:41

You can throw some variation of this at your client, since you seem to be dealing with a control freak:

"Good, fast, or cheap? Pick two!!!"

The premise is that your client can't have good, fast, above-the-call of duty service without paying a premium for it; that you can't deliver good service if your client wants it fast and cheap; or that if the client wants good, cheap service, then it's going to not be anything you flag internally as 'priority'.

Think about it like this. I live 20 minutes from Disneyland, but I've driven out before and it's taken close to an hour to get into a parking space -- but Disney has 'premium' spaces for those who want a space RIGHT NOW. And the lines for the rides can be circumvented, FOR A PRICE.

Just hold fast that your client should never, I repeat, never get something for nothing -- or this will become the expectation every time.


Quoting one of the lines from apaul34208's answer:

...keep in mind that those are billable hours

Usually those lines are the ones used for stop clients with similar behavior.

My recommendation for the OP is: if his/her boss can't handle this situation, is not worthly I'm not saying that OP should quit, but instead, stop be pushed by him and make your job in the best way you have.


The rule is: The customer is always right. As long as the customer pays.

If the customer to come in on day X without checking that you are available: Either by good luck you are available, then you go. Or you are not available, then you tell them you are not available. You don't change your plans, and you definitely don't inconvenience other customers.

If the customer demands a deadline that requires overtime, then you inform them that the deadline requires overtime which will be billed at 50% higher hourly rate. And pay the people doing the overtime their hourly rate + 50% (that way you can be sure one of your employees is happy to do the job).

Obviously this applies if you accepted a deadline that depended on the customer's delivery which didn't happen.

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