What are some red flags when evaluating whether to take a client?

What have you learned is a red flag from a potential client?

  1. 6

    In my experience:

    1. Taking very long to reply to your questions.
    2. "Knows" better than you about how long you would take to do the work.
    3. Disagreeing to pay a deposit.

    I would also add...

    A lot of client "problems" can be prevented by setting clear expectations up front in a contract. Even down to the smallest detail.

    For example, in my standard contract, I have a clause that says if I complete a small task and hand it over for approval, and I don't hear back within 3 working days, the task will be automatically approved and I can bill for it. Of course I can be flexible on this depending on my relationship with the client, but setting it out in black and white at the start ensures there is no misunderstanding later.

    Hope that helps.


    1. 1

      Number 3 is a big one! If they give you grief about paying a deposit, best believe they'll give you grief about paying the bill at the end.

      I like you're broader point too. I heard someone say that they "train" their clients. You have to be crystal clear about the expectations. Fore example, if you respond to one of their messages on the weekend, you're setting the expectation that they can always reach you on weekends.

      I'm curious, do you have a lawyer write up your contracts?

      1. 1

        Nice one - I like the sound of "training the client" and I agree about what you said.

        Well, the contract I used was drafted by a lawyer, but not my lawyer :). A good friend did it for her company and kindly let me have a copy. But it's a good idea to have a lawyer create one for you, even if it's just for peace of mind.

  2. 2

    If the relationship starts of with them asking for a discount.

  3. 2

    If they’re reluctant to sign a contract and/or pay partial upfront.

  4. 2

    Here's a couple major ones:

    • Don't understand your field of expertise AND think they do. This leads to them not knowing the pay rate and time needed to finish tasks.
    • Avoid paying a deposit/advance/retainer.
  5. 1

    What is a fair deposit to ask for?

  6. 1

    In addition to what is already being said here:

    • I'd ask the prospect what priority the project has for them. If they say anything else than high priority, they'll not dedicate enough of their energy to it to deal with serious issues and you're basically flushing your time down the toiled
    • Any kind of straight out refusal. For example if they straight out don't want to answer, or to find a compromise on payment that works for both, etc. Not saying everything you ask and do should meet with approval, but if you rephrase your questions enough and offer various solutions to other problems, and the client still refuses to meet at the middle, that's a huge red flag
    • Other than that, believe enough in yourself to trust your gut feeling, especially when in doubt. Some things are just not definable in words, and also depend on the unique chemistry between you and your client. So if the vibes are troublesome, get out.
  7. 1

    This might seem odd but the biggest red flag to me is if they have poor writing skills. 90% of my communication with clients during a project is over email. If a prospect can't get their points across clearly in text, or can't do a good job of answering my initial questions over email, it's always a very bad omen.

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