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Sneak Peek: The Chicago Guide for Freelance Editors, Part V

When the Client Won’t Take No for an Answer

Sometimes no matter what we do, a client will not be appeased. Maybe it’s a mistake you made or maybe they’re being unreasonable, but now they just won’t let the matter drop. Writing for the CIEP Blog, academic copyeditor and CIEP Advanced Professional Member Sue Littleford offers two important pieces of advice. First, “keep full records of the complaint and your response.” In a follow-up interview, Littleford explained that writing up the events “slows you and makes you think more clearly, perhaps putting the complaint into perspective to help you respond in a more mature, considered way.”[i] The perspective you gain can help you handle the situation better rather than just react defensively. Additionally, it gives you a written record of your side of the situation. Some organizations, like CIEP, offer confliction resolution between its members and clients. Your record will outline your side of the conflict rather than forcing you to rely on memory, which, as Littleford points out, may be “selective about unpleasant things, shying away from them, or blowing them out of proportion.”[ii]

Littleford’s second piece of advice is to know when to stop engaging with the client. If you’ve attempted to resolve the complaint but they keep making demands or continuing to argue and insult you, “you simply have to tell the client that you won’t engage in any further correspondence,” she says. “You’ll have to decide for yourself when the time has come to put an end to the exchanges. Nowadays, that does involve the risk of being attacked on social media, sadly, but you can’t be held hostage.”

When you’ve decided to end all communications with a client, stick to it. Send their messages directly to the trash unopened. Block their email address and mobile number in your devices. Block them on social media. Do what’s necessary to prevent receiving or seeing any further communications.


[i] Sue Littleford, “Customer Service: It’s All about Imagination,” CIEP Blog, June 19, 2019,

[ii] Sue Littleford, email message to the author, December 30, 2021.

Reproduced with permission from The Chicago Guide for Freelance Editors: How to Take Care of Your Business, Your Clients, and Yourself from Start-Up to Sustainability by Erin Brenner, forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press in April 2024. 

© 2024 by Erin Brenner. All rights reserved.

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