12 client problems only freelancers will understand

Not this sh** again.

He Ruiming | September 07, 2016, 04:33 PM

Freelancing is great. There are no politics, no sexual harassment, and you get to sit in a cafe anywhere in the world. Plus you don’t need to take leave. The only people who get it better are those scammy people who get ‘paid to travel’ as entrepreneurs. (You know, the ones who add people indiscriminately on LinkedIn.)

Well actually no. None of the above is true. If you’re lucky, you’ll just get the occasional client who’s slow to pay.

In the worst case scenario, running into Singapore’s dodgiest clients can cost you time, money, friendships, and scar you forever.

Here’s an exhaustive - but oh-so-true - list of what you can expect the more you do freelancing.

1. Client refuses to sign contract

kicking-bin When client doesn’t sign shit

Client insists you sign a “freelancer contract agreement” with them, and insists it’s “industry standard” but when it’s their turn to sign one that protects you, they’re super dodgy about it – nitpicking every clause and taking forever to sign. If they even sign it at all.

2. Client underpays you

WTF is this shit WTF is this shit

Promises $3,000. But when the project ends, you only get $1,200 because of “budget cuts”.

Imagine paying $660,000 for a 5-room BTO but only getting a two-room flat. That’s what freelancers deal with all the time.

3. Client takes forever to pay

Waiting for invoice to clear be like Waiting for invoice to clear be like

This is an example how one’s concept of time can change rapidly.

When the project is ongoing, every day is an emergency. Clients are super needy, and freelancers are expected to deal with ridiculous deadlines.

Upon completion, things take forever to happen. Sent in an invoice a week ago? Chances are your email is still unread.

4. Client wants you to work on a pitch for free

When someone asks me to work for ‘exposure’ When someone asks me to work for ‘exposure’

“Bro can help me, pls? Next time I give you more jobs.”

Yeah right, you’re only going to get more of these jobs that don’t pay.

5. Client wants you to pay to work on their pitch


Now, this is some next level nonsense. *cough* SMU *cough*

6. Client keeps making changes to work

Opening your inbox and receiving feedback Opening your inbox and receiving feedback

When you get a client like this, it’s best not to think that you are actually developing a creative concept and idea. Instead, try to imagine yourself as a white-collar slave who must perform every task you are assigned to, no matter how banal.

Always remember – the project might have unlimited changes, but the client has a deadline. This too shall pass.

7. Client thinks they can do a better job than you

How your client picks letters to form words to form emails How your client picks letters to form words to form emails

They throw client-type phrases like “pls revert” and “it look like not many effort was put into this” but insists they can craft marketing material better than your copywriter.

Or even better, they say that they are “great at photoshop” and can design a better logo than your designer. In Microsoft Paint.

PS: Btw, all legit designers know that logos are made in Illustrator.

8. Clients have internal argument with themselves

When clients can’t decide on things When clients can’t decide on things

What’s worse than having one bad client? Two or three bad clients who are trying to outdo one another to impress their boss. For the freelancer, that means last-minute changes, super tense working environments and a lack of overall direction.

Hey, this is the precisely the reason why folks start freelancing – to avoid politics and drama – don’t bring them back in.

9. Client practises extended radio silence


Client engages you for project, you drop everything else and reject all other jobs, only to be met with a haunting silence that lasts for weeks.

10. Unrealistic photoshop instructions


There is a limit to how much you can photoshop something, but some clients simply don’t understand that.

11. Vague instructions

giphy (1)

Caption: When the client says it needs more pop

Other classics:

“Showcase our creativity more”

“I want it to be classy and whimsical”

12. Client steals your idea; gets someone cheaper to do it

giphy (2)

Probably the worst of this list.

You pitch your idea and clients say they have chosen another concept. And then you see your work being displayed a couple of months later…with no credit whatsoever.


What to do?

If you’re having an exceptionally guailan client in Singapore, you’ve several options that we will now present.

1. Blacklist your clients and name and shame


There are private Facebook groups where you can vent your frustrations and warn others about terrible clients. Sorta like a STOMP for creative folks. It’s a nice ground-up effort, no doubt, but unfortunately the only pressure it can exert is peer pressure.

2. Exert pressure on them to do the right thing


If you want the bad guys to cough up what they owe you, you’re going to have to take things one step further. That’s where a union – yes, like NTUC, no, not the supermarket (that’s FairPrice) – comes in.

In the past, unions in Singapore only represented full-time workers employed by companies, but with over 200,000 freelancers now working in Singapore, that’s about to change.

A Freelancers and Self-Employed (FSE) Unit in NTUC has been set up since 2014 and increasingly there have been efforts to reach out to this growing worker segment in Singapore.

In fact, there’s the Fair for Freelancers, held on September 7, 5pm to 8pm at the Red Dot Traffic Museum. That’s a killer opportunity for freelancers to form groups and associations among themselves.

(Missed the fair? Don't worry. Find out more here and follow them on Facebook here.)

Yes, freelancers don’t work in companies, so they cannot be unionised per se – but even if they’re not union members, they can still access selected services on a ‘pay-per-use’ basis.

Such services include seminars, legal advice and career counselling.

So when the freelancers do band together and take down those soul-sucking, errant clients, that’s when you say obri-good.

Orbi-orbi good.



This sponsored article was brought to you by NTUC. They were decent throughout and did not demand unlimited changes.  Nor did they change their mind repeatedly.