How to Identify & Avoid Bad Clients

We’ve all been there. You land a new client, you are excited for the relationship & potential of this deal, so you overlook the “bad stuff” because hey, business is business, right?


Let’s identify some classic bad client behaviors & see if they can be salvaged.

The Creepers

“Alexa, play Creep by TLC”

This client can sneak up on ya. They are a joy to talk with, so you’re excited to begin working on their project! The contract is signed, the tasks are in play, you’re in it! Then your client asks for a little extra fix on their site. Ah, of course, you will take care of that! You have great customer service, so you see it as no issue this one time.

Then it’s “just a little design”, “just a little blog”, “just a little….”

But when you fit them with the bill for all the “just a little’s”, they refuse to believe these tasks were outside of the agreed upon deliverables.

Scope Creep. It happens to the best of us.

A client who manipulates you to do free work is a client that does not respect your time, value & service. Forcing a confrontation about scope creep around every corner is a sure fire way to kill a great client relationship! So how do you marry stellar customer service & not being scammed by your client?

Honesty & Kindness. However, there is a balancing act between the two.
Kindness without honesty is manipulation.
Honesty without kindness is brutality.

Don’t let it build & then explode in a rage on your sweet client. If a client is requesting something outside of scope, have the honest conversation sooner than later. They possibly do not understand how what they are asking is outside of their agreement. If you keep being so kind & letting it slide, you are robbing yourself. I can’t go to a store & steal jelly just because I bought peanut butter. Be honest, be kind, and be clear. It will go a long way.

The Ghoster

You’ve had your initial discovery meeting, and you’ve downloaded the details. Your client seems excited about their partnership with you, and all signs point to smooth waters ahead!

You follow up a day later with questions to solidify for your proposal. A day goes by.. Then a couple. You check in & politely ask for a response to move the project forward. You receive an email saying they will get to it asap. Now a week has passed. Now two…

The client cold texts you one day & asks if you can chat in 5 minutes while you’re elbow deep in other new client proposals & existing client requests. The call is spent talking about the action plan, again. You leave the conversation reassured that things are moving forward, that they just needed clarity. But alas, you still did not receive the info you’ve been waiting for to seal the deal!

This is a clear sign that your client is not ready for the sacrifice it will take to dedicate time to their own project. When you face this upfront, we kindly suggest that you take a large step back.

Imagine being into this project with a contract & deadlines in play, and your client is leaving you on read! The hours your team will have spent on this project has now robbed your consistent clients of time you could have given them.

Can it be saved?

Does this mean your client won’t be ready in the future? No! Don’t burn bridges! Lead with understanding. When this client reaches out again, have solutions! Maybe that’s suggesting delegating a point person who can understand the project & has time in their schedule. Maybe that’s reconnecting in your client’s down season. Could be utilizing project phases or bite sized deliverables. Most likely, it will be a “bye for now”. Stay in touch, and set a date to reconnect in the future!

The Oblivious

They say “marketing”, you say “elaborate”. This client knows they need help, but they have no idea how, why, or in what ways they want to achieve it. As a service provider, it’s your job to educate your customers. They don’t know what SEO is? Teach them. They think Facebook Ads don’t work? Show them proven results.


Say you’ve done your due diligence & have communicated in clear detail what your vision is for your client, but they still aren’t wrapping their minds around the game plan.

This is an issue.

This red flag should alert you that your client may not be as invested in their goals as you’d like them to be. How can you fight for clients if they are not fighting for themselves? As some would say, you can lead a horse to water….

What’s the difference between an ignorant client & an uneducated client?
Ignorance: They do not try to learn or listen.
Uneducated: They listen to learn.

Is the effort worth it?

Yes! An engaged client who asks questions to understand your service is a treasure! This is a great opportunity! It’s okay to spend a little extra time up front over-explaining the process if it means big wins for both parties as the outcome.


Most clients are the good ones. They came to you because they resonate with your brand, and they are excited for the future of their business. They honor your time, respect your experience, and do their part to make it successful. They will refer you to like-minded business leaders, and your healthy clientele will build from there. Don’t let the bad apples get you down! You will learn to adjust your approach from each experience, and you’ll be better because of it.

Do you feel the good clients outway the bad?

How have you handled a poor client experience?