How I deal with challenging clients.

Alfred Tanuwidjaja
4 min readApr 15, 2021


Zen mode activated!

As a freelancer, my livelihood depends on the success stories I have with my clients — they pay my bills. However, whenever it comes down to paying with money, it will never be a walk in the park. I have had my fair share of facing really difficult clients throughout my years as a freelance content creator and ironically, they made me a better person.

Here are some of my strategies and actions that I’ve practiced throughout the years to help me build a stronger relationship with them.

What is your big picture?
I’ve seen businesses rise and fall within short periods. I’ve seen businesses struggling to make ends meet during the period of COVID. I’ve seen businesses plunging headfirst with the wrong strategies or executions and I’ve seen how having unsolved internal issues can kill you just like that.

I want to help them — this is my big picture.

To do so, I will need to hold their hands and lead on.

I know that it is easier said than done but if you look at it this way as a reminder of why you do what you do, your big picture, it will be okay.

I always tell myself that no matter how big or small their businesses are, everyone needs someone who can have a bird’s eye view from a different perspective — in this situation, a content creator’s perspective.

Always protect yourself first.
You will need to protect yourself first before you can help anyone else.

I always keep documents, contracts, screenshots, and messages in my emergency toolbox. You will need to protect yourself from all the miscommunications, instructions that are lost in transition, or the “he say, she say” excuses. Most of the time, if you represent bigger brands… they have a bigger road to approval. Meaning, there will be more chefs in the kitchen and more people changing the light bulbs — getting approval is no longer an easy task. In one of my recent work, despite following the instructions carefully of my go-to person, I still get knocked down by their superiors. This is why pre-signed contracts and agreements are important. Sometimes, when issues like these arise, you can see me wearing a pair of innocent puppy eyes standing there with my mouth wide open — speechless. In hindsight, I have all the evidence to protect myself.

A word of advice for fellow creators if you have a difficult client to deal with is to rethink your collaboration ways. Draft out new contracts or methods to ease these problems in the future or leave them if it is taking a toll on your health.

Educate them.
Behind it all, If you take a look at it from another perspective, there must be a reason why you’re hired — to solve their problems. Instead of going head-on, which is what many of us will do to prove who is right or wrong, be a teacher instead — an educator. Treat them like pre-schoolers and help them understand the why, how, which, what, when, etc. To begin with, most of them are clueless… especially those businesses who are venturing into the digital market for the first time. Be patient and teach them. Introduce new means and ways to help their businesses from your perspective…think like a teacher and educate. Ideally, you want to learn as much as you can from all these experiences and move on to do better.

Rephrase your sentences.
No! The concept of this video or work is wrong! REDO!
Once again, instead of going all Braveheart war-cry all over them, calm the situation with phrases like:

“Hello, sir! I understand that the work is wrong but it was already agreed upon, would you like me to run through the agreed storyboard with you again?”

“I see… Please tell me how we can make it better instead.”

“I understand your frustration, no drama, let’s find a solution to make it better.”

Be a team player and solve the issue.

Be politically correct and protect yourself first before engaging in a peaceful argument. Remember, we are here to help them in the first place. Never fight fire with fire. When one is volcanic, the other must transform into a beautiful unicorn of peace.

All in all, instead of burning bridges due to the spur of the moment hoo-ha, think of your big picture and ask yourself if there is a way to build stronger and better relationships in the future. At the end of the day, always go back to your big picture whenever you feel lost and trust me, a friendly reminder of why you do what you do will put a smile on your face. Teach and educate them… be patient… be super zen…

Grow little grasshopper, grow!



Alfred Tanuwidjaja

I write about brand stories and personal growth + Founder of