4 Ways to Tell if That Prospect Would Be a Difficult Client

I don’t believe there are bad clients, only bad fits. 

If you’re like me, then you love the majority of the clients you work with. They’re hard-working entrepreneurs building businesses they believe in. And they’re fab to work with. 

Every now and then, though, we all can find ourselves working with a client who just is not a great fit. 

Well, I’ve started trying to identify those clients before beginning work with them.

Mainly because: it’s way better for the client and for me if we work with those folks who we mesh well with. In the process, I’ve learned a few identifiers of a difficult client. 


So, these are a few of the ways you’ll be able to tell if your prospective client will be a difficult one: 

1) THEY ASK FOR THINGS YOU DON'T OFFER:

If you’re clear about your services on your Work With Me page, clients should respect that. Your packages are based on what you believe to be your zone of genius, so stick with those. It’s the #1 way for you to serve your clients the best you can. 

Here's an example: I’m clear on my Work with Me & FAQs pages that I only design websites on Squarespace. Every now and then, a prospective client will get in touch with me and ask me to build on Wordpress "anyway".

Here's the thing: you're going to have a difficult working relationship with a client who asks you to step outside your comfort zone. You have to ask to ask yourself, what else won't they respect about my business structure?

(Considering it in this context, not like if an established client said - "Hey, let's host a webinar together, you introverted biz owner, you.") It's OK to step out and grow in ways you feel excited about.

2) THEY DON'T RESPECT YOUR SYSTEMS

We all put systems in place in our businesses that help us get our work done, right? If a client is resistant to those systems, then they may just not be the person for you. 

For example, if you organize your work in a project management system, but the client refuses to use it - that could cause a problem of missed deadlines. Personally, I try to be very clear about this on my FAQ page. The very first answer there is about what it's like to work with me, so prospective clients will know exactly what the process looks like. 

3) THEY DON'T RESPECT YOUR TIME

If a client isn’t respectful of your time before launching into a working relationship with you, then they won’t be after you’ve started the project. 

I had a prospective client email me once, very upset. She tried to book an appointment for a free consult call with me, but my online scheduler wasn’t showing any availabilities for the particular day she wanted. She was pretty vehement that she had to have the exact date/time she wanted & asked me to change my schedule. She clearly needed someone with a more immediate availability, so, in the end, she decided to work with someone else. And I’m truly glad she found what she needed. 

The bottom line is this: a client who doesn’t respect your time now, may (later) not respect your time off or your commitments to other clients, either. 

4) THEY PRESSURE YOU TO LOWER YOUR RATE

Solopreneurs, like you and me, price our packages and services based on the value we believe we’re bringing to clients. Other businesses may charge more or less for those services - and that’s okay. If a client asked you right off the bat to lower your rate, this may be a sign that they don’t believe in the value of your work. (Or it could simply mean that they have a lower budget and just can't afford you. And that's OK, too!)

Now, it’s important to differentiate a client in need from a client in greed.

There are times when you may lower your rate - like, for instance, if you were building a website for a nonprofit organization. That’s a very different circumstance and totally within your right to do. 

So here's a tip for avoiding this in the future: 

  1. Look back at the difficult (or most difficult!) client(s) you've had. 
  2. Then try to identify what wasn't working during your time together. 
  3. Next, consider foreshadowing. Think about any behaviors/statements during your initial conversation that would have hinted at the difficulties. 
  4. Make a note to watch for those things next time. 

Do you have anything else you look out for to be sure a client is the best fit for you? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!