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How to Spot a Bad Client from a Mile Away

Updated on January 17th, 2022

You probably know first hand how frustrating it can be to deal with a client that drives you nuts. Unfortunately, we’ve all had an experience or two with bad clients. The key to avoiding this kind of stress is to learn how to spot a bad client from a mile away.

Unfortunately, at least in the beginning stages of a business, business owners tend to take on an client they can get their hands on. This leads to frustration and learning a few lessons the hard way.

Here are just a few signs that a prospective client is probably a dud.  If they fit into any of these characteristics you may want to pass on the project.

Your gut is screaming “No!”

I was recently conducting a session with a new business coaching client where she mentioned that a prospective client for her business was giving her the creeps. The prospect seemed extremely demanding and lacked boundaries, but she was convinced she could just take him on as a client temporarily to get her PR business off the ground.

“You may not want to do that,” I said. “If he’s giving you bad vibes now it’s only going to get worse. Trust your gut and turn it down.” I added that if she starts taking on bad clients now that she’s setting the precedence to do it in the future.

We don’t tend to give a whole lot of credit to intuition in the business world, but it can make all the difference between making good decisions and bad ones – especially when it comes to the intentions of other people.

They are rude from the get-go.

If there is one metric you use to help you spot a bad client let it be this: How do they treat you before you’ve even begun working together?

I have a rule for both the freelance and coaching side of my business, if someone seems rude even before we’ve had a real discussion then I don’t work with them. Lacking manners is a major red flag that should immediately tell you someone is a bad client. Here are some examples of how this may manifest:

  • Sending uncalled for emails that are very demanding. (Ex. Demanding to have a meeting at 8 p.m.)
  • Having a complete lack of boundaries (Ex. A coaching client once had a prospect ask if they could stop by her house).
  • Having unrealistic expectations. (Ex. I want a week’s worth of work from you in 24 hours.)
  • Not willing to pay real money for real work. (Ex. I want you to ghost write a book, but I’m only going to pay $50.)
  • Insisting that you do something unethical or illegal (Yes, these people exist).
  • Being full of themselves and trying to tell you how to run your business.

These are all clear-cut signs that this prospective client is going to be way more trouble than they are worth. Spare yourself from these guys and walk away.

They can’t answer basic questions.

Another clear cut sign that your prospective client is a dud is when they can’t answer basic questions like what their budget is or what they actually need from you. This is usually a sign that they aren’t serious and that you should move on.

Granted, some people may need your expertise and guidance to figure things out, but if they are constantly evading the important “money” question then they’re probably a bad client.

Investment News has a great guide on questions you should ask prospective clients. While they are writing this advice for financial advisors, it still gives you a good idea of how to fashion important questions to ask prospective clients.

Final Thoughts

The easiest way to avoid a bad client is learning how to spot them from a mile away. While most people have to learn this the hard way, you can refer to this guide every time you’re in doubt. With time, you’ll be able to spot bad clients on your own.

Amanda Abella

Amanda Abella

Amanda Abella is a Millennial Finance Expert that helps people understand their finances and eliminate all bad debt. She wrote a book, Make Money Your Honey. It is a powerful guide on how to have a better relationship with work and money. You can actually start building an extremely profitable business around the things you're passionate about.

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