How to Take Control of Frustrating Client Situations

Sometimes new clients can’t decide what they want.

They start with a specific project. But somewhere between sending a quote and getting the go-ahead, they change the scope completely. And it continues to evolve even as you work on the first deliverable.

This is a very frustrating situation. But it will get even more frustrating if you don’t take control of the situation.

So what can you do to turn it around?

Schedule a Call to Review Objectives

The first step in taking control is to schedule a call to review the objectives. By “taking control,” I don’t mean acting unprofessionally or being difficult to work with. I simply mean taking charge and leading the way out of the situation.

Use the call to explain to the client that the scope continues to change, which makes it difficult for you to do a great job for them.

Describe how trying to hit a moving target is impacting your ability to serve them to the best of your ability (rather than starting the conversation with how it’s impacting you).

At the same time, go back to your notes from the initial discovery call (you took notes, right?). Review what they said about their objectives and what they’re trying to accomplish.

Ask if these objectives are still valid without getting dragged into the weeds of what has/has not happened so far.

If the objectives are still valid, ask how the changes in scope are impacting those objectives. If the objectives are no longer valid, ask them more about what’s changed and how they’re seeing things now.

Consider Moving to a Roadmapping Engagement

If you discover during that call that the client is all over the place with their objectives, consider pausing the project and shifting to a roadmapping engagement.

Use this roadmapping engagement to go deeper into:

  1. What they’re trying to accomplish
  2. What resources they have to work with
  3. If there’s a gap between what they want to accomplish and the available resources to do it
  4. What they need to close that gap.

A roadmapping engagement is the best way to help a client get clear and focused. Once that engagement is complete, everyone will be on the same page—and you’ll be well-positioned to carry on with that version of the project.

Maintain Your Standards

If clients reject the idea of a roadmapping engagement to get clarity and focus, you have a couple of options.

You could continue on and hope that things will improve. Or, you might put your foot down and explain that you don’t work this way.

Explain that you have multiple clients, and continual scope changes negatively impact your production schedule—which negatively impacts how you serve ALL your clients.

Again, you’re not trying to be a bully or a jerk. You’re just being professional and honest. Most clients will respect and understand that.

Don’t Be Afraid to Lead

Clients want to work with people who make their jobs easier. And when things go sideways with a project, they often want someone they trust to lead them out of it.

And I bet you want that too. So don’t be afraid to step up.



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