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Client Red Flags – What To Look Out for When Evaluating Potential Clients

Anyone who’s worked with a bad client knows how frustrating it is and how much of a negative impact it can have on your business – and to some extent, even your life.

Some freelancers and agency owners have shared that they’ve even gone through bouts of depression as a result of taking on certain clients. There comes a point in your professional journey where you’re going to be extremely protective of your time and your team’s resources – by choosing to work with businesses that align with your core vision.

So, in sales meetings there are red flags you can look out for that are typically indicative of a client that you wouldn’t want to take on…

No Interest In Your Process

The client has no interest in your process, either they don’t ask about it or are dismissive when you try to walk them through it on the initial call.

If a client starts trying to evade your process from day 1, how do you think it’s going to be like working with them a few months into the project?

As a general rule, if they do it once – you remind them of your process and if they purposely ignore the process again it’s time to start considering letting them go before they do any more damage to your business.

Belittling Your Effort and Involvement

The client is belittling your work, telling you what to do and how they want everything done. If they don’t believe in your ability then there’s a good chance that they’re not going to be accepting of any input from you when it comes time for them to share their feedback on drafts.

And unless that’s the type of client you’re deliberately looking for – this is a bad sign, to say the least. If something has gone wrong and changes need to happen at this point but the client doesn’t understand why – then expect resistance when you try presenting solutions.

They’ll likely always want things done “their way”.

The Client Tries To Run The Show

A client who is trying to run the show will have a sense of entitlement, thinking that they know the best way for things to be done because it’s their project. This person will also want you to do all sorts of tasks and spend hours on something that should take only minutes in order to prove how good they are at what you do. It can make your work life miserable if this kind of client has any say in your day-to-day operations or expectations since everything becomes more difficult when clients try to micromanage. The time and energy spent dealing with these people take away from your ability to focus on other truly important work.

Making Things Sound Easy

If a client is making things sound easy, they are either completely naive about what it takes to get work done or they’re trying to trick you into doing more, but pay less for it. It’s important to know when this happens so that you don’t inadvertently agree to the task and then find yourself overbooked with no time for anything else in your schedule. Clients need project management just like agencies do, but not every client will be able to provide input on how long tasks should take. When clients make their own under-estimations of how long something will take without having any experience in the field, think twice before agreeing; there tends to be a hidden motive to pay you as little as possible by making you feel like something is way easier than it actually is.

You know the process, you know the work. You set the price.

Not Taking Recommendations

Of course, people have the right to disagree with you.

But when it comes to the field you’re an expert in and they’re not – when they try to dictate what’s right and wrong. Run, run fast and run far. Because you can’t do your best to help them when all you get is resistance.

On initial calls with clients, I like to present some recommendations based on what I know about their business so far because that lets me gauge how they take feedback/suggestions from someone that’s been in the industry for years. If they can’t take it, or try to justify why things are a certain way – it tends to mean that they’re not aligned with our vision.

Remember – you’re being hired to solve their problems. You can’t do that if they don’t trust that your solutions and recommendations are the best.

They Try To Bargain For A Better Deal

If the client seems as if they’re offering a bargain, it’s best to stay away.

It’s understandable if they ask whether you’re flexible at all and whether there was anything they could change in the project scope to make it more affordable for the current stage of their company. But if they just ask for it to be less expensive without changing anything, this is typically an indication that they aren’t a good-fit client for your agency.

They’re used to talking their way into a less expensive service provider because they assume since we are newer or smaller in size than some other agencies, we should charge less. You don’t want clients who consider negotiating pricing upfront – those types of negotiations will likely happen over and over again as time goes on which means no matter what kind of relationship you build with them.

Not Good At What They Do

If a client is not good at what they do, doing your part (no matter how big or small) in helping them build their business is going to be a hundred times harder than it should be.

If upon meeting them you get the impression that they’re not the type of client that you would feel comfortable hiring if you would be in need of their services –they’re more than likely not the type of person you want to work with…

Summary – Working With Your Ideal Clients

These are just a few of the red flags and deal-breakers, we’ve seen in our time running an agency and our users share with us.

Over the years, I’ve learned that not taking these & ignoring them is going only going to hurt me in the long run. While the quick money is nice, it isn’t going to help you build a business you love working on when you have clients that don’t fit that business.

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