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The search for someone to blame is always successful.

No one likes dealing with a problem client. No one!

The best way to be sure you don’t get involved with “clients from hell” is to pay close attention to your early interactions so you can spot dealbreakers fast. Hopefully before you even enter into a deal!

While there are a number of reasons that fit the “dealbreaker” category, these 5 warning signs scream walk away. Now. (And don’t look back.)

Remember, the price you charge for your products and services determines your clients’ expectations of the quality of your work and the relationship they’ll have with you. When you price yourself too low, you send the wrong message and tend to be treated poorly and held in low regard.

Sign #1:

How you handle those first critical conversations about your pricing sets the stage for everything that follows. Not surprisingly then, the first sign is those conversations lead to incessant haggling on price. That’s an immediate clue you haven’t positioned yourself properly.

People simply don’t value what you offer when you let fear of losing a client cause you to immediately cut your price by any amount just because someone asked you for a better deal. In fact, if you give into this pressure, I guarantee you will find that those who paid the least will make the greatest demands on your time.

Sign #2:

The second sign, and it often accompanies the first one, is possession of a scarcity mindset. You do not want to associate with those who think this way because a) it’s contagious and b) you may end up overcompensating out of some misguided notion of guilt and that can get very expensive.

Sign #3 & #4

The third and fourth signs are also related – abusive or disrespectful behaviour during the working relationship and/or actions that demonstrate a lack of integrity. We teach people how to treat us. When a client hires you or buys from you, it doesn’t mean they own your time or soul forever. Sometimes you will have to say no to a request (especially when it is made as a demand). Make it clear what the client is buying and spell out what you won’t or don’t do if/when needed.

Never forget that your reputation is one of your most valuable assets and you must protect it at all costs. You cannot sacrifice your integrity for any client (or supplier) relationship. Ever.

Sign #5

The fifth and final sure sign is the person who lacks emotional control and crosses the natural barrier between a professional and personal relationship. You need to maintain a certain level of emotional distance between yourself and your clients. You can care about them, you can be friendly, but you can’t be everyone’s best friend. That’s when those badly needed boundaries tend to be crossed. And that often leads you to start feeling resentful and taken advantage of rather than appreciated for being knowledgeable, helpful and supportive.

In reality, your instinct has likely kicked in questioning the wisdom of accepting certain clients once you get to know more about them. You probably didn’t listen. You may have even spotted one or more of these deal breaking warning signs and yet ignored them. We’ve all done it – you are not the only one.

When a client from hell (or two or even three) manages to slip through there is only one remedy. Fire them. And move on. But take the lesson with you so you’ll make a better deal decision with the next one.

More next time. Until then, remember to LOVE YOUR WORK, whatever it may be.

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