I’m a freelance musician& I think I have worked with every single one of those clients at on time or another. Great article, wish you’d written 20 years ago :-)
10 Types of Bad Clients and How To Avoid Them
Last week we ran an article about the various characteristics of a good client. This week, we’re going to look at the other end of that: ten different types of bad clients, and what you can do to avoid them.
If you’ve been freelancing for long, then there’s no doubt you’ve read some of the horror stories about bad clients. You may have even run into a few bad clients in your own business.
Over the years, I have noticed that most bad clients seem to fall into certain common patterns. In this post, I share those patterns with you. Keep in mind that none of these bad client types are specific to any one client that I’ve ever worked with. Rather, these examples are a generalization of the many different characteristics a bad client can take. Personally, I rarely ever have to deal with a bad client in my business, and I’ll explain how you too can avoid them later on in the article.
Here are a few descriptions of some bad clients that you might encounter during your freelancing career:
Ten Types of Bad Clients
- The free samples guy. Before you can get a gig with this “client,” you have to submit an original free sample for which you will not be paid. No matter how hard you work on your sample, it is never quite up to par for this client. With a few exceptions, I think this is a scam to get free work from a freelancer. Yes, it is important for clients to see samples, but that is why we have a portfolios.
- The scope creep gal. The project seems relatively small, so you quote a reasonable (but fairly low) price. Once you start, however, the project changes. Ms. Scope Creep contacts you with this, “I forget to tell you, the job also includes. . .” Even when you’re done, you’re not. There’s still more work that she forget to mention. . . all for the same low price that you originally quoted.
- Vague Victor. Vague Victor needs something for his website and he wants you to provide that something. The trouble is, Victor is just not sure exactly what that something is. “I’ll know it when I see it,” Victor says. Unsuspecting freelancers often try to help Victor find out what is wrong. The trouble is, what the freelancer suggests is never quite what Victor had in mind.
- Fannie Freebie. The job description sounds like a perfect fit. What an awesome opportunity! You can’t believe your good luck. To think that they would pay someone to do such a fun project and they have approached you! Wait one minute – where’s the pay? You scan the listing eagerly, only to discover that there is no pay at all. It turns out that Fannie Freebie is not hiring freelancers at all. She’s looking for volunteers.
- Mr. Unavailable. You have some questions for this client so you send him an e-mail (he hasn’t left you with a phone number). Days, maybe even weeks, pass. There is still no answer from Mr. Unavailable. You’re beginning to wonder if this client is even still in business. Suddenly, without warning, he reappears. “Where’s my project?” He demands. Your questions are still unanswered.
- Clingy Sue. Clingy Sue is the exact opposite of Mr. Unavailable. She is so opposite, in fact, that communicating with her take up most of your working time each day. She contacts you several times every single day. She asks for a copy of your initial ideas, outlines, preliminary drafts, rough drafts, and first drafts. If you are late answering a single e-mail, Clingy Sue wonders why.
- Revisionist Ronnie. Accepting a job from Ronnie will keep you busy. Unfortunately, this client will not keep your pockets full. No matter how good the work is that you turn in, it is not quite good enough for Ronnie. He always has one more change request, one more fix, one final revision . . .
- Gossip girl. At first you might be flattered by this “client.” She seems to have the “inside scoop” on all of your competitors, and all of her competitors too. She’s more than willing to share (confidentially, of course) what she knows with you (especially when it comes to what she knows about other people). Watch out, though! Before you know it, this client will be dishing dirt out about you.
- The check is in the mail guy. This is the one “client” that every freelancer dreads. At first, he appears to be a normal client. Then you invoice him and his true nature comes out. Suddenly, he has all kinds of reasons not to pay you (none of which have to do with the quality of your work). He has had a family emergency. He is in a temporary cash crunch. His bank made a mistake. Whatever the excuse, you can be sure that it is not his fault. He will put the check in the mail as soon as he can. In fact, the check may already be in the mail (except that it never comes).
- The lowballer. Most freelancers have probably encountered this “client.” No matter what price you quote for their project, they know somebody else who will do the work for even less. “Is this your best price?” The lowballer interjects. “The market rate for this on XYZ site is .” My answer to the lowballer is always the same: this is a fair rate. If you can get the work done somewhere else cheaper, then go ahead and do it.
How To Avoid Working With Bad Clients
As I stated before, I have great clients. Part of the reason that I have such good clients is because I research each and every client before I accept an assignment from them. I search on the Internet to see if other freelancers are talking about this client. I check with the Better Business Bureau (companies that treat their own clients badly will likely treat you badly as well). I check on the client’s website.
Here are some ways you too can avoid bad clients:
- Thoroughly research your prospective clients before working with them
- Discuss and outline all project details before accepting a client
- Be honest with yourself, and don’t take on new clients out of desperation
- Follow your instincts, and don’t take on clients that give you a bad feeling
- Watch out for catch-phrases, under or over communication, and other potential clues of a bad client
If there’s any doubt in your mind about whether the client will be a good one, then I don’t recommend you accept the project.
Share What You Know
Encountering bad clients can be frustrating and discouraging.
Have you had any unfortunate experiences with bad clients? How do you avoid working for such clients?
Let’s hear your stories. (No specific client names, please!)
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March 17th, 2009 at 11:47 am
March 17th, 2009 at 12:06 pm
Ha! Seeing them all lain out like that is excellent…definitely have come across each and every one to a certain extent. Good article.
March 17th, 2009 at 12:07 pm
I’ve been struggling with a your-cheque-is-in-the-mail guy for months now. I had a bad feeling from the beginning and probably should have trusted my instinct. The thing I don’t understand about this guy is why his lies are so specific! He even promised to courier it, and then sent me a tracking number that never ended up having a package attached. The whole point of a tracking number is to track a package – did he think I wouldn’t notice it never showed up? Same guy also sent me an email saying that he was going to be in a city near me on a specific day and would overnight my cheque from that city.
Whatever happened to the vague promises of the days of yore? :)
March 17th, 2009 at 12:12 pm
Graeme Sacks – Yikes! You’ve dealt with all of them? You have my sympathies!
Colin – Your point is exactly right, most of these are to the extreme. But, some clients have these tendencies and these are definitely things to look out for.
Lauren – You’re dealing with one of the most frustrating situations a freelancer can face. I’m not sure what’s going on either, but maybe the “client” thinks that you’ll be more likely to believe his lies if he makes up specific details. Again, I don’t know – but that’s the only thing that I can think of.
March 17th, 2009 at 12:43 pm
First of all, great article you have written. Secondly, one point you made, “Follow your instincts, and don’t take on clients that give you a bad feeling” – is right on the money.
My business partner and I do not work with clients if either one of us gets a bad feeling, and in the past when we have ignored it, the outcome was nothing pleasing.
March 17th, 2009 at 12:58 pm
My only experience with a bad client so far was whilst still at college – for our last project we were to write our own brief so I made one around a guy wanting a website for a band.
Everything started out well – he even agreed to pay me (which wasn’t bad since I was doing it for college anyway) but soon enough he stopped responding to emails. I checked the URL where the website was to be when finished and there was another website in place there! Looks like he’d had more than one person working on making a website so he could choose the best one!
This is where taking a deposit up front would deter people from doing this kind of thing; lesson learned!
March 17th, 2009 at 1:00 pm
Thanks Mitesh! Actually, I think that Mason added that statement in the final edits. But, I agree with it wholeheartedly.
Craig – Wow! What a nightmare. Did you ever hear from the guy again? I definitely agree with taking upfront deposits for new clients – you can save yourself a lot of trouble that way.
March 17th, 2009 at 1:22 pm
Ha ha! Thanks for the laughs, Laura.
A few years back I was well acquainted with any number of these people as I was feeling my way through the world of freelancing. Since then, I’ve learned to go with contracts and only with those people who are serious about using me without misusing me.
Pay me something up front, keep the money flowing as the project is going and pay up quickly upon delivery of my final work. No cheapies, no tire kickers and certainly no leeches need inquire — I haven’t got the time nor the patience for the likes of you!
JeffreyMarch 17th, 2009 at 2:32 pm
As advice, I would add that you should always get the terms of any project down in writing and signed by both you and your client. That way, if the client turns into a bad client, you have documented evidence of each side’s responsibilities. Back in the old days when I was doing this kind of work, such agreements prevented me from losing a lot of money on bad clients.
March 17th, 2009 at 4:24 pm
Loved this post! You described the different ‘types’ so well! I’ve encountered at least 80% of these types. Your advice about researching prospective clients is really important to note. I do this meticulously with each and every prospective client that comes my way, and I fastidiously avoid any clients who throw up the glaring ‘red flags’ you mentioned. Less headaches, more quality work and results.
March 17th, 2009 at 5:03 pm
I’d like to add a new one: Big talk, little producer! You all know the client that says they’ll have a lot of work for you, you give them a decent price (not a lowball one) but still not your going rate, they use you on a regular basis for a while, then it goes down to dribbles and they disappear and then suddenly come back when they have a big last-minute job and expect you to be there for them. I’ve always found that insulting for some reason and I’ve been self-employed since 1992!
I used to be in the entertainment business, I’ve heard so many #@&#! stories and angles I could write a book!
March 17th, 2009 at 5:28 pm
Sometimes, one of the best approaches to take when dealing with a ‘check is in the mail’ type client is to just let it go, or settle for the percentage of the fee that has already been collected. Add up the time you have spent chasing down the client who is unwilling to pay and you might discover that your hourly rate of compensation has plunged.
I have fortunately only encountered this type of client rarely – 99 percent of my clients are excellent and pleasant to work with.
March 17th, 2009 at 5:38 pm
It seems that most freelancers have encountered one, or more, of these types.
Keep sharing your experiences!
March 17th, 2009 at 7:23 pm
I’d like to add two more to the mix (forgive me when I can’t come up with snappy names for them)
Percentage of Profit! It’s a great idea, we’re going to make a bundle. You build the whole thing, and we’ll keep critising you until you’ve lost the will to live. 10% cut right? This client keeps changing their mind because it doesn’t cost them anything to change their mind. They are still insistent on having impractical timelines, and expect you to spend all your time working on their project (which makes no money until it is launched – and not even then) – or you aren’t taking it seriously. I’ve never had this type of get anywhere.
We’re a high profile client. You can use us as a showcase, and everyone will see your work and want to hire you. Considering it will be good promotion, you can reduce your rate with us. This client will then insist you change quality work you can be proud of to something not worthy of being flushed down a toilet.
Re: billing. It is imperative that you receive money before the job even commences. I don’t provide any work until it is paid for in full. If a client doesn’t know what they want, then they need to go away and think about it, and come back when they do know.
March 18th, 2009 at 1:34 am
Thanks so much for this informative post! I run a small firm that provides management and fund development services to nonprofit organizations and small business. I have not had the pleasure of encountering all of these characters, however I will sure be on the look our for them! I can also offer a few colleagues a heads up.
Lexi RodrigoMarch 18th, 2009 at 3:00 am
Fortunately I’ve only had one bad client so far. The person haggles down my rates and sends me ultra-rush jobs. In the beginning, this person paid me as soon as I submitted the work. But this person hasn’t paid me for the last two assignments, which I had agreed to do for a pittance.
I agree with what you said: never accept a client out of desperation. The client mentioned above seduced me with promises of continuing work. This is why I agreed to lower my rates significantly.
Now I am done with that client; I have decided never to work with that person again. And I’ve learned my lesson. I will never again under-value my work.
March 18th, 2009 at 3:24 am
Lexi, that’s exactly what happened to me too…. A client who I had worked with and for previously and who was honest paid on time, never complained… provided more work for me to do, said he’d have work for me on a regular basis… Agreed to the rates I quoted… and when came the time for paying up… guess who had disappeared? I’ve been chasing this person down for two months, sending Emails asking when I’d be paid, sending the same invoice every other week… still no news…. It’s “only” 50 bucks, but STILL 50 bucks I could use ! What else can I do ?
I’ve encountered every last client mentioned in this article and that’s what’s making Freelancing difficult, because you never know how to deal with each of them… If you charge upfront, they might worry about ever getting the work promised, if you only charge a percentage upfront, you might end up doing the full work for just that percentage and never get the rest… thanks goodness there are still some trusty and honest people out there… but it’s not making it easier on us !
March 18th, 2009 at 3:46 am
Though I havent worked as a freelancer, but quite a few of the bad clients do keep coming up. Specially the Revisionist Ronnie. Whew they drive me nuts. After the inital design approval and integration it causes lot of heartbreak making revisions in the core areas.
March 18th, 2009 at 5:31 am
My first ever client was a nightmare. I signed the contract with the CEO, I was very happy and proud of myself. She introduced me to the partner I would have to work with. I had a bad feeling. When I saw how she talked to her people I thought that she would treat me the same way. And this is what happened. It seems that she combined almost the 10 descriptions you wrote Laura! Except the money, strangely. It was impossible to get results becaus it was mission impossible to get decent pitch. At the en I solved the problem (after 6 months of stress, fears and so on…), getting an appointement with the person I signed my contract with, the CEO. I think she wasn’t that surprised. We managed to gether to achieve a project then we stopped the collaboration but she paid me full. Now, I trust my first impressions.
March 18th, 2009 at 8:29 am
Great Great Great Article!
I am currently working with Mr, Unavailable who is disappeared from about 1 & half weeks. Still I am waiting for his reply.
Thanks for the article, will be helpful in avoiding these types of clients..
March 18th, 2009 at 8:39 am
great tips ..
will certainly help freelancers like us :)
Thank You & Cheers !!!
March 18th, 2009 at 8:51 am
Great article Laura; so much so that I tweeted it. We all recognize these characters but sometime forget they are around.
March 18th, 2009 at 10:18 am
Laura – I never heard from him again, but as I was doing it for a college project, it wasn’t a complete waste of time!
March 18th, 2009 at 10:18 am
Reading through the comments I noticed that there are a few mentions of “the check is in the mail” clients. Best way I have found to avoid this particular problem is:
1. Make sure you have a decent contract outlining work to be done, time-line AND payment terms – get the client to sign it, keep a copy for yourself.
2. ALWAYS get a non-refundable deposit BEFORE starting any work.
3. Make sure the check is good if payment was by check!
4. Get payment for any outstanding balances BEFORE handing over final work.
March 18th, 2009 at 11:06 am
Wow what perfect timing for this article!
I just had a combo of Lowballer and Mr. Clingy. I helped a client out a couple years ago with a major project, promised they can’t pay much now but will send me clients because they are in the music biz. Two years later and no word or clients until last week and it was the exact same lines, “I’m really broke”, “It will help you as much as me” and my favorite “I have a budget of $100, will that do it?”
Suffice to say I sucked it up, held back my anger and politely explained what I charge an hour, how many hours that would buy them and there is no way I could complete what I saw as a 30hr project in 2 so no sorry. I’ve learned to look out for myself and now lowball my services because I can find clients who will pay for what I do.
March 18th, 2009 at 11:15 am
Wow! I feel so validated hearing all these stories.
It would be kind of interesting to see a poll and discover which type was most common. (Mason?)
From scanning the comments it looks like The Check Is In The Mail Guy is in the lead followed by the Lowballer.
What do you think?
March 18th, 2009 at 11:31 am
Great article, when I was a law student we actually had someone come in and lecture on the different types of clients you can expect to see and generally how to deal with the difficult ones. It is something that I found extremely practical.
I recently wrote about a similar topic and how you can politely “fire” your client – http://www.michaelgcohen.com/2009/01/fire-your-client/
Thanks for the great work, keep it up
March 18th, 2009 at 11:42 am
Laura, Like the others, thanks so much for the post. I have learned this valuable freelance lesson the hard way. As a startup you often try to please too much. Lauren above mentioned “that bad feeling” when first encountering a client. I have learned to trust that feeling. Also Michael’s comment about percentage of profit is so huge. If you can, integrate that into the contract. If they are going to profit from your hard work, you should too. I would like to add that non-profits and charity clients seem to want the world out of you but never want to pay even bottom rates.
March 18th, 2009 at 12:43 pm
I have been in buisiness since the early 1980′s and of course I have had to deal with each and every one of these situations. They seem to be becoming more prevalent as the state of our economy gets worse. I find myself having to turn down or be harsh in the ever growing number of new clients that i seem to be running across. Seems that more people are trying to get something for nothing these days. I find that all I have to do is be firm in the fact that I know what I am doing and control the situation.I have sent many potential customers down the road to find later that I did the right thing. In doing this over the years I have been able to grow a client base the keeps me busy and they pay their bills. Some even give me blank checks to work with, I proudly say. I hope to apply this strategy to my new business when it is made public.
This is a good article and it is nice to see it layed out in the way that it is. Keep up the good work. Us business owners need to see stuff like this.
March 18th, 2009 at 12:59 pm
There seems to be a direct correlation between clients who want deep discounts and the amount of unreasonable expectations they will have. The cheaper they want it, the more demands they will place on you and your time. In my experience, those clients who accept my rate and appreciate my work and expertise have proven to be the easiest to work with, even when revisions have been necessary.
There’s another type, and this one doesn’t seem to have a warning signal, or at least not one I have found. It goes like this. Existing client refers you to someone new. You provide services. New client says they are thrilled, they pay you on time, and weeks later you find out from your original client that they weren’t really happy at all, they were just afraid to say something because of a bad experience with a previous freelance “Diva” who exploded every time a design was criticized. How sad.
March 18th, 2009 at 3:15 pm
I think “trust your instincts” is almost always excellent advice — as many of these stories prove!
March 18th, 2009 at 4:02 pm
Another flavor of the same thing. My latest blunder was to fall for the “do this job for cheap and there will be LOTS of work to come”. I usually know better than to fall for this. But this one was for an agency that was going to sell our services to their clients. First project…their web site. MISTAKE!!!! I ignored all the alarm bells, red flags, etc. Needless to say, we are finishing this site up at a loss….HATE it so much I would NEVER put my name on it, and the relationship soured to the point that if they even WANTED us to do any more work, I’d probably rather have a needle jabbed in my eye than accept it.
March 18th, 2009 at 9:51 pm
Thanks for the good advice! I think I was almost falling for one of those bad clients tricks! You opened my eyes!
March 19th, 2009 at 6:44 am
Great article. And so true. As a writer, my main problem is Type 10: The Lowballer. It’s like Word and OpenOffice and pen and paper made everybody a “writer”, or at least the prospective client thinks so. Hence, why pay good cash for some texts? The secretary could do it, after all, she has her own computer! And anyway, I have this friend whose spouse’s daughter had an A grade in German in highschool, and she’ll do it for 10% of what you quote!
Your advice is much appreciated. Thanks, Laura!
March 19th, 2009 at 9:03 am
You are so right, and none of these clients is worth the hassle and lost time. I once went to a lecture by a business expert who counseled that getting a headache from a client (any type) is never good for business.
I can add two types of clients to avoid:
The never-pleased client. No matter what you do, you can’t please him or her. You chose the wrong word, color, whatever.
The mountain out of a molehill. Extension of above–because you chose the “wrong” whatever the world will come to an end.
March 19th, 2009 at 9:26 am
GREAT post, Laura! I know a few of these people all too well. :(
March 19th, 2009 at 9:51 am
Great comments and advice!
This post seems to have hit a nerve. It’s sad that we freelancers have to deal with the people in the article, but as long as we do at least we can share our experiences.
March 19th, 2009 at 12:08 pm
I’ve had a lot of these “bad clients” over the years but you learn from your mistakes. Sometimes you put up with these clients and learn to manage them to your advantage. I always find that the smaller the client or company, the more trouble they will present to you in the long run.
YaniMarch 19th, 2009 at 8:48 pm
Great article! I think all freelancers can learn from what you said. I use Elance for just about all my jobs. I follow this Elance blog: http://freelancemoney.wordpress.com/
Can be “salesy” at times, but I didn’t start making any money until I followed the guy’s advice.
March 19th, 2009 at 10:05 pm
Re. Yani’s comment above – I don’t want to change the topic, however, I think it is very imortant to caution new and starting-out design freelancers against sites like Elance – not the worst of the lot, but not recommended. Where’s the value to a serious designer by paying to get a job – and a low-balled job at that!??? Laughable.
March 20th, 2009 at 8:13 pm
Client screening process must be done carefully these days especially with the boom of so many social media channels that can crush a freelancer’s or a freelance business’ reputation literally overnight. Thanks for posting this useful piece of blog post.
Ross GilmoreMarch 21st, 2009 at 9:14 am
i was working with a client once who had actually physically drawn out the logo he wanted, i sat for about 2 days recreating this in photoshop. after he saw it we agreed on a price that would get added to the current work i was doing for him, when 2 months later i finished all other work for him to turn round and say he was no longer using that logo, and then went on to say how nothing had ever been signed on paper for that logo, still NEVER got payed for that, got payed for everything else apart from the logo of which is still sitting on there site.
March 22nd, 2009 at 11:43 am
This list is so true. I hate client number one. Ask for free samples and use it for their own sites. That is stealing. However, occasionally there are clients who pay for the samples, so not all clients are that bad.
March 22nd, 2009 at 2:14 pm
#3 is priceless.
I once had a client that said, “I don’t know what I like, but I know what I don’t like.”
And then said the work was great. But then decided they didn’t like it.
I’ve learned this is why it’s important to make sure your clients are on the same page. This way they understand why you’re making the choices you are. The best thing is when clients find you. This way they’re seeking your advice rather than you seeking work from them. This way more value is put on your input.
The dynamic from you being a vendor to you being the expert. A much better place to work from.
Thanks for the article. Fun read.
YaniMarch 23rd, 2009 at 1:44 pm
Hi Anne…your comment above actually sounded correct, until I thought about it.
Believe me, I have PLENTY of complaints against Elance…but you don’t pay for jobs, you pay for access to clients. Big difference.
I pay a monthly fee of $19.95 and average $500-$700 per month in projects. I’m no mathematician, but those numbers work for me. Just my 3 cents.
I read this blog for Elance ideas: http://freelancemoney.wordpress.com/
March 25th, 2009 at 11:54 am
Awesome article! I dealt with a major scope creep gal/gossip girl recently, and I’m currently working with a Vague Victor/Lowballer and a Mr. Unavailable.
Gotta love it!
April 13th, 2009 at 2:39 pm
You are so right! It’s actually funny to see all these on a single page.
I am pretty new to the business, but I have already met “The scope creep gal”. It was a never ending story with an average of 4 pages of fixes on a daily bases. A had to give up on her ….
Thanks for the article!
April 24th, 2009 at 10:42 pm
funny and nice piece of works .great job :)
May 3rd, 2009 at 11:26 am
Okay. I have a question. I found this post after the fact and now instead of learning from you as to how to avoid a bad client, I am trapped with a client that is horrible. He is much like your example of Mr. Vague. He gives me a vague idea of what he wants and then asks me to change it again, and again, and again as he searches for what he likes.
He also wants us to make lots of changes that make the overall site very unappealing which I suppose is his prerogative if he wants an ugly site, but I don’t want my name on it.
Can I just up and fire my client? Is there a way to make him happy? He paid 50% up front and the rest was going to come after the job is done. I have an associate that I have to pay for the work that he has done, so do I send him his check back? Or do I count that as money toward my expenses?
As you can probably tell from this question, I am very new to freelancing. I do work very cheap because it is for churches and organizations that I want to help out so I am really not making enough on this to want to deal with this kind of hassle. What do I do?
May 3rd, 2009 at 12:22 pm
Nicholas, see this post for excellent advice re. your problem.
May 3rd, 2009 at 12:56 pm
Anne, thanks. That article is great for this subject. Perfect advice! Thanks a ton!
May 3rd, 2009 at 10:05 pm
Wow, the last project I won through GAF was attached to a buyer who had almost all those qualities and more!
It was an SEO project. I won it on thursday and began working on it friday morning. My first mistake was allowing contact through IM. He would not stop sending me frequent messages. He wouldn’t even send me an email without me responding first to what ever the last message was on the IM!
(ie, “I need to send you an email”, a few minutes later he sends a nudge and again “I need to send you an email when you are back online”, and this continues until I answer him) This happened several times when I was actually afk so would come back to a long list of messages like that.
Then the bad got UGLY. He got very rude with me yesterday. I asked him very politely to not get rude with me again. He answered along the lines of well its my website. Like that was reason enough to get rude. The project ended today with him filing a dispute because he didn’t like that I expected him to not be rude to me.
Anyone who uses GAF (which I refuse to after this) do not take any projects from paulPAUL. I am not sure if he was just trying to get free work, or if he had a problem with me being a woman (the problems started right after he found out I was a woman). But in just the two days I had a chance to work on his seo, I corrected many issues he had on his sites which gave him close to 1000 new incoming links! (very huge site that was not being crawled but only for a couple pages). He now claims that I didn’t work at all on his seo, and that the search engines “created the links” that I didn’t do it. lol
May 11th, 2009 at 11:34 am
Great list! I think I have a matching customer for every point on this list. Customers eh?
“Taken what they’re givin `cause I’m workin for a livin”
May 15th, 2009 at 10:02 pm
I meet all of them early on in my career. Best thing to do is always get at least a 50% retainer.
Casey RiveraFebruary 27th, 2010 at 4:21 pm
I’m a freelancer and I’ve had a few of these also. And I am always relieved when I get rid of them. For any other freelancers, if you want to share freelancer stories, you can share them at: http://www.absurdpeople.com/
Kit SaboMarch 3rd, 2010 at 10:27 pm
I find that negotiating for an hourly pay instead of a lump sum project fee will handle most of these problems.
BradleyMay 17th, 2010 at 5:46 pm
There is a simple solution to many of these clients… bill everything, bill weekly, and record everything (intervals.com is a great tool for freelancers). I bill out at $90/hour, and if they want the world, that’s fine… if they want it quick, that’s fine, if they want to hum haw and ho, that’s fine, cause they’re paying a week in advance. So if I quote them at 12 weeks (40 hours x 12 weeks), they need to pay weeks 1 and 2 up front and then pay week 3 at the end of week 1… the serious customers have NO PROBLEM with this… all of the aforementioned characters above… they don’t have pockets for the first 2 weeks and we never even start.
May 17th, 2010 at 7:16 pm
Bradley, that is exactly right. Let them pay their own way. That is the way I have been doing it for years. if they refuse to pay the next draw then you are ahead of the game, just refuse to do the next stage of work. I refuse to pay to do work that belongs to someone else whether it is through my construction business or the web design company. They pay as they go and that weeds out most of the bad clients. with my system the only money I could lose is the final draw and if you word the contract right they can hem and haw all they want because they are paying for it. So yes it is a win win situation for me. I am not wasting any of my own money if I stay at home and that is what I will do before I do free work for someone else. I don’t wear out my equipment, I don’t put miles on my car and I am not worn out at the end of the day for nothing. yes pay as you go if you want work done by me, and I stay very busy.
May 25th, 2010 at 10:30 am
Great list. Feels good to know I am not alone and that it happens with everybody.
Though I am not a designer, and am a techie, I have had my fair share of bad experiences. You forgot to mention one more type of client:
11) A combination of one or more of the above traits.
Just a couple of weeks back I worked for this cheapskate who was a combination of scope creep clingy sue whose check was always in the mail. I ultimately gave away everything just to get him off my back!
gonaJuly 6th, 2010 at 3:26 pm
Just add one more here. Mr. Leave My Project & Take Me.
I knew a client who was all of the above plus flirtatious. At some point of time he completely stopped discussing the project he was offering with me, and instead started getting too personal. Whether or not I have a boyfriend currently hardly has any relevance to the graphic design of restaurant’s menu card.
And even while he was shamelessly deviating from the project, he threw like all his corny chat was essential for the project. So the moment I would start ignoring his behavior or stop listening, he’d subtly accuse me of being an uninterested, ignorant freelancer.
So either I could take his crap, or be labeled as unprofessional. grr.
August 28th, 2010 at 1:56 am
I have been freelancing for about 2 years since im still in college, it always helps… In this two years I´ve encountered at least half of those clients. They did pay though, but after tons of changes. I was starting out so i had to go on with it since i really needed the money. Now Im a little more careful and with a little more character i guess. Also many friends have told me stories like that so I was kinda warned.I never have worked for free and always have asked for percentages The look on clients when u ask a percentage in advance is priceless though.
Theres a website that has tons of quotes from designers with very bad clients… http://clientsfromhell.net/
September 2nd, 2010 at 3:44 am
I think I have a combination of a few of those wrapped up into one! Right now, making my life miserable!
Great article and sage advice
September 3rd, 2010 at 9:30 am
Yes yes yes. I’ve had almost every single one of these instances. It’s amazing how people will go ahead. But since I started my business I have been very selective on who I do business with. As for the scope creep – Always get this, but we finally put a system in place that stops this. So far it’s working, but you know you will find that one person to get past ya.
October 6th, 2010 at 6:25 pm
Whilst the check is in the mail, the content will be on my computer. Until the check clears the content will remain on my computer. We both lose out, but mostly for the client because I could always use the content elsewhere.
I never fell for the sample thing. It didn’t seem right that they would ask for original samples before considering whether to hire you or not. Surely my current samples should give you a good clue of what I am capable of?
October 12th, 2010 at 2:49 am
Very good post. Some times back, I had two clients who fall under these categories.
The first one never paid me at all, always giving excuses – bank transfer is not working, courier failed to deliver cash … eventually, he got uninterested in the project after my completion and ended up wasting my time!
And the second person falls under the points 2 and 7
November 12th, 2010 at 9:35 am
Great list! In the past I’ve worked with a hybrid of Mr. Unavailable and The check is in the mail guy. It seems that some clients take the free in freelancer a bit too far. I’d like to add one to the list. The know-it-all guy. He can do the job you’re doing better than you (and he constantly lets you know what he knows about the work you’re doing), he just doesn’t have the time to do it. He morphs into Revision Ronnie. I’ve since learned my lesson.
December 17th, 2010 at 9:38 am
Great article – why is that some clients think they deserve the world but are simply not willing to pay a penny! Can’t offer your services for free.
KatzJanuary 16th, 2011 at 9:44 am
I was laughing while reading this. “Revisionist Ronnie.” Actually his name was close. “Ronny.”
Unpaid revisions and features will consume your time. Time is money!
June 30th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
Great post, Laura. The tips for avoiding these situations were especially useful.
Also, I wanted to give you a head’s up that your content has been stolen:
August 18th, 2011 at 11:57 am
Lol, it’s like reading a book on the last 2 years of my business’s life. The only one on that list I haven’t encountered (yet) is the gossip girl and maybe I have and I just didn’t realize/remember it.
I have raised prices in an effort to get some of those types of people to go elsewhere. It’s a win/win either way – you either get more income from them (doubtful) or you get them off your back (more likely).
September 14th, 2011 at 9:48 am
Real bad experience with the “check is in the mail guy”. We continued to make small requested changes to his project daily and every day he would say something to the effect of “I’m working on getting payment together for you” and “I should have payment for you tomorrow” etc, ad nauseum.
After shutting his project down and refusing to do anymore work for him until the bill was paid, he felt offended and that he wasn’t going to pay. Big surprise.
We get lowballed constantly too LOL.
September 28th, 2011 at 7:52 pm
right on the spot!!! hahaha just remembered all my previous clients who belonged in the list. I encountered the Mr. FreebieGuy, Mr. Unavaliable and the scope girl.
September 28th, 2011 at 8:15 pm
I love this! Just as I was writing a couple of contracts. I’ve certainly met a few of those types in my time as a freelancer.
sonofaraOctober 2nd, 2011 at 2:43 am
Thanks for such a great post… its a real pain facing such clients and i guess you’ve done a great job helping the newbies to identify such bad clients.
PothiOctober 28th, 2011 at 9:17 am
Just met Mr. Unavailable! I’m glad I’m not alone.
JamesNovember 21st, 2011 at 3:21 pm
One of the easiest ways to avoid customers or clients like this is to price yourself out of that market. Charging a service or setup fee before you begin your work is another way to avoid these customers.
Charge what you are worth, if you suck, you can have all of the above customers by being the cheapest. If you provide quality work, then charge accordingly and only accept customers who understand that “you get what you pay for.”
April 17th, 2012 at 6:57 pm
I’m going to send this link to anyone who gets skeptical about signing a contract when working with me.
July 12th, 2012 at 9:07 pm
The worst thing about the lowballer is that they always are the most difficult to deal with and ALWAYS try to add aspects to the project for free.
JennySeptember 6th, 2012 at 12:26 am
Psyhcopaths: win this argument! who’s the boss! on and on and on ..unfortunately at times this can happen to the most honorable person. Shark in the water with reckless intent to deceive and mislead you from the start, Mr I get my own way! just look at my teeth and I will smile and give you no pay!. A good poke in the eye is said to do the trick. Only Advice here is to screen your clients!! Q. why did they come to you? why do they prefer your services or are you all there is left after working their path of destruction. These people have a past to hide, uncover this before further harm is done, keep your guard up!. Reality check this with a mutual obligations check list and have contractual obligations in place or better yet this type can go through to the keeper..
September 30th, 2012 at 10:08 am
This post was entertaining, not my original reason for visiting the site, but interesting all the same :D
Personally, I especially dislike customers who dive into way way too much detail, so they can take what you do and copy it!
JennySeptember 30th, 2012 at 7:51 pm
Thanks, was going through something terrible at that time with a client and really just needed to vent it out.
October 24th, 2012 at 10:42 am
This is so true! I’ve experienced “scope creep gal” and “vague victor”. It’s exactly how you described them. I feel like an idiot for actually accepting the job. Next time I’m gonna do my research. Thank you very much!
January 18th, 2013 at 4:12 pm
Great article! I quoted it on my newest Everbill blogpost, “Why and How To Get Rid of ‘That Client’ Who Wastes Time (and Money)”. Let me know if I left out any good strategies!
April 19th, 2013 at 10:47 am
I have a really rough client I am ready to drop, a mix between scope creepy gal and needy sue. He’s a pain in the ass, I charge him $1500 a month for a mix of work, and he constantly calls me everyday and can sometimes get very angry. Working as a professional for some time and a recent switch to some part-time consulting has me tired out completely. This guy wants to lowball, and throws in extras not in the contact. Which most of them are fraudulent, like posting fake reviews and clicking on other companies adwords listings to help his. Man what should I do? Saving for my new condo…so it’s tough to just be like beat it you a-hole…
May 5th, 2013 at 12:06 pm
I was just about to mention the know it all also: The “I totally could do this myself but I don’t have the time.” or “It should only take you an hour if you know what you’re doing.” And of course, the “I can only pay x now, but after this (or if it works out), there will be a lot more work!” Like yeah, a lot more work for $10? lol no thanks.
There is also another version of the clingy sue, was it? The absolutely hysterical… helen I guess we can call her. Someone who spends every second of the day with her finger hovering over the panic button and your # on speed dial! It’s already way past an emergency when something happens on her site, and if you… yes it has happened to me, DARE to go pee and don’t answer your IM within like a fraction of a second, you will be screamed at beyond the point that even a criminal should deserve about why you didn’t answer.
There are also other types too, like the confused cathy (also freebie/lowballer and complete stiffer at the end. Stiffer Sue we can call her since her name is Sue). She just does NOT remember writing to you to fix her hacked site and promising you that money, and she just does not have time to go through emails and figure that out, so stop bothering her, even though she’s the client that had to have long phone calls to go over every link in a page just to show you the one that did *not* work, and if you said you could not be on your cell she would skype constantly asking you to simply use a “LAN line” whatever that is, and when after over a dozen hours’ of time accumulated and she was told that she would be charged for phone time from that point forward, would ask about your bill, which was 10 hours of site work and 3½ hours of phone time with still 2 hours left to work on the site and she would say, “Fine. Go ahead and finish the work and bill me for 12 hours.” like hello they did teach math at your school, right?
She’s the first one I mentioned at my site. Not anything out of line, just what she did to me (same as above) just to warn others a bit. And get this, she had lots of problems with her previous developer when I came a long and that should have been a flag to me but I didn’t even think about it.
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