Red flags

Working with the right client is great, but what about working with the wrong client? It is absolutely HORRIBLE! Here's some red flags to look out for.

If you’ve ever worked with a bad client, you’ll understand how frustrating it is and how much of a negative impact it can have on your business - and sometimes even on your life.

In the past, I've gone through bouts of almost depression because I've taken on really horrible clients. These days, bad clients aren't something I want to deal with. I am very critical and protective of my mental wellbeing, so in sales meetings I look for any red flags that could mean that the prospect isn't someone that I'd enjoy working with.

These red flags could be different for anyone, but here are mine.

1. Disrespecting my process

It really bothers me when someone tries to adjust, change, or avoid my processes. Process is super important, because if you don’t follow a process to sell, then you’re going to follow the prospect's process to buy (and that's usually not working in your favour).

If a client disrespects your process this early, what do you think they'll be like later on?

If they do it once, I'll remind them I have a process. If they do it again, or just refuse to comply, I say goodbye.

2. Diminishing my effort

You know the people who tell you how they could do it themselves, but they don't have the time? They're not a good client.

Everything you do, they'll tell you it is easy, or quick, or whatever.

These are the same people who think installing a crappy WordPress theme magically makes you a web developer.

Just like knowing about China doesn't make you Chinese, knowing about WordPress themes doesn't make you a designer.

3. Giving Orders

“I like this guys site, I want you to build me one just like it” <- that’s a no from me.

I’m not a freelancer or an employee. I am the person who figures out what is needed to deliver the right result (and jeez I didn't mean for that to sound as arrogant as it does). There are plenty of people out there who will follow orders, and cost a lot less than I do.

I give them one free pass on this and educate them on why I’m going to ignore requests like that. If they have an issue with it, or keep trying to tell me what they do, then we get to not move forward.

4. Making things seem smaller than they are

From my personal experience - when a client keeps saying they want something “basic and simple” - that just means they don’t want to pay.

When it comes to the actual job, they end up having very specific requirements and will want revision after revision.

I usually won’t break the process on this one, but I will try educate them on how the design plays a part in everything. Even something that is intended to look "simple and basic" needs to be designed right to look that way.

If they still persist that its simple/easy/basic then I recommend they either do it themselves or hire someone from fiverrr or upwork.

5. Disagreeing with my recommendations

So obviously it's okay for people to disagree with me.

But when someone is looking to HIRE me to solve their problems, then we need to be aligned.

If they don’t trust in what I’m saying, there are plenty of other people who will be happy to do the wrong thing for them.

6. Being evasive or secretive

I don't really understand why people do this. When they don’t want to tell you details about themselves or their business, how are you supposed to be a digital partner or actually help them.

Either they don't trust you, or they don't know the answers.

No matter the answer, it makes it VERY hard to provide any value.

7. Haggling on price

I can understand someone potentially asking about options with the price, but outright haggling? Or asking for discounts?

That isn't cool.

It's indicating one of two things:

  1. They value your solution LESS than your price, OR
  2. They need to "win" with negotiating

Either way, not someone you want to be working with.

8. Nitpicking EVERYTHING

You know when someone pours over your proposal, and wants to question EVERYTHING?

Have they ever turned into a good client? No, they haven't.

These people think everyone is out to get them, and will either try screw you over, or just go mental about how they interpreted a certain clause in your contract - to try get you to do extra work, or things you didn't originally agree to.

9. Not good at what they do

My ideal client really loves their business and is usually very good at what they do. So the final red flag for me is someone who seems to do a shit job, or I would never feel comfortable hiring myself.

It would be a complete disservice if I built them something amazing, then they proceed to do a half assed job to all the new customers they get in.


These are my red flags and deal breakers. I've learned the hard way that ignoring these will cost me severely.

If you don't already have your own list of red flags or deal breakers, start thinking about putting your own together.

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