“My client is being COMPLETELY unreasonable! But, I already spent the money and I can’t ‘fire’ him…”

“My client is being COMPLETELY unreasonable! But, I already spent the money and I can’t ‘fire’ him…”

Q –

A human resources manager hired me to create a benefits manual for his boss’ company. I already had one I’d written for another company so I had a good idea how much work would be involved, and time. When we were still in the negotiation phase, he told me that a woman he’d hired before me had ripped them off.

We came to an agreement and the company paid me up-front for the entire job. I had a four-week delivery time. That’s when the problems began. He emails me several times a day, demanding updates. He emails and texts me in the middle of the night asking why I haven’t responded to his previous messages (that were sent after-hours). He’s demanding I get it done faster than four weeks. He even cusses in his messages.

He seemed so nice when we were negotiating but now I’m starting to think this man is unhinged. There is definitely something wrong with him. I don’t mind doing the work but I don’t think I can survive another three weeks of his abuse. I wish I could just give him his money back but, truth to tell, I already spent it because my business has slowed down from Covid-19.

Can you tell me what I need to say to put this guy in his place, and to make him get out of my face?!


A –

Aaaaah, I know exactly what you’re experiencing. I have had tyrant clients before, too. My clients these days are all authors but I still try to screen them as thoroughly as possible before I offer them a contract. It’s usually not difficult (for me at least) but I still miss the mark sometimes. The content of their book can be telling, as well as their website.

Another telltale sign of potential future abuse is if the client comes out of the gate vehemently complaining about someone he or she has hired or worked with before. If they allege they were “scammed,” they just might accuse you of the same thing in the future, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Narcissists frequently overuse and abuse the term “scam” to try to get their way, even when their victim hasn’t done anything wrong at all.

Since you can’t return his money and terminate the project, I recommend sending him something like this:

I have received your numerous emails and text messages since you hired me one week ago. Our contract (copy attached) specifically states a four-week delivery time. And, I fully intend to delivery on the due date.

Sending several emails and text messages each day, and in the middle of the night, that don’t contain any specific questions or comments about the project, only serves to delay my work, and may even result in late delivery of your manual, through no fault of my own.

If you have legitimate questions or comments about the content of the manual, I will be happy to answer or discuss those in writing. All future emails and texts of an abusive manner will be ignored. I am a professional and the funds you paid me to complete this project do not give you the privilege of demanding a faster delivery time, berating me when I have done nothing wrong, nor sending me profanity.

Please remain completely professional in your correspondence from now on or I will have no choice but to share all of your emails and text messages with the owner of your company.

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2 Responses to "“My client is being COMPLETELY unreasonable! But, I already spent the money and I can’t ‘fire’ him…”"

  1. Wendy Jones  May 15, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    Sorry to say this, but you totally blew it!

    Always hold any upfront money — do NOT be tempted to spend a dime until the project is 50% complete, then spend ONLY what you have to — COVID-19 or not. Eat potato soup if you have to while you wait, but hang on to that money.

    Admittedly the guy is a jerk, but you have no leverage at this point. A very bad position to be in.

  2. fred  May 15, 2020 at 11:29 am

    very good answer. I might have said to see an attorney too. Most places have a free/cheap first meeting to see if it is appropriate for an attorney to get involved. and some have free/cheap advice for those people with limited income.