A Dozen Tricks Used By Clients To Manipulate Freelancers

A Dozen Tricks Used By Clients To Manipulate Freelancers

Since the dawn of time, mankind has tried to find ways to get people to do what they want. Sometimes they employ strong-arm tactics and sometimes they use deceit, but most of the time they use manipulation to bend people to their will.

They have used tried and tested forms of manipulation for thousands of years and for the most part these techniques have worked pretty well. But they only reason they are so successful is that most of the intended victims don’t even realize that they are being manipulated.

A Dozen Tricks Used By Clients To Manipulate Freelancers

12 Most Used Manipulative Tricks Employed by Clients

If they did recognize these techniques for what they really are, then they would lose all of their effectiveness. Just glancing over the list below could save people from being manipulated in most circumstances.

1. Using Common Misconceptions

This is one of the most common manipulations in the entire world and most of the time not even the person using it understands they are being manipulative.

Using Common Misconceptions

This manipulation involves taking a common misconception and stating it as if it were a fact just to win an argument or force the other person to do what you want. It is a tactic that is frequently used by parents in order to keep their children in line.

Here is an example:

“Freelancers don’t do the same kind of quality work that a large corporation does and they don’t have as many overheads either, so I can cut down their salary base by 20% and still get the type of work that I want.”

2. Taking Advantage of Divided Attention

This is another very classic manipulation. Instead of asking a person for something while they are giving their full attention to them; the master manipulator will ask for something while that person is preoccupied. This is a common practice among women who are looking to get their husband to do something while they are watching the game. It is also used frequently by people to control their co-workers.

Client:”I need this report done by Thursday”
Freelancer:”I have quite a bit of work on my desk today, but I should be able to get to it.”
Client:”Oh, can you also do one little assignment for me by say, Saturday?”
Freelancer:”I am really strapped at the moment.”
Client:”It’s just a little assignment. Won’t take much time.”
Freelancer:”Ok, send it on over.

The client then sends over an assignment that consists of three parts and would take at least a week to complete.

3. Taking Advantage of a Superior Position

This is a manipulation that is often used by people in positions of power. People such as police officers, doctors and politicians are the most common perpetrators, but it can be used by almost anyone in an authoritative position.

Taking Advantage of a Superior Position

They use their authoritative positions to convince their intended targets to forgo their own common sense in lieu of theirs.

Here is an example:

“I spend millions of dollars on freelancers every year, and every single one of them works for the salary I just offered you. If you don’t won’t to do the assignment for what I am willing to pay, then you are missing out on quite a bit of work.”

4. Topic Dialing

Topic dialing is when a person wins an argument by quickly changing the subject to a completely unrelated topic that is only distantly related to the original subject. The effectiveness of this technique is usually dependent on how fast they can change the topic. They faster they can change the topic, the more successful it is likely to be.

Here is an example:

“I heard that Stephen King worked as a freelance writer before he became a novelist. During that time he was able to write five or six reports at a time and have them done within a week or so. He could really crank them out. By the way, do you think that you could finish this assignment in the next day or so?”

5. Assumption of Guilt

This is when the manipulator assumes that a person is guilty of something by observing only the smallest amount of evidence.

Assumption of Guilt

Here is an example:

At 3am, after finishing a website template for a client who had to have it “by 6am their time,” the freelancer sent an email letting her know that it was finished. The next day he get a call:

Client: I don’t appreciate you staying out all night when you should be working on my project.
Freelancer: I’m sorry? I was working all last night. As you can see, I sent you an e-mail.
Client: I see that. At 3am. Do you think it’s okay to party all night and then work without sleep at 3am? It’s very unprofessional and morally reprehensible.
Freelancer: What makes you think I was out partying?
Client: Why else would you be up at 3am?
Freelancer: You gave my 24 hours to do 18 hours of work. I had to stay up.
Freelancer: Don’t try to use math on me!

6. The Use of Technobabble

Technobabble is frequently used by professionals in high tech fields such as medicine or computer science. It is encoding information in jargon intensive language. It is often used as an intimidation tactic to get a person to do what the professional wants done without the person knowing exactly what is being discussed. It can also be used to hide inherent flaws in the manipulator’s argument that he doesn’t want to reveal.

Here is an example:

“Despite its dangers, Dihydrogen monoxide is often used to wash children.” Dihydrogen monoxide is a pseudo-scientific name for water.

7. Making an Outrageous First Request

Here is a tactic that almost everyone has used at some point in time. It involves making a request that is almost impossible to fulfill or is a request that is most likely to have been denied by the target. The manipulator then asks for something that is less likely to be struck down.

Making an Outrageous First Request

This works on the psychological principle that people don’t like to have to say no multiple times in a row.

Here is an example:

Client:”Do you think you can finish these 4 reports by this weekend.”
Freelancer:”I don’t think that is possible.”
Client: “How about 2 reports by this weekend?”
Freelancer: “I’ll try but I can’t promise it.”
Client:”Okay, can I have the first report by tomorrow then.”

8. The Stepping Up Manipulation

This tactic is often used by children. It is when a person asks for something small, and when that person agrees, then working up to bigger and bigger things.

The Stepping Up Manipulation

Here is an example:

Client:”I need that report done by tomorrow.”
Freelancer:”Ok, no problem.”
Client:”I also need it done in triplicate.”
Client:”And by the way can you make sure you add in some charts to illustrate the point.”
Freelancer:”Umm, I can do that.”
Client:”And I need each report to have a different type of chart. One with a bar graph, one with a pie chart and one with a comparison of the two.”

9. Razor Thin Conclusions

This is when the manipulator gives out a little bit of information to the victim and then draws a conclusion from this fact. The conclusion that is drawn is usually based on a razor thin premise and is thinly connected to the information that was granted in the first place.

Here is an example:

“Can you finish this assignment by the second week of this month? You can’t? Well, most of the professional freelancers I employ would be able to do it. I guess that you aren’t as professional as they are?”

10. Making Reality More Pleasant Than It Really Is

This is often called looking at things through rose-colored glasses. Except that it is done intentionally and is not a result of the manipulator’s naivety. The manipulator relays information about a potentially unpleasant situation in a very pleasant way.

Making Reality More Pleasant Than It Really Is
Image credit: designers of tumblr

Here is an example:

“This assignment is really easy and shouldn’t take anytime whatsoever.” After receiving the assignment, the freelancer realizes that it will take several long days to get it completed on time.

11. Making Something Appear Like It’s Limited

This is when the manipulator makes an item appear to be rarer than it actually is, thereby driving up demand.

Here is an example:

“We need an illustrator with a medical or veterinarian background. We’re expecting a lot of responses, so make sure to give as low a quote as possible or I am afraid that you are going to miss out on a great opportunity.”

12. Fear Creation

This manipulation technique is employed by everyone from the average person on the street to the governments of very large nations. It is a tactic that has been successfully employed for thousands of years and will probably continue to be employed for many thousands of years to come.

Fear Creation

It involves creating a scenario that invokes fear in the recipient. This fear is then cured by a solution that the manipulator just happens to offer up at the exact right time.

Here is an example:

“We are going to have to cut some freelance jobs from our division in order to keep payroll costs under control. We are going to have to start cutting the jobs of freelancers who aren’t willing to work on a lower commission. I know that these jobs are important to you and I want to help you, so why don’t you lower your rate to prove just how important this job really is to you.”


As can be ascertained from the above list, there are a variety of different ways that people use manipulation in order to tilt things to their favor. This has always been, and most likely will always be, something that is done on a regular basis. But if a person knows the different ways that people manipulate, and keep their eyes open, then they can avoid being manipulated and ensure that they are always in charge of the situation.

Do you have any examples of manipulative clients? Feel free to share with us in the comments below.

Note: Some examples are extracted from Clients From Hell.


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