Freelance clients you’d want to avoid

Sandra Busch
Clients to Avoid

Freelancing can be risky business if you’ve signed with a bad client. But of course, we don’t have to tell you. The good thing is that there are things you can do yourself to make sure you don’t wind up selling your soul to good-for-nothing freelance clients. It’s important to look for red flags before you agree to sign anything. Here is a list of client types to steer clear of.

1. The Indecisive Client

When this client (finally) makes up his mind about the project, he’ll probably have problems sticking to the initial agreement. Perhaps your client has asked you to shoot new corporate photographs of their team of 15 people. You quote a price and agree on the terms of the assignment. Then later he starts sending you emails. Suddenly it’s 17 people instead of 15. And “can you do the shoot over three days instead of one?” It won’t be long before the small additions start to add up and you realize that you should have charged double the price.

2. The Vague Client

If a client only gives you clues and flimsy descriptions about the project, it’s probably because he doesn’t really know what he wants. He’ll tell you he has a vision for the project, but he cannot explain it. This is a huge problem for you as a freelancer because chances are you’ll have to do a lot of the work before the client finds out what he actually wants. The fact of the matter is that the more details a freelance client can provide about the project, the more focused you can work on delivering a piece of work that will cater to his needs. If you end up working for a vague client, he’ll probably want revisions on end which means that you’ll be wasting a lot of your time.

3. The Forgetful Client

It might be the greatest, most lovable person you’ve ever met, but if he’s forgetful, he’s still a bad client. If you’ve signed a contract with the type of person who’s likely to leave his third umbrella of the week somewhere, you are going to have a bad time. It won’t be long before he’s a no-show for meetings, or he’s calling you wanting to know why you included this new element in the project when, really, he asked you to do it a week ago – only he forgot. This kind of freelance client behavior is exhausting in the long run and it will cost you a lot of time trying to convince your client that you’re only doing what was asked.

4. The Meddlesome Client

This is the type of client who doesn’t trust you to do the job you were hired for. In most cases, the meddlesome client will be sticking his nose into places it just doesn’t belong. Most often, a freelance client like this will be trying to make sure that tasks are performed in a very precise way, in other words, his way. The problem is that his way is not always the right – or the most effective – way of doing things. Besides, being looked over your shoulder every minute of every day will quickly burn you out. You’ll wind up hating the work and resent the fact that you agreed to work with this meddlesome client.

5. The Penny-pinching Client

If you wind up with a penny-pinching client, just be careful his thrift won’t leave you with an unpaid invoice. A client that refuses to pay a portion up front is a big red flag. It could mean that either he doesn’t think you’ll be able to deliver the work. Or maybe he never had any intentions of paying you in the first place. Too many freelancers fall into the trap of agreeing to payment after submission only to realize that their invoices are either paid late or ignored completely. This means that you need to be doing everything in your power to make sure you don’t end up signing with a freelance client who’s reluctant to pay for your services.

6. The Procrastinating Client

We have all succumbed to the pressures of procrastination. But if you end up with a client who procrastinates and takes forever to get back to you, it means trouble. This is a tricky problem to catch from the beginning, but try to pay close attention to your first interactions back and forth. If he takes weeks to respond to a quick email about the project or the contract details, it’s probably a freelance client you’d want to avoid.

Don't get burned

Being selective when it comes to new clients is not only perfectly acceptable, it’s an act of profound kindness (for yourself and the client). While they don’t necessarily mean to harm your business, bad clients will definitely cost you time and talent. In the end, it’s not worth the effort and you should try to avoid them.

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2 Responses

  1. Brianne says:

    Awesome list. Thanks!! I’ve met worked with so many clients like these. The meddlesome one is THE WORST. Everyone should be warned about these clients.

    • Sandra Busch says:

      Hi Brianne. I’m sorry to hear you’ve had to deal with so many difficult clients. Hopefully, you’ll be able to steer clear of the worst examples in the future. Best, Sandra 🙂

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