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Types of Clients You Should Avoid When Freelancing

Aug 8, 2022
(updated: Jan 24, 2023)
Max 5 min read

Freelancers will regularly face demanding clients they don't want to deal with. You'll learn to spot the bad client red flags as a service provider. A good client relationship comes from excellent communication, so it's essential to be clear about your rates, timescales, and expertise early on.

Clients who are poor communicators can lead to uncertainty around work and rates, so freelancers need to be on the ball and initiate those conversations. Dancing around difficult topics creates more work for you later on. You can also use client management tools to help deal with bad clients by creating concrete contracts and managing invoices to prevent clients from paying late.

In this article, we'll outline all the clients to avoid when freelancing and advise how to handle it when working with demanding clients.

have a deal with your client

What is a bad client?

A bad client is someone who can end up costing you more time and money because of a plethora of reasons. It could be that they're never satisfied with the work you produce, or it could be someone who isn't even sure of what they want, so it leaves you unsure of what you're meant to be doing.

When you work freelance, it doesn't matter what kind of industry; you'll come across demanding clients at some point. But the beauty of freelancing is that you work for yourself. You're your own boss, so you can assess whether you want to continue working for this person or not.

Types of problem clients

Every client is different, and each one comes with their preferences and expectations. When you develop a working relationship with a client, you must communicate effectively with them and outline your expertise. If you've landed a gig, they think you're suitable for the job. But before starting any work, you should ensure both you and the client are on the same page about the necessary work and tasks needed to complete it.

Don't be afraid to chat with the client or organize a face-to-face meeting where you can discuss success metrics and better understand what they're looking for. Don't shy away from difficult conversations; be clear about your rates.

Let's examine what kind of bad clients you may encounter as freelancers.

Unresponsive clients

As a freelancer, when you take on various projects, they can all be completely different. Sometimes you need to ask the client additional questions that only come up as you're actually working on the job. That's why it's helpful to have a communication tool that lets clients add their feedback right in the project files, making communication easy to track and respond to. Communication is key to any client-freelancer relationship.

If you're working with someone who doesn't respond for long periods, it can cause you to lose rhythm and momentum in the job. You might also miss the deadline if they haven't answered your question.

Certain clients don't require regular updates about a job. They want to assign you the work, have you complete it, and then potentially discuss it afterwards. That's okay, but they should still be available to answer any questions you have about the work.

The client who doesn't know what they want

This is something you might come across a lot when you're running your own freelance business. Clients sometimes get so excited about their projects that they try to hire a freelancer before they clearly know what they're looking for. This can be frustrating because they can change their mind or go back and forth while you're working on the project, meaning some of your work becomes redundant or is no longer needed. 

Any time that happens, you've wasted time (and therefore also money) on something.

In this scenario, the client may also message or contact you to discuss their ideas and use you as part of the fleshing-out process. That's fine if you charge billable hours, but if you're only charging for the project, then you're not getting paid any more to listen to their ideas.

To avoid this, make sure your clients have a thorough brief before you sign on to complete it. It'll save you the extra work and time.

stressful moment

Source: Universal Translation Services

The haggling client

Freelancers always come across potential clients who don't want to pay your rates. Unfortunately, this is unavoidable as a freelancer. Some people will always try to negotiate a lower price. It's up to you how to handle it. You can decide whether the client is worth offering special treatment to or not.

When you're self-employed, you're a business owner. All your income is generated from your work, so you must price yourself fairly and competitively. Generally, you should always know your worth and never go lower than you believe your value is.

A haggler can also signify a problematic client who wants a lot of work for the lowest possible price. When someone is trying to get you down to a lower rate, always stay calm, and be firm about your prices.

The nitpicky client who wants endless revisions

Working for yourself, you'll often find clients who are perfectionists and expect endless revisions on their work. It can be frustrating because you've already completed the job, and it can feel like you're going around in circles. Every round of revisions creates more work you didn't account for in your rate.

Some websites like Fiverr offer a revision cap on each package, so a client can only ask for a maximum of three revisions for the job. That can work better than a client endlessly asking you to make edits and additions to the article.

To manage this issue, you can place a set number of revisions on your work before starting and advise the client that these number of revisions are included in your rate, but any more will be extra.

Late paying clients

Clients who pay late are stressful because you don't want to have to keep chasing your money. Every time you have to contact a client to remind them about a late payment, you're being taken away from the projects you could be focusing on to bring in more money.

A way to manage late-paying clients is to use invoicing software with deadlines for when payments are due. Streamlining the invoice and payment process is better for your cash flow and helps set boundaries regarding payments early on, especially with new clients.

Micromanaging clients

Unlike unresponsive clients, a micromanaging client is someone who won't leave you alone to get on with the work. It could be someone expecting constant updates regarding what you're doing, or in some cases, some clients want to use monitoring software to see that you're actually focused on the task at hand.

They can be difficult clients to work with because you feel like they never leave you alone enough for you to finish the work required. As a freelancer, you are your boss, but you must also manage client expectations and communicate effectively with them.

An excellent way to handle a micromanaging client would be to set boundaries before starting the job regarding how often you'll update them and when you'll contact them with questions. If you outline what your clients should expect concerning communication, you won't end up with unhappy clients who think you're not being responsive.

Clients with unrealistic expectations

Another common type of difficult clients are people with highly unrealistic expectations about what you can produce. It could be regarding time, expecting you to write 10,000 words overnight, or it could be about price. Or, if you're a freelance writer, you could have a client who wants you to cover ten topics, but they only want to pay for a 1000-word article. It's impossible.

Every industry has bad clients like these, and it's the freelancer's job to offer advice and recommendations. Clients pay for your expertise, too, so you don't want to be a nodding 'yes' person and agree to anything. Tell them if you think the task is unrealistic for the timescale or the price and offer a new deadline or rate.

choose the right client

Source: Creative Boost

How to avoid problem clients in your service business

We've sprinkled some tips throughout the article on handling demanding clients when they crop up. You can ask direct questions to bad communicators and state that you cannot work on the project until they are answered. You can be firm with people who are paying late or refuse to work on projects if someone doesn't know what they want.

Sometimes, it's about having the confidence to say no. Freelancers always have the option of turning down a client if they think it's going to be too much work or they have unrealistic expectations.

However, here are some tips to avoid getting problem clients in the first place.

Use thorough client management tools

Client management tools to improve communication and invoicing help create a better client relationship. Using Indy, you can create professional invoices to ensure timely payments. You can also set up scheduled invoices so you can focus more on projects, and less on chasing payments.

You can also use the software to upload files where clients can leave comments on documents so you can have seamless communication while you work. This helps to keep everyone on the same page throughout the project timeline.

Create a contract

Before working for a client, you can create a thorough contract outlining potential issues. Indy's Contracts allows freelancers to set up professional contracts quickly, send them to clients and get them to sign them, agreeing to your terms electronically.

You'll impress new clients with your proficiency when you use a professional contract. It also prevents difficult conversations down the line, as you will have explained all the terms in the agreement.

When managing multiple clients and projects, you can use the contract function to monitor the status of each contract, understanding who has signed it and whether they've read it.

Charge higher prices

It's well-known in the freelance community that the clients who expect lower prices are sometimes the more difficult clients. They have higher expectations and want more work from you for the lowest rate possible.

When you charge higher prices, you'll work with people who appreciate your value, respect your work, and are happy to pay these rates. Usually, that gives you a better client relationship too.

Stop working with people causing you issues

Freelancers have the flexibility to choose the people they work with. If you're working with someone creating extra work for you, you don't need to keep them on as a client. There will always be more work around the corner, and you want to free yourself up so that you've got the space in your schedule when good clients come along.

If you have consistently bad experiences with someone, you can raise these issues or simply choose to drop them as a client and not continue the working relationship.

people causing you issues

Source: Payoneer

In summary

Bad clients can range from people who don't pay on time to those who have unachievable deadlines or expectations, or even people who message and speak to you constantly to get updates on your job without respecting that you have other clients you need to focus on too.

Good communication is key to excelling in freelancing. You can stop bad clients before they happen by using excellent client management software that outlines your terms and reminds clients that you're a business first and foremost.

The longer you work as a freelancer, the more attuned you'll be at recognizing bad clients as they crop up. Using Indy gives freelancers access to tools that help promote better client-freelancer relationships, like professional contracts and invoices.

Unfortunately, you will always find demanding clients when you work as a freelancer. In any industry, there are people who are challenging to work with. But, freelancing means you can decide whether or not you want to start working with them. Follow your gut. If someone rubs you the wrong way before you've even begun the project, it's unlikely to get better.

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