falling out with a client

Long story short: I had a couple on-going projects for this client for the past 3-4 month. Once in awhile he says something a bit off humor, maybe his sense of humor but still a bit weird feeling but I kept it professional and kept my mouth shut. Then in about 5 hours into it a new 3rd project for him, he opens up with an email with, “I should not have confused you with too many words and sentences.” I told him that was insulting, which his next email pretends nothing ever happened. All I was looking for was a simple apology, I would have kept it professional and moved on. Instead he pretended nothing happened as he said he felt like he wrote nothing wrong (even after quoting the sentence a few times), and asked for some files for the previous project. I told him I didn’t feel comfortable working with him and I’d give him the files after he pays my invoice and we’ll end the relationship there.

We agree to meet, I gave him the 3d CAD files he asked for to get quotes for manufacturers (I gave him IGS and AutoCAD as they’re the most common when dealing with the manufacturers here). He apologizes (only after I asked for one) and said what he meant was that his email was written poorly, but then more backed up with his original statement more than apologized for it. I even told him I read the statement to some friends and they all agree it’s pretty insulting; which he said “well, how old are your friends”, because my friends hasn’t lived long enough to be able to handle it. After 10 or so more minutes of this, I just took my check and walked away from the meeting.

What would you have done in this situation.

It’s hard to tell context in an email. Are you 100% sure he is taking the p*ss or did you read this situation into the emails you received? You did say that he apologised for a badly written email. It is so important to have proper dialogue with clients, not just email. If I work with foreign clients then I try to Skype more than email.

If he’s always on a wind-up but he’s a good client otherwise, you have a choice - to grin and bear it or end the relationship. You did the latter, it’s your call, really.

I do tend to only work with clients that I like, I’m lucky, I have the choice, but it wasn’t always like this, sometimes I had to take on clients just to pay the bills.

I think what you have to realise, and I speak wholly out of the context of your situation, but you are in a service industry and working for yourself means you have to put up with some personalities that sometimes rub you the wrong way. I’ve been freelance for 7 years now and in that time I’ve only ever ditched one client because he kept asking for a break on the invoices in a way that I knew he didn’t value what I brought to the table.

Most of my clients are really nice great people in person but sometimes they come across as wankers in an e-mail but you have to read e-mails in their context, they’re stressed out, they’re maybe driving or with their kids and fire off a quick e-mail on their BB.

I’ve had the same thing with one of my clients and he would really piss me off in his e-mails but then when we’d meet we’d get on like a house on fire and chat for hours over coffee.

Sometimes you just have to suck up your feelings a bit and get your head down and do the work and ignore some of the shit which to be honest sounds a bit ‘meh’ to me

and yes, your friends will always side with you, that’s why they’re your friends.

I don’t get it. What’s so insulting about what he said?


I’m with R, I’m not sure how insulting what he said was, unless he was implying that by you being a ____ (race, gender, religion) that you couldn’t understand long and complex emails. I feel like he was lamenting that he wrote a really complicated and long email that led to a different result than what he intended.

I’m relatively new to the industry, but I’ve always thought that you should have a thicker skin (a Chinese saying that I’m not sure translates to English…) and just put up with all types of personalities. Being offended won’t get you food on the table!

It’s really difficult to know for those of us who were not there. Many deeply passive aggressive people are wonderful at arranging words in such a way that if they are quoted out of context, it doesn’t seem bad, when they are in deed being very Munson stove or derogatory. Personally, I trust my gut on these matters because experience has shown me that when someone gives me a bad feeling, that feelin usually ends up being correct.

There are really only very few ways of dealing with this:

  1. take it (not an acceptable long term solution, but if we are talking about a week and then you are done with the guy, can be best to ride it out)
  2. walk away (sometimes it is the best thing, especially if you get this feeling early on in the client relationship, walk before either of you gets too invested)
  3. set very clear boundaries (arguably the hardest of the three, but when the project, pay, and emotional investment are all good enough, the only way to have a successful long term relationship is to set and carefully maintain clear boundaries between what is and is not acceptable behavior)

translates well… we have the same saying :slight_smile:

It’s a semi-complex situation, I tried to summarized it so it’s not a long read. Over the last meeting when he couldn’t understand where I’m coming from, he kept backing up his statement. So I broke it down to him, “So you mean, I’m stupid to comprehend long words”, “no, that’s not what I said”, “So you mean, long words makes me confused”, “yes”.

I’ve sucked it up, since the 1st meeting I had an odd feeling about him. I’ve kept my mouth shut on various comments. I’m not the type of person to correct anyone in public in general; I’m not a “drama queen” by any means but I guess little things add up. If he would have done a simple quick apology and moved on, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But he keeps backing up and refortifying his original statement. It’s not more of his statement, but it’s more that it was the last straw. He’s an “always right” type of person.

I have a bunch of other projects so I’m not worrying about keeping ends meet. I know asking people I know is biased that’s why I asked opinions here for a unbiased opinion. Any ways thanks for the comments so far.

Interesting. I think you made the right call, then. If you still can make ends meet without receiving emotional stress from an “always right” client, then the happier you’ll be.

I’d happily cop more abuse from clients if they bought cheques to meetings. Likewise, if i walked away from doing business with every rude person I encountered, I wouldn’t have worked on some great projects.

I’ve worked with my share of asses in my life, I can handle dealing with them. I’m very laid back, I keep my mouth shut and do my work in those situations. But there are limits, I’m not willing to sell out my integrity every time just for a project. Remember, this was a build up of things after months working with him, it’s not like I quit the project out of the blue just because of 1 comment. It’s also a small project, only a few hours a week so it wasn’t my main bread and butter project I rely on.

The original story above happened 2 months ago. A week ago he contacted me pretending nothing happened asking to convert a file for him. Remember I already gave him the file, but now he wants the same file in another format. I told him that I did not want to work with him again from what happened (very condescending comments made during the last meeting that made me walk out). He emailed again a couple days ago, demanding I give him the files or he’ll bill me for loss time and get others involved. He even went as far as got outsiders involved with a poll to determine who was right and who was wrong with what happened (and obviously 100% agree with him), and even quoted some name callings against me. And even more condescending comments from him. This is when I decided to post here to get some unbiased opinion (though hard w/o knowing the whole story).

I told him bringing in my personal life into the situation is irrelevant to what happened and was unprofessional. I kept it professional and did not say any opinions I had of him. Getting 1000 people to agree who was “right” at the original situation is irrelevant, the relationship already ended on a sour note and it won’t change that. Him demanding and threatening (not life, just business) that I don’t cooperate with him is… well, I don’t know how to put it. He’s always right in his mind; to him I’m withholding files from him. But I already gave him the files 2 months ago. I told him that any 3d modeler can work with the 3d files I gave him or the 2d plans he already has. It’s not a complicated model, I could redo the whole thing in 30 minutes. If it was a complex model like a car that would take days to recreate, then that would be different but it’s not (basically a small 8" pipe with some mounting brackets on it).

I quoted him back, “You have been paid to date on all work that was agreed.” I asked him if he agreed with his statement, why is he demanding that I’d do any further work.

*As a note, I would normally do it but just not for this client; the relationship ended very badly. I’ve never walked away from any meetings from my life, I’ve worked in corporations in my prior career. He burned bridges with me and I told him that. So this isn’t because I’m a drama queen or anything or would not help any old client (which I often do for others), this is for this situation only.

Two options

A)send him the file again and let him know it concludes your business relationship.

B) resend the original email with the file and quote the proposal that mentioned the deliverables.

No use looking for a fight.


I second the motion…

A) send him the file again and let him know it concludes your business relationship.

You’ve already written the guy off. You have the files and don’t need to invest any further time in the project. Take the high road on this one, you can afford to be magnanimous.

At this point you essentially own the guy by virtue of “giving” him something he wants. It ends any negative comments that he can make about your services, and gives you a rebuttal to anything that he has previously “spread” about you to date.

But what you must extract from this guy is a signed ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF RECEIPT. Not only as proof that you delivered the goods, but because it makes him “give” you something in return. Don’t hold your breath for a thank you… :unamused:

You want the file, sign on the line … nuthin’ personal icehole, strictly bidness…

Thanks for all of the advice. I just sent him a message that if he agrees that I have no obligations with anything, etc, I will send him the original working 3d file (not the converted file, which I made sure that’s clear)…sign, and return will send a file afterwards.

Sounds like there is a communication problem. Are you a native English speaker?

What he said wasn’t offensive. I think your client was basically apologizing for their previous email which was droning on and on and not making sense. You’re asking them to apologize for their apology.

I’m native English speaker. But as said, there’s a lot of back story that I did not put to summarize the story shorter. He says A LOT of condescending comments since the 1st day we met. Plus he’s always right type of personality, so even if he’s wrong he says things to make it seem it was someone else fault (IE: it’s not his fault for writing poorly, it’s my fault that “long words confuses me”).

The email with the phrase in question is far from anything apologetic, it has a tone more of “Why would you put a USB on the outside, I told you before to put it inside. I’ll put it in writing, put the USB on the inside. There, I said it again and now it’s in writing.” The following day when we met and he brought that up I told him we never talked about anything USB, and that he wanted an SD card reader on the inside. And he quickly “oh ya, I knew that.” Note this was only 3 hours into the new project so still in the very initial stages.

The phrase in question was not really the cause of the end of the relationship, but the last straw of a bunch of piling up issues since the 1st meeting months prior. I’ve always cringed every time I was scheduled to meet up with him, there’s always condescending comments to take in and just smile back.

It is impossible to say whether or not this person is an insulting jerk, or you’re a poor communicator. It could be one or the other, or both.

At the end of the day, you don’t like how the person does business. You acted with dignity by providing the files and the services up to and including what was paid for. You, as a vendor, have a right to fire a client. What we think is right or wrong on this doesn’t matter. You will run into difficult personalities at every turn. How you deal with them is on you, not on them. You looking for validation of him being a jerk does make me wonder if there is a side to this story we’re not hearing.

Thanks for the honest opinion. I wasn’t looking for validation of my side, just asking for honest opinion of others. My friends who has read the emails all agree with me, vs his friends all agree with him. So just wanted outsiders’ non-bias opinion, no validation of anything for or against him or me.

Would have kept the client, in the service industry (where I work) we have to put up with Aholes all the time. As long as they pay I don’t have a problem with it.

What he means by the age thing is back in the day a boss could tell his employee that they did something wrong, these days you tell someone that it hurts their feelings. I think of it like he’s paying you to insult you. Of course what he did was wrong and unprofessional.