5 Ways I Eliminate Potential Clients

WarningI am not the most experienced person out there, but I have enough experience to have learned to watch out for particular warning signs from those that are reaching out to me for work.

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

phonecreepI 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”

no 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”

QuoteIf these people have no interest in speaking to you or communicating and state they just want the quote, period, they are doing one of two things:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

About Melissa Fach

AuthorityLabs Community Jedi - Melissa Fach is the owner of SEOAware, LLC that specializes in consulting and training businesses. She is also the Community Jedi at AuthorityLabs, the Social Community Manager for Pubcon, a past Editor of Search Engine Journal and a big cat volunteer. You can find her on Twitter @SEOAware.

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May I humbly add one to this that I have had more than once? I call this “The Empowered Assistant”, it goes something like this: “I am working for ___[guy/gal who thinks they are really important]__ and he/she wants…” and then it usually says something like “we are collecting bids” or “wants to set up a meeting”


Awesome post. That reminds me of one of my first clients, they were horrible to work with. They had a few eCommerce sites, they wanted tons of free services and they always thought they new what was best. The best thing I ever did was let them go and pass that nightmare on to another company. i recently checked up on them and they are not ranking for hardly any keywords, looks like they found someone who is giving them what they pay for.


Great post! I’ve found that some of these clients can be “qualified” a bit by asking them some tough questions or telling them “high-level” answers like, “for a website like that you’re looking at starting price of $25,000…” If they are serious and really want to meet after hearing that, I’m willing to meet with them; if they say, “ah, I thought it was gonna be more like $600,” I wish them the best.

Sometimes they’ll even have the gall to say, “…well my brothers neighbors cousins friends dogs groomer can build me a site for a few hundred bucks just like that”. I chuckle and tell them I’ll be here when they need my services 🙂

Thanks again for the reminders. I think it will inspire a post of my own about the subject.

Melissa Fach

Michael, yep! Get lots of those!
Travis, I have done the exact same thing!
Nate, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard about these great sites someone’s brother or sister’s son built 🙂 Thanks!

Conrad O'Connell

Oh, man, this is the worst with PPC.

Always a battle of clients meddling in their accounts, changing bids, keywords and match types around while then claiming you don’t know what you’re talking about. Then, they do all the above while you’re pulling your hair out on everything you do for them.

Ugh, any interest for a place where we all vent about terrible things that clients do? It’d be great to vent sometimes!

Adam @ Agua Web

Though there are really problem clients, sometimes the challenge is worth taking on the task to help you grow yourself as a business professional.


So many of these points feel like they should be common sense but it’s amazing how easy it is to forget them when the allure of “new business” takes over. What has worked for me in the past is having an internal checklist of qualitative items that I assess as part of my first impression. Can I help them, given their goals AND their personality? Do they have the resources to accomplish what they want even w/ my help? Is this a product that I would actually use, which translates into is this a product I can honestly stake my reputation on (which is what you’re doing in a lot of ways when you consult).

To #4 I’d also add that you need to know what you’re worth and stick to that. Know if/when you’re willing to discount your rates and what your criteria are for doing so (the client “not having enough budget” isn’t a reason). This is your business, not a charity. My favorite line of this whole post was the comment about wasting time that can otherwise be spent on paying clients…but remember it is also time that can be spent with your family, getting healthier (working out, sleeping better, etc.), or preventing burnout.

Love the insights as always Melissa, thanks for sharing!

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