So I worked for only a few days for a client. Did around 13 hours. This was enough for me to end the relationship as I felt it wouldn't be a match going forward. It was an extremely strange task and I felt like lots of information was withheld and I was put in a bad spot (I acknowledge this is probably normal with freelancing)

This could've just been my misinterpretation of the communication...but I simply had never seen anyone text like this. The client came across as very manipulative to me. I felt like they were gaslighting and acting crazy, it felt scammy. So - just not a match.

I just received a text asking for a 5-minute call and that my check would be cut out. My initial reaction was 5 minutes is no big deal, but I should ensure I get the check first. I made this decision because of my experience with him. It was more of a "I'm not gonna do a free favor until I get paid" as opposed to "what if he doesn't pay?".

I let him know I was firm on wanting to receive the check first. Again, I was met with what I thought were crazy,gaslighting, manipulative texts. Again, only I can really be the barometer of this as I know the full context. I even let client know I can meet in-person to receive check earlier or can get it transferred electronically.

I'm not opposed to quick 5 minute favors for older clients. I get this is common in contracting world and is way of keeping contact and not burning bridges.

In my head, I felt like he was using this call as a means of blackmail. Like..if I don't take the call then I won't get the check. So I saw that as manipulation. Writing this out makes me show I'm being paranoid. But perhaps that explains how uncomfortable my relationship with the client was.

If client had not fought back my request to wait for check and instead had said "no worries, I promise you'll receive check, this will just be very brief, I'd really appreciate it"..I'd probably have accepted the call.

Anyways, what's done is done. I'm not changing my mind to accept the call because that will have given into his manipulation. Learning exercise to stand up for self and be firm.

I understand every situation is unique but at some point you also have to give into employer's needs.

I'm just asking this in regards to how to approach a similar situation in the future.

Also, if client really does cancel the check because I didn't accept this 5-minute call..I will threaten to take him to small claims court. I can't imagine it'd come to this and it was in our contract that he had to pay for all work done already (which this free 5-minute call would not have been part of)

Upon cashing out check I will reach out to him if he still needs help. (But he let me know he didn't need me already..upon being firm)

  • 1
    Is your question whether a better approach exists?
    – morsor
    Feb 27 at 8:56
  • My question was if I was being too demanding and sensitive and if these situations are common with freelancing and that dev just kind of has to bite the bullet and accept call with difficult client even if they don't want. I get this is subjective and contextual though Feb 28 at 0:27
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    I'd say your appraoch seems reasonable - as you use the only leverage you have. In situations like this, one should never give away leverage for nothing.
    – morsor
    Feb 28 at 7:30

2 Answers 2


Years back, I was excessively worried about doing anything that could annoy a client. Given time, that approach will backfire, as opportunists will attempt to take advantage.

A better approach is drawing clear but fair boundaries; most clients will accept that and the ones that won't, you probably shouldn't have as clients anyway.

When a client turns opportunist, not giving away your leverage is critical. I have also 'downed my tools' until they paid what was long overdue. No amount of sweet-talking could get me back to work; only the payment.

Your approach is sound because it's probably your only path to success, when done in a firm and fair manner.

  • Thanks! I felt I was being fair, firm, yet polite. It's true maybe I overreacted and thought with emotion instead of logic (but again..this is just because how I already felt about the client at this point in time). Any advice on what to do if he cancels the check because I refused this call? It's only for a few hundred USD and so it's not the biggest deal (i.e. might not be worth time suing over). Just use it as a learning lesson I guess Feb 28 at 14:13
  • 1
    I know nothing when it comes to payment by check, as that is never used here (Denmark).
    – morsor
    Feb 28 at 14:34
  • 1
    I don't think you've overreacted - and when used sparingly a rare emotional outburst can demonstrate that you are indeed serious.
    – morsor
    Feb 28 at 14:36
  • Thanks so much! Mar 1 at 14:14
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    @user2402616: Sorry to hear that - even though it isn't really surprising. Depending on your location and situation, I'm not sure I would take it further - but rather focus on avoiding a similar future occurrence. But only you can evaluate whether you can let it go now or need to follow through
    – morsor
    Mar 8 at 19:52

This question is really opinion-based and without seeing the text.. well. it's your side of the story. The client may think you are the one "gaslighting and being manipulative." No one here will ever really know.

In any event, yes, I think you were overreacting. After all it's a phone call.. what could possibly be the issue with that?

If during the call s/he asks for, or starts discussing, additional work, you say "I can't discuss that until I've been paid for previous work". If the call starts going longer than 5 minutes, you make an excuse and end it. Where's the harm?? I'm not seeing it. S/He clearly has your phone number if you've been texting. And if you have a contract, that surely contains your name and location. So there's no additional information which may be shared.

I believe it is never a good idea to reject communication from any client.

You can reject work... or any other request for effort on your part, but one should never be "out of touch" or "refuse" to communicate with any client for any reason. (Barring clients that have proven themselves to be verbally abusive.) Outright refusal to communicate is a "snub" and it only fosters animosity - nothing else. No one likes working with someone who won't even listen. All it does it make them angry.

If nothing else, the call is a direct opportunity to repeat "I need to be paid" multiple times.

I think the bigger, underlying issue is why are you afraid of a mere phone call. Is it that it's 5 minutes of your time? No ones's time is so valuable they can't spend 5 minutes on the phone with someone who owes them money.

Consider the possibility.... that the 5 minute call was to tell you s/he really appreciated your work and wanted to thank you and tell you they were sending a larger check than you were anticipating. It could happen -- has to me.

Or what if the call was to ask about your ability to handle something else with the possibility of more work. "You were great with X... just wondering if you also do Y? I've got a Y project and I'm wondering if I should just include a deposit for that in this check to save time." - To which you reply, "I do indeed do Y. But I can't really discuss the Y project until I've been paid for the X project." - Guess you'll never know.

In short.. Nothing bad ever comes from a mere phone call with a client.

You should also be aware small claims "threats" don't really work. They are like a "money-back guarantee" -- out of the hundred, thousands, millions, that are eligible, less than 0.1% of dissatisfied customers will ever actually take advantage of a guarantee. Business savvy people know your small claims threat is just that, a threat. 99.9% of the time someone threatening small claims won't follow up on it. And if you do.. worst case is they pay you what they owe with a tad more covering court costs. It's worth the risk for some.

  • Appreciate your insight. "barring clients that have proven themselves to be verbally abusive" ...I found that to be the case and it looks like former devs have confirmed that. But your points do make sense. I think in a vacuum I probably would've agreed to short call, and I like your points about how to set boundaries while on it. It's all learning. My bluff about suing worked and he replied with saying check should be on way if I submitted more hours. More immaturity and gaslighting ensued on his part imho Mar 9 at 15:12
  • Also, good to know about what you said about small claims. Thankfully, doesn't look like it'll come to that Mar 9 at 15:41

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