Have you ever met that one client who causes you such a headache you want to throw the towel in? Have they made you start doubting whether freelancing is right for you anymore? Don’t despair, it happens to the best, most successful freelancers too.

You may think that you don’t have the luxury of being able to pick and choose your clients, and maybe you don’t in the beginning but it is something you can strive towards. You want a business where you have the freedom to choose because this is the very reason you turned to freelancing, right?

How to spot them: What do they look like?

The complainers

These are the ones who complain about rates, deposits, anything pay related. They’re the ones who will either pay late or not at all. Avoid these people if you can. If not, make sure your contract is air tight and stay firm on your rates.

If you hand in some work, they’ll find any tiny fault with it. They’ll want endless corrections and extra work yet want to pay you pennies. Make sure you outline in your contract how many sets of alterations you include in your price. Most people do about two sets, and then anything else is extra and chargeable.

To try and avoid serial complainers you need to have an in depth conversation with them before you start work. Find out exactly what the client wants and come to an agreement which you can use to shape the contract.

The scope creep

This is the client who might be incredibly happy and complimentary with your work but wants just an extra paragraph/page/few days of your time. Not all of them are polite about it and will demand endless work now that they’ve begrudgingly paid you your rate.

Of course it’s entirely up to you whether you want to keep giving them extra bits of work. Just bear in mind that if you do, you are working for free. An extra little bit of work here and there adds up, especially if you do it for all your clients. You could be wasting several hours a week doing extra bits of work and not getting paid for it. Other businesses do not offer services for free unless they get some return on that investment, you shouldn’t either.

The vague ones

These are the clients who don’t know what they want. Unless they’re hiring you for your advice and give you the freedom to develop your own ideas, it would make your life easier to avoid working to vague briefs. If the client doesn’t know what they want, they may end up complaining about your work, changing their mind half way through and causing you a headache. Unless you can both come up with a solid plan at the start, be hesitant to move forward.

The bosses

Some clients don’t understand the word freelance and may end up treating you like an employee. They will be expecting to have your constant attention, demanding you sign all sorts of contracts. They find it hard to understand that you have other clients. These are the kinds of clients who ring up helpdesks every hour wondering why their issue has not been solved immediately. They can end up being quite demanding and taking up more time and energy than you can charge for.

Of course, not all clients are like this and hopefully this hasn’t made any beginner freelancers run in the opposite direction. If you look hard enough you can find decent ones but not if you’re spending all your time chasing up payments and worrying about the future. Don’t be afraid to be picky, it’s your business.

How to avoid them

Get rid

If you realise your mistake half-way through the project, finish the work then walk away. You can always dump your clients. As long as you’ve completed work and you’re not tied up in a contract, you have absolutely no obligation to do new work for them. If they’ve been a scope creep, paying late or otherwise eating up time you’d rather be spending on other work, you should think about moving on. Be polite, you don’t want to burn your bridges or give the client a reason to bad mouth you to others.

Protect yourself

If you take on the client, protect yourself. The best way to protect your interests is to have a solid contract in place. You should have a contract in place for every client, no matter how friendly they appear. Any client who is hesitant to sign a contract should be avoided. As long as your contract is reasonable, no client should have a problem signing one. It is equally beneficial for them too. You both get assurance that the work will be completed and paid for.

Spot the early signs and run

If you’ve spotted the warning signs and had a bad experience with a similar client in the past, you might want to say no to them straight away. If you’re having serious doubts about taking on a new client, it’s best to decline at the start than to get into an uncomfortable position for both of you later on. When turning down a client’s offer, be polite and professional above all else.

You will probably end up doing a variety of all three over your career. It will all depend on your area of work, your experience, your clients and your patience. If you do run into trouble, know that you’re certainly not alone and you can learn from your experiences.

Ever felt the need to avoid or drop a client? What other tips would you give? Let us know in the comments.


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