Tell Your Client They Are Wrong

4 min read

If you told your client they were wrong, would you fear getting fired? Even with great clients, many of us have irrational feelings like this.

Here is a secret about all the best freelancers. They aren't afraid to tell a client when the client is wrong. The best freelancers know clients don't actually know what they want or need. Excellent results can't be delivered if clients make decisions for things that are actually the freelancer's expertise.

If you want to build a reputation as the go-to freelancer for solving problems within your expertise, you need to tell clients when they are wrong.

Think about why you were hired for this job? Sometimes it's just to be an extra hand and help out, but usually, you were hired cause you know something the client doesn't. Use your expertise to guide the client to make the right decisions.

Not only will this put you on the path to make more money and build a better reputation, but you will also enjoy your work more. It is more motivating and rewarding to be looked at as the expert and know you are providing value instead of just being an extra set of hands.

If you believe a client is wrong, how do you know if you should tell them?


Here is a short list of things to check:

1. Are there clear, correct answers?

Are you doing work that has ways to find the correct answer easily without it being an opinion? Or are you working in a field that can be very opinionated and there are no clear answers?

2. Will your client listen?

Hopefully, you are working with a client who recognizes your expertise. If they value your expertise, they will listen to you. If the client only wants things their way, you won't convince them of anything. You can tell pretty quickly if your client is open to advice.

3. Do you know more than your client?

You should have more experience and knowledge about what you are recommending than your client. You may think they are wrong, but there is an excellent chance you're mistaken if you don't have the experience. Don't correct your client about their business and industry unless that is also your business and industry.

4. Do you have data and facts to back up your suggestion?

If you are going to tell a client they are wrong; you need to know you are right. Use your experience to guide you on what to suggest, but then find case studies, run tests and talk to users or customers to verify you are correct. The worst thing to do is tell your client they are wrong when your suggestion can't be verified as being valid.

If you pass all these checks, let your client know you think they are off-course and have a better suggestion.

How to tell your client they are wrong?


Telling someone that they may be wrong is tough. You have to be respectful and careful what you say, but even with that, it could be easy to offend someone or have your suggestion ignored.

So if you think you have a better suggestion and know it is time you should tell your client they are wrong, how exactly do you tell them?

The trick is you don't want to actually tell them they are wrong. No one will listen to someone telling them they are wrong, but they will listen to someone offering alternative suggestions and wanting to find the best solution together. Make sure you are on the same side as the client and working towards finding the best solution.

You want to ask questions and offer suggestions that turn it into a friendly collaboration. If it can be tested, work with your client to come up with several ideas and run tests.

Are there case studies, data, or other facts that aren't your opinion you could share with the client? Sometimes just sharing a case study or an analysis of data can be enough for the client to suggest alternative solutions themselves or ask you for advice.

Finally, be prepared for the client to still say no. In the end, the client is still the boss and ultimately responsible for their project. This is why you need to make sure this is a collaboration and a suggestion the client can turn down. We are there to give our expert opinions, but in the end, the client does have the final say.

Now go tell your client they are wrong. It will be uncomfortable. You have to do it respectfully and with facts to back up your claims. But you will thank yourself in the future.

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Kevin Hicks

Senior Software Engineer / Consultant

I am senior software engineer that focuses primarily on web and mobile applications. I work both as a regular full time employee and a consultant developing apps and websites for clients. This is my personal blog where I write tutorials, tips and tricks, and my opinions on various software languages, technologies and tools.

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