Two important traits of bad clients who you should not work with.

If you look closely, you can avoid a lifetime of troubles and disappointment if you monitor simple traits of potentially bad clients.

I have had my fair share of clients over my years of operations. I’m Al, a business consultant in Zurich, Switzerland.

Initially, I was very naive when it comes to bad clients. I believed what they said.

  • Me: Oh, you want a presentation about Jaguars? The animal?
  • Client: Yup
  • Me: *Delivers presentation*
  • Client: Dude, I meant the car!
  • Me: *Alters presentation to be about the car*
  • Client: This is disappointing! I meant the animal and I said it numerous times. I think we should not work together anymore.
Bad Clients
*Client running away without paying* – Image from Flickr

There are common variables one has to look at in each client.

  • Money
  • Persona


Starting off with a very important variable one should monitor in any client.

“I have a small budget for this project” — This should trigger you. It’s not wrong, but it should trigger you.

If a client is asking for a design, for instance, it’s challenging. Design, at the end of the day, is relative to the person. One views a design as stunning, the other views it as obnoxious. If a client is looking for design work and is low on budget, then you’re in the danger zone.

It’s important in this sector, to visualize what the client wants exactly, and show her/him similar works. The first type of client you should be wary of is the client that has a low budget and is expecting a Da Vinci. Simply, because there are other ten freelancers who showed interest in working with that client.

How to deal with this client? It’s very simple, show her/him examples from Behance or Dribbble, and take their input on whether they think these designs are good or bad.


When money is on the table, there is another factor to consider, persona. This challenge comes in a different form. You might agree with the client on the budget, but end up with a disaster. I’d say this type of client is more challenging than the first one. At least we can safely see the financial problem in the first variable. Here, it’s dynamic based on the person.

Here’s what happens. You start asking. Then, you understand and deliver. Yet, she/he doesn’t like the result. Even though you asked. (Sort of similar to the jaguar example at the introduction of this article.)

The client is not capable of communicating what’s in her/his brain correctly. Your challenge is to open up their mind and deliver what’s exactly desired.

How to deal with this client? You need to get to know this person. Most importantly, to understand why she/he are needing this work. Research more in terms of their company or their background. Be a detective as much as you could. Adding to that, ask. Don’t stop asking. The more this person speaks, the more your eyes can see beneath her/his soul.

These are the two most vital variables to monitor in a client. Their combinations are what you should be very aware of.

Bad Clients

The ultimate solution

Of all my years of operations, what I was trying to decrease is client miscommunication. Nowadays, I almost never have such situations where there’s a misunderstanding. Even when that happens, it’s not catastrophic.

Here’s what I do.

  1. First of all, I communicate with a call before starting any project. Because seeing the person infront of me saying what is needed and why it’s needed exactly is vital.
  2. I send over my work over three phases instead of just one. I send off the initial structure as a thought and obtain the client’s approval.
  3. Following up to that, I send a first glimpse of what’s to be released, then I obtain the client’s second approval.
  4. Finally, I go all in.

This is similar to swimming at the beach. You could just jump in. Alternatively, you could touch the water, put your legs in first, and then jump in.

Final thoughts.

Clients are human beings (for now). There are good humans, and there are evil ones. So, one should always learn from each client, yet not take it personally. You could be unfortunate to be dealing with a client who just got a divorce during your collaboration. You might be the punch bag in this situation. The most vital thing to remember is that at the end of the day, it’s just a client. There are another million clients that would probably love to work with you.

You might be a perfect freelancer. Additionally, she/he might be the perfect client. Yet, your collaboration might result in a disaster. It’s highly unlikely, but it’s possible.

Why? Because you’re both humans.

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