Sadly, I learned these warning signs from dealing with difficult clients. So, I want to share some tips that might help you avoid dealing with a difficult client that will end up making your life miserable.
This post was inspired by a conversation with Dave Rohrer.
1. I Don’t Reply to an Inquiry For a Minimum of 24 Hours
I know if you are really needing the work this may seem like a dumb idea, but just stay with me for a few minutes…
Someone calls about needing your services and leaves a message. Same day, 1-2 hours later they either call again, email or use your contact form to inform you that they called. Then, they either contact you again the same day or the next morning angry that you have not responded.
WARNING SIGN!!! This person has an inflated sense of self-importance. They believe that you should stop whatever it is you are doing and reply to them immediately! How dare you not be honored at the idea of working for them? I shiver just thinking about it!
If you chose to work with someone like this let me spell out what the next few months will be like:
- They will expect you to be at their beck and call days, nights and weekends.
- They will not stop calling even when you tell them you don’t work on nights and weekends.
- God forbid you let a few hours go by after an email – you will receive an email or 4 about how they are dissatisfied with your professionalism.
- They will have unrealistic expectations in regards to, well really everything.
- They will not EVER have real respect for you and it will show in how they treat you.
- You will spend so much time managing them and their expectations that when you tally up the time spent on them you will see you are losing money.
- They will stress you out and you don’t need that kind of stress.
There are exceptions to this rule like when there is a crisis. Example, the time Godaddy got hacked and millions of sites were messed up. Those people were desperate and needed help and they paid well to get the help.
2. “I Need Your Services and I Have an MBA!”
Oh man, if someone has to scream at you about their MBA and how smart they are on the initial contact this is someone you don’t want to deal with.
I will swear on a stack of Bibles that every time I have worked with someone like this they are the dumbest people I have ever worked with. YET, they believe they are smarter than everyone else.
- They don’t listen.
- They question everything!
- They double check your work even though they really have no idea what you are doing.
- The insist on changes constantly because they believe that they know better, an MBA an all, so changes must be needed!
- They want constant meetings, because they think meetings are what are really important. Tons of meetings, yet they never give you what you asked for in the meetings.
- They are argumentative and there is often a level of narcissism that will irritate you like nails on a chalkboard.
I AM NOT SAYING anyone with an MBA is like this; I am saying those that have to say that they have it right away and explain how smart they are are like this.
3. They Want to Talk on the Phone for Advice First
I will admit that when I first started I would talk on the phone and I gave away too much free advice and these people never ended up paying me a dime! If they say they want to hear if you have solid advice first you will be wasting the time you could spend with a paying client.
There are people that excel at getting on the phone and getting free information and they have no intention of ever paying for it. They won’t become a client, they are sneaky people! So, if someone calls and they have a legitimate business question and they want to know if you can help, okay. You can help, but don’t you dare give them anything for free.
Also, if someone really respects you they will believe you deserved to be paid for your time. Always remember that.
4. “I Need Your Help so Bad, But I Have Little Money”
There are so many of these that come in that it is crazy! I tried back in the day to work with some of these folks and here is what I discovered:
- Many of them had plenty of money to spend, but were cheap as crap.
- All of the low paying clients took more time than any other client.
- I lost money on every single one of these clients!!!!!
- They kept wanting more for nothing.
- When they didn’t get what they thought they deserved (unlimited help, website changes, etc.) they were rude.
These are some of the most stressful clients to have and you won’t even make any money, so walk way before it starts. If you have clients like this now let them go before your brain explodes!
At this point in my career if I am giving you help I am getting get paid well for it. You get what you pay for.
5. “I Want a Quote for X, Y, and Z Services”
- Collecting 20 quotes for their boss & the cheapest one wins (which means they know nothing, so you don’t want to work with them anyway).
- They are a competing agency acting like they need services to get info on your prices.
Those That Want to Talk on the Phone or Email
Some of these people will want to talk, but they don’t understand why you need to get a lot of information before you can give them a price. Basically, they don’t understand that you need to evaluate how much work will be needed before you can calculate a price.
I would say 15% of the people get it after I explain why I need to gather info first and then tell me I am the first SEO person to even explain that. BOOM, trust created and possible client. The other 85% are like, “Well that is all fine and good, but this other company quoted me $XX a month. Can you match that.” BOOM, instantly not a possible client. These folks don’t get it and they won’t and they also fit in the #4 category above.
So, If You Run Your Own Business
It is really up to you which clients you take and which ones you don’t. In the beginning everyone takes every client they can to build up their business and they deal with nightmare clients. It is kind of like paying dues, but as your experience and reputation grow you should get to choose who you want to work with. I say “Aim for Sane!”.
It is better to have less money and be less miserable than it is to have extra money and want to shoot yourself in the head every night.