The 3 Worst Types of Clients
Let’s get one thing straight, the vast of my clients are awesome and I am very fortunate to have worked with them. However, you will run in to some clients that will, well… want to make you tear your hair out, cry in a corner and quit your freelancing career. We have all run into these kinds of people with these traits at some points in our lives. They may be your brother, your co-worker or even (god forbid) your boss . I am not saying they are bad people, but these types of people are extremely difficult people to work with and this guide could save you a ton of grief! So read on and dodge bullets my friend.
1. The Confused Big Shot
I met up with this particular client a few years ago. While he never really got angry or irate, he was basically the equivalent to a factory pumping out headaches. During my first contact with “Mr. Big Shot” over the phone, he felt the need to brag about how he paid a truck load of money to famous artists over the world for logo/icons and that it was my honor to be working with him. He actually said that… I am serious, “You should be honored to be working with me.”
It wasn’t really a big deal but I should of saw that as a warning that this client was a little off.
Anyway, after his initial un-humble brag piece, he explained how he wanted a website with a header that included a glossy shine. The Big Shot mentioned how he had already gone through two or three designers and none of them could get it right. I confirmed that he wanted a sort of Web 2.0 look a sort of light relection effect… he replied, “Exactly! Why didn’t anyone else get this?” So I did up a design, as per his guidelines and visual references (which were many). I sent it over and… “No, this is not what I asked for… I want a gloss over the header!”
Okay, perhaps I misunderstood. I asked for a few more samples, revised the concepts and sent it over. “No, you are way off! Perhaps you just can’t do what I need?” At this point, I was getting quite confused and frustrated. Not only was the feedback ridiculous but I WAS doing what he had asked.
This is what he had to say, “Look, and I am not yelling at you, it is just really crowded in here (he was in a café)! But you don’t seem to understand what I need. Perhaps, I should look for another designer… I know this is hard to do.”
I explained I would try one last time as perhaps it was a communication issue. Before I had a chance to send anything else, I got this message in my email:
“Wow, amazing! That’s exactly what I wanted. Why did it take you so long? Finally!”
At this point, I was thoroughly confused as I hadn’t even sent anything… Okay? Glad you like them?
As it turns out, he hired two designers and got us mixed up… What!?
The other designer was sending designs over and he was giving ME feedback on THEIR designs. And giving them positive reviews based on my designs… I guess he finally realized his mistake and quickly changed his tone without fully admitting to it afterward.
2. The Time Wasting Cheapskate
I ran into this particular “client” during my early days. I say “client” because as you can tell from the title, they never actually paid me. While I was green, I was willing to do work pro-bono before even asking for a deposit. Why? Well, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and I was desperate to start building up some feedback.
Anyway, this client asked me to design the user-interface for an entire travel website. I did up the home page initially and sent it over to the client to browse. “This stuff is great, but I need changes to this and that… etc.” Okay, so we did the dance back and forth (we went through a huge number of changes) until he was satisfied with the result.
Now the UI for a travel website can be pretty complex; there are a lot of fields for adjusting filters, rating and other various aspects. Suffice to say, it was a pretty time consuming and complicated project. When we finally finished up, I got this message, “I LOVE it, but unfortunately I can use it…”
Obviously, this didn’t sound too good. So after some probing in to what this meant I was told he couldn’t use it. Thus, he wouldn’t pay me for it.
Oh, that’s really fair! Isn’t it?
“Hey, I am sorry but I don’t want to pay for something I won’t use. I really enjoyed working with you and I will be more than happy to send more work your way in the future.”
Thanks a bunch but I can’t really feed my family on well wishes. At this point, I felt I had done something wrong but later realized he was taking me for a ride the entire time. He never really planned on paying me and just wanted to steal work and ideas for his own use. As a result from the interaction, I got smarter and let him know that if he used my designs on his newest site then I would use court action. Always cover yourself, and always get a deposit. If your skills are high in demand you don’t need to waste your time with these types.
3. The Aggressive Tyrant
This type of client is one I really try to avoid. They have the mindset that you work for them rather than working with them. They feel because they pay you for your services that they initially own or are better than you in some sort of way. Unfortunately, this is also the most common of the three types of clients to best avoid. Freelancers have chosen this work because they enjoy the freedom of being their own bosses. Picking up a client like this can be a very unpleasant and difficult experience.
I had such a client about a year ago. As a freelance designer, I highly suggest updating your clients on their projects on a daily to bi-daily basis… But even this wasn’t enough for THIS guy.
When I started working with him, he seemed fine. He was polite but did have some issues with communication. However, things quickly turned “cyber-stalker” when I went out for a few hours and came back to find my Skype had 4 missed calls and a spam of messages including:
“Where are you, I need to discuss something with you?”
“I need to get in touch now, this is urgent.”
“Why aren’t you answering me? We need to talk now!”
I thought something extremely pressing had occurred and got in touch immediately. He told me I would have to wait because he was in a meeting and dealing with some issues. I agreed and told him I would wait.
While I was working/waiting, I got to the urge to go to the washroom (as one does) and left the computer for about 5 minutes… and you can probably guess what happened.
I walked back to my computer to find a craze of messages on Skype:
“Hello, I am finished. Let’s talk now.”
“Oh my god, where are you? I TOLD you to wait for me.”
“I am not paying you to not answer me.”
“You also missed some details on the UI design, I told you this before, why can’t you just listen?”
This happened a few times in a row and his language started to become more vulgar and demanding. He also had the amazing superpower of never being wrong and being able to do my job better than me.
I changed from being kind to being quite annoyed. I assertively and firmly explained that our working relationship is on an equal level and I do not respond well to “I am the boss and I control you” atmospheres. This would not be tolerated on my part and I am not his employee.
I explained that if he preferred to continue this way that he should hire someone locally as a full-time employee. However, I doubt that employee would last more than a day or so.
We got through the project somehow, but I highly suggest avoiding these types if you can. Money is not worth trading in your freedom or self-respect. If you do run into this type, stand your ground and draw the line. One of two things will happen, they will drop the project or the will take a step back and start listening.
As mentioned previously, about 99% of the clients I take on are awesome and I thoroughly enjoy it. But humans are wired to remember the bad over the good and these encounters could leave a very lasting impression on your memory. Hopefully, you will recoginize the flags before taking on these types of clients but if you do… grit your teeth and try to get through it or just drop them quickly before it gets too deep. Keep in mind this may be their first encounter with a freelancer and not sure how to proceed. Let them know the score right away and they will be very thankful that you took the initiative. Good luck on the hunt!
Have I missed any? Do you have your own stories? Please feel free to let me know in the comments section.