Red Flag Clients

I have worked with over 200 clients on over 350 projects since I started my business and its safe to say that some customers weren't the easiest to work with. While most of my clients have been wonderful to work with, there have been various customers who just didn't work out. Some were disrespectful, others don't want to pay invoices, and some love to waste your time. Learning to spot these red flags from the beginning has helped me to avoid issues when choosing to start a business relationship. Here are a few client types that avoiding will make your professional life much easier:

1. The Disrespectful Client

These clients will tell you everything they hate, say mean things to you, and keep you waiting on them on a regular basis. I don't care how much a client is paying me if they are rude or mean to me I refuse to work for them. Working with these customers could cause extra stress, low confidence in yourself, and depression. As soon as you realize that your client is showing signs of disrespect you should start making plans to exit.

2. The "No Deposit" Client

When taking on new clients, it is important to take some type of deposit for your work. I have noticed that the clients that have a huge deal with paying a deposit or promise to pay it after you have worked for a couple weeks tend to be clients that don't pay. If collecting the deposit loses you the client it might have just saved you a huge headache. Of course, working with larger corporations are completely different, and this red flag doesn't work for them as well since billing departments almost always take at least 30 days to pay.

3. The Late Client

This is the client that is late to scheduled meetings, phone calls, deadlines, invoice due to dates, returning emails, etc. Being late all of the time is a red flag that they are disorganized, and they will significantly delay your project. While this hasn't been a dealbreaker for me when I notice this flaw in clients I do take this observation in consideration when giving estimates for their project or scheduling their project into the queue.

4. The Alcoholic Client

Unfortunately, alcoholism is too common in our society. This is a disease that causes the alcoholic to push people away, make irrational decisions, and many other issues. I have personally only had a couple encounters with this with business and both my experiences have made me very cautious to work with someone with an untreated alcohol problem. Besides the obvious health issues for your client, you too will have issues working with this person. Alcoholics could be unpredictable with their decisions and mood swings could cause serious fights. Some obvious signs of alcoholism are:

  • The client has more than a couple drinks at a business meeting
  • Every time you see the client they are drinking
  • Irrational decisions
  • The client ends other relationships (spouse, partnership, friendships)

On a more positive light, I have known people that have had serious problems with alcohol or drugs that have completely turned their life around after they realized they had an issue and these people tend to be amazing people to work with.

5. The "Big Head" Client

I know, I know, I contradict myself in my post about having an ego but excessive ego could cause some serious issues with a working relationship. Sometimes these clients think they know more than they do and want things done in a way that doesn't make sense. These clients also think that they are doing you a favor by giving you work and that leads to justifications for them to not following through with things they promise.

6. The ADHD Client

This is the client that can't focus what-so-ever. Accepting anything from these clients is a hit or miss. They will get some things done and it will be perfect and others will take them forever to get done. The biggest issue that I have had is when a client is expected to write their text content or provide pictures for their project and when they don't it creates delays that make the project go past the deadline.

That being said, people that have ADHD that make a conscience effort to improve their ADHD are amazing people to work with. In fact, I believe I am one of them. I had a horrible problem with ADHD and worked hard to eliminate it to the point where it no longer holds me back from being productive.

7. The "Resume Builder" Client

I used to get this a lot before I had celebrities and large corporations on my portfolio. This client offers you an "amazing" opportunity to grow your resume by working for free. Awesome right!? No. Just No. While working for free is sometimes needed to grow your portfolio or get practice at your trade the clients that are offering that you could put them on your resume in exchange for hours and hours of free work are usually never worth it. Typically if the client is that amazing on your resume they have enough money from their successes to pay you. These clients tend to be very similar to the "Big Head" Client. They also tend to believe they are helping you more than you are helping them so they won't actually value your services more than the $0 they are paying you.

8. The "My Last Guy Disappeared" Client

As soon as a client tells me that their last developer or designer disappeared on them, a red flag goes up. If the client is hard to work with the last guy might have just stopped answering emails or phone calls. While this isn't acceptable for the last guy it might be understandable if the client is a major headache. Almost every project that I have been part of where the client had gone through 3 or 4 teams before me has been a nightmare. Either the client is horrible with communicating what they want or the project has become a complete mess by the previous teams.

9. The Paranoid Client

This client usually comes with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and/or wants to check references with all your clients. While I understand the importance of the NDA and verifying references, I think this could be a sign that they have had many issues in the past. If a client is overly worried that you might steal information their information they are probably the type of person that would steal the same information if they had the opportunity.

10. The Bargaining Client

Some clients just love getting a deal and some bargaining is okay, I can't fault them for trying. It's the clients that want the exact same product for half the price that I try to avoid. Usually in order for you to seal the deal with this client you will have to give a pretty good discount to make them happy. When you give them a discount both sides will believe they are giving each other a favor except you can't possibly give the same level of service to a client paying less than your clients that are paying the regular price. This lack of service, while not intentional could cause issues and nobody wins. The other issue with clients that always want a deal is that once you set a precedent of doing something for cheaper it's incredibly difficult to raise your rates back to your regular price later on.

In Conclusion

In no way am I saying that these clients are bad or that you should just say no to them but you should take these points into consideration when taking on new projects with new clients. Your time is valuable and it should not be wasted on people that are prone to cause issues.