Episode 73: Red Flags to Watch for With Potential Clients

Running a business means sometimes dealing with difficult clients, so learning how to spot red flags early on with potential clients can save us a lot of hassle later on. Here are 8 red flags to be on the lookout for. *Pin this post for later*

It happens to ALL of us. You know…the clients from H-E-L-L. The ones that make you question everything and want to quit. It happens. But how do you stop it from happening as much as humanly possible?  In this episode, we’re talking about red flags to watch for with potential clients.

Here’s the scoop from Episode #73:

Let’s just say right off that having a client gone wrong is just part of being in business. No one talks about it because it’s hard to admit things didn’t go well. Or we feel ashamed.

But rest assured – it happens to EVERYONE. Even the people who look like they have it all figured out.

You don’t have to settle for having sub-par clients. It all comes down to being attuned to the red flags with potential clients from the get-go so you can stop this before it starts. Trust your gut!  Really – don’t ignore that tingling spidey-sense you are feeling. (now, there is a difference between being afraid of not being able to do the work and not liking the client. Be clear on which it is because they are very different!). But to put some concrete words around this – what are the red flags to watch for?

Wanting special treatment  

If the client wants all kinds of special treatment, like discount pricing, different payment plans, or wanting you to do things that you don’t normally do for clients (like giving out personal phone numbers or whatever).  You can make exceptions from time to time, but this is a sign.

Wanting to be convinced

If you have to get on a concept call and convince them to go with you, then it isn’t going to be a fit. If they are not sold after reading website copy, or are too lazy to do some homework beforehand, they just aren’t for you. There is a difference between selling them on why you are the best for the job and convincing them that they actually need whatever product or service you are offering.

Trash talking other service providers (or other people in general)

On the consult call, if they are trash talking other people, then they are not professional. This isn’t about them showing dissatisfaction with other providers (or people!), it is more about gossip. Because at some point, you will become the person they are trash talking to others.

Wanting guaranteed results

Right off the bat, this is a big NO! You aren’t in a position to do this. You don’t control every piece. If you build a funnel for a launch and the website copy, that is all you can control. You can’t control anything else to do with that launch and are therefore not responsible for the overall result. This is often the case with newer business owners, so they might just need to be educated. But take a step back and really assess the ask.

Pushing boundaries

If they are pushing boundaries with you (like the special treatment flag), then really think twice.  If there is a persistent neediness and want lots of handholding, then you have to decide if you have the time for that. Your boundaries may be different than ours, but just know what they are and stick to them.

You’re not sure you respect them or their business

This one can be tricky but if you can’t get behind their business or them personally. For us, there are some businesses we won’t work on as they don’t jive with our morals, values, ethics, etc..  These will vary widely from person to person, but you are your own boss for a reason, so stay true to yourself. If you wouldn’t want your name on the project or feel weird talking about your role in the project, then don’t do it.

Smacking of desperation

This can be harder to decipher but the more consult calls you do, you will be able to smell this from a mile away.  You don’t want to be somebody’s last $2000 because whatever you do will likely not be good enough. Catchphrases to look for:  “I really need this to work”; “This is my last $XX”; “I am putting everything I have into this”.  Now, it is not your responsibility to make sure clients are financially solvent, but this is a definite sign that they are going to be a bad client because they are sooo desperate.

Questioning your authority or abilities

This one irks us the most.  This can show up in a lot of different ways. They can tend to marginalize you/your experience/your counsel. They know just enough to be dangerous. If they treat you like “the help” and consistently second guess you, then that is the difference between being a doer and being a partner. You are a partner and make sure they treat you as such.

So if you have a client who is not working for you, get looking for a new client to replace them so you can walk away.  If you can’t do that right away, take a look back and see what you can do differently for the next one to make sure you have lots of great clients and not so many of the nightmare clients.

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