Clients from hell: how to deal with them

Clients from hell: how to spot them?

Clients from hell: how to deal with them

Clients from hell are a reality, but a reality that can be bended, with the right attitude and the tips I’m going to share with you today.

So cool down, don’t send that nasty email: you’re on your way to the solution.

Clients from hell are a reality but not a fatality

Hi, I’m your host Kaycinho, I’m a digital alchemist and as you may now, I’ve been successfully freelancing for a few years. But as with anything, there is a learning curve and when it comes to clients from hell, I’ve had my share of nasty stories from the pit of fire and it took trial and error to understand why this was happening and how I could minimize the risks.

Clients from hell: why are they a reality in the first place?

Clients from hell: a reality but not a fatality

In order to understand what is going on, we first need to understand why clients from hell surface in our professional life.

1. You are desperate for money and will accept just any gig

When starting out, many freelancers are so desperate for money, that they will take just any gig. For example, I’ve seen a graphic designer selling SEO services while he didn’t know anything about SEO except that it meant Search Engine Optimization. And he accepted just because his first client was pushy and he was scared to loose the gig.

So he said yes when he really didn’t mean it, and had to take 101 online courses about SEO to learn SEO on the fly, which didn’t work out too well in the long run. On top of that he also accepted to create the website when he had very limited experience with creating websites.

So the end result was that because he had to learn so much on the fly, he rapidly had too much on his plate, did not deliver good quality work, and that made his client that was already showing signs of a client from hell, more and more nervous, until all demons were unleashed.

So my advice is this: know what you are good for, and until you’ve mastered others skills, only sell the skills you are great at. If a client wants other services, you can partner with other professionals.

It will be a win-win-win situation: your client will be (well should be) thankful for it, you will have less on your plate, and thus a better quality and more profitable gig, and your fellow colleague will be happy to get work from you, and who knows, you may get some in return.

2. Your pricing is too low

Another mistake many new freelancers make is too price their service too low.

They think that this is the only way they can compete on the market as freshmen, but let me tell you this: having a very low pricing is the best way to attract clients from hell. This is not a universal truth, because you will also find clients from hell that are willing to pay the price, but in my experience, many of the clients from hell I initially dealt with were cheap price hunters.

So if you’re just starting out, or living in a place where you think you can’t put a high price on your services, you need to change your mentality, and instead of competing on price, start competing on value.

This will have the added benefit to attract clients that are sensitive to value instead of price.

That mechanism is the same mechanism that explains why some people prefer to purchase more expensive products while they could have cheaper ones with similar features. Because they value quality more than they value price. And while high prices do not always mean high quality, very cheap prices are often an indicator of the value you’re going to get.

3. You underestimate yourself and subconsciously attract what you project

If you are just starting out, you may suffer, like the majority of the people, of the Impostor Syndrome, which is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a fraud.

And the consequence, is that, to lower that fear, and feel less as a fraud, unconsciously you may be hoping to get clients with low level standards, so that even if you don’t deliver, you won’t be labeled as a fraud.

Now, there is a mechanism known as the law of attraction, and unfortunately, it’s been used by so many fake gurus, that it has kind of lost its true meaning, but what I mean by that is that, it’s not magical, but just a simple mechanism in which, what you subconsciously release into the world ends up materializing in one way or another.

So for example, if you think that you are just an average web designer, you don’t believe you have what it takes to deliver good work for big clients, so subconsciously, you are not willing to be in touch with such clients and instead would prefer to deal with clients that have lower requirements. And the way I understand how the law of attraction works is that with these concepts in your subconscious mind, you will position yourself to attract just those types of clients and will make sure that big dogs don’t come near you anytime soon.

My advice is to start observing how you think, how you talk about yourself, and once you’ve done that, look at what you’ve already achieved and are proud of.

And start building on that, so that when doubt comes, you can use conscious examples to counter-attack the Imposter Syndrome and lower the chances of attracting clients from hell.

4. Occasional bad luck

Now, sometimes, you do everything right: you sell only the services for the skills you have, you compete on value and not on price, you have self-confidence, but you still attract some clients from hell.

Now why is that?

Well, just like sometimes you have a bad day, sometimes you will attract some clients from hell even if you did things by the book.

But just like tomorrow is another day, you will either spot them in time or have to stop the professional relationship in the best and most professional manner.

Clients from hell: how to spot them?

Clients from hell: how to spot them?

1. They will start their briefing with red flags such as…

I could do this myself, I’ve done it a ton of times, but just can’t deal with it right now

I remember once, a potential client told me he’d already built a thousand websites, but just didn’t have the time. Of course I didn’t believe him, and that was confirmed when I asked him if he was using WordPress or a specific CMS and he replied “Yeah I know how to use Word, Excel and so on…“.

So in case you are not familiar with WordPress don’t worry, no one is throwing stones at you here, but if you’re telling me you’ve built a thousand websites but don’t know what WordPress is, this is definitely a huge red flag for me and we won’t be working together. Ever.

It’s a fantastic opportunity for you to get your name out there

Some potential clients use that sentence to make you feel like you should be happy to work on their project because they will mention your name on their website or their social media and as such, you shouldn’t ask for much financial compensation.

This is definitely a red flag you should look out for, and unless they are Nike, Apple, or another big brand out there that would give you instant recognition, I would just be polite but definitely label this as a big red flag and I probably wouldn’t want to work with them.

I will pay, but you should offer me this, this and this

When a sentence starts with “I will pay but…“, you should definitely be prepared to start running with no looking back.

Because, it means that you’re not in business together yet, but they already feel like they would be doing you a favor if they decide to pay you for your work.

Then, they put a condition on actually paying you: you HAVE to offer them what they want on top of what you quoted them.

In some cases, this can be ok.

For example, if a client contracts you for a high paying ticket website and ask you to offer 10 stock images, then that’s ok. You need to think in the long run and as long as the profit is good, and the client is asking this as a favor and not as an order, it can be good for the business relationship.

In most cases though, it’s not.

But in most cases, these type of clients do not value your work, they don’t want to work with you, they just want someone to do the work, whether it’s you or the next one on the list.

This is a red flag and could potential turn into a client from hell with a legion of inner demons that are just waiting to be unleashed.

I got this idea, and need someone like you to help with the creation, but I want to create something very simple, it will be like the new Facebook, this is insane!

Don’t laugh, you may be getting one of these at least once a month!

I’ve stopped counting the number of times, people ask me if we can meetup because they have a project and are looking for a professional to make it a reality.

The thing is most of the time I have solid ways of pre-filtering dreamers and achievers but when it comes to e-commerce projects, or anything that’s outside of simple presentation websites, it can be tricky, especially with startups because you must sign NDA’s (non disclosure agreements) and they often want to talk about their project face to face.

So just imagine driving one hour, plus an extra 30 minutes in the traffic jams, to sit in front of someone, sign their NDA, and then they tell you they’ve seen a documentary about how Apple, Google and Amazon started in a garage, and that they were in their garage when they were watching this and had this great idea and that basically they want to create something like Facebook but with a different color scheme and don’t worry, something very simple, just one page, with a button so that people can login in and share their life online. And when they show you they’ve just legally registered their business and are 100% going for it, what do you say?

I hate to be a dream breaker, and I do believe that someone can come up with the next big social media platform concept, it happens, but come on, a little bit of research is the bare minimum when you have a business idea.

That’s an extreme story, but unfortunately a real one, and also one of the reasons why I do most of my first meetings by webcam, but even if you may not come across such a dramatic scenario, you will come across these types of red flags, and this should help you separate potential clients from clients from hell.

2. They want cheap prices BUT unlimited revisions

Unlimited revisions is your worst enemy!

Unless you get paid a lot of money, and when I say a lot, I mean an awful lot, you should not consider unlimited revisions, and even if you can get an awful lot of money, signing up for unlimited revisions is like signing up a blank contract: not advisable.

Whether you charge based on value, project, or time, you should in my opinion, always specify the number of revisions and the maximum time attributed to one revision.

So when a client specifically asks for unlimited revisions, I would first explain that this is not possible because I would be signing up for the unknown, and if they have a business I suppose they wouldn’t do that themselves.

If they understand then you’re good to go, but if they insist, they’ve just joined the clients from hell category, at least in my opinion.

I may be wrong, but at that stage, it’s still time to prevent licking your wounds in the future so personally, I wouldn’t do business with them.

3. They lack patience

They have unrealistic deadlines and ambitions for their budget.

This could be something like: “We want our e-commerce website with 100 products to be up and running next week, if you can’t deliver we’ll have to look elsewhere”.

Now once again, I would take the time to explain that the expectation is unrealistic, and would give them average completion times from similar past projects, and if they understand and revise their expectation then great, otherwise, I will definitely add them in the clients from hell category, and you should too.

Because what do you think would happen if you did business with them, and didn’t deliver any of their demands when they demand it?

This has happened to a friend of mine: the client would call him on saturday evening, asking them an urgent work for Monday morning. He did it.

But then this became a habit to ask him urgent work all the time and one day he had to say no because, his sister was getting married and he was busy all weekend. What do you think happened? The client was furious, and threatened him to stop working with him and many other not so nice things that I won’t be repeating here.

But you get the idea.

Doesn’t mean you can’t ever do urgent work, but it should be the exception, not the rule, and a premium should be charged for it, in my experience.

4. They have conflictual relationships all around them

– clients from hell often have conflictual relationships with their business partners or previous business partners

So when in doubt, ask them about their partners and their previous business ventures, and listen carefully. People love to talk and you should listen. Clients from hell will tell you how they have had issues with just every business partner. They don’t realize or don’t want to realize they are the problem. So they’ll happily tell you everyone else is.

– clients from hell often have conflictual relationships with their employees

If you can, visit their offices, and even if you don’t smoke, try to socialize in the smoking area. Make contact and try to get some intel. You’d be surprised.

And although being a freelance often means that you will have a business relationship different from the boss-employee relationship, you will often notice that clients from hell have no consideration whatsoever for their employees.

– clients from hell may also have conflictual relationships with their family and friends

Ok we are entitled to have conflictual relationships with relatives and friends, it happens all the time. But what I’m talking about is when a potential client starts telling you about all of their conflicts with relatives and friends, just like I advised you earlier: listen. Because first, it tells you something about the future professional relationship when someone you just met just tells you about their personal issues, which in my opinion is not a good signal since they seem to be mixing professional and personal, and then it also tells you something about that person’s perspective, if they have problems with just everybody but think everybody but them is the problem.

Clients from hell: how to deal with them?

1. Always remain professional no matter what

It can be tempting to just lose it and verbally fight the clients form hell but this is a very bad idea.

We are all humans, and I’m not saying it is always possible to remain emotionless when you are being attacked and disrespected, but you should always aim to place yourself above the behavior you dislike from your client.

Even if it means ending the business relationship, deliver on your promises, be firm about you not accepting being disrespected but that you are willing to set things right so that both parties can part ways peacefully.

2. Really try to understand them

Clients from hell are not always clients from hell.

Sometimes, just sometimes, we may be the problem. Maybe something’s changed in our life recently, maybe we’re going through some stress. Maybe we’re not enjoying what we do anymore, or even never enjoyed it in the first place.

If that’s the case, it may be time to move on and do what you really love, but whatever the case, if you have a client and they are being difficult, before you label them as clients from hell, ask questions, try to understand where they’re coming from, ask them what would satisfy them.

By putting yourself in your clients shoes you may gain a better understanding of why they’re being difficult, and that may help you offer them a solution that you never thought off and the consequence would be a win-win situation.

3. Direct them to other professionals

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not recommend sending clients from hell to anyone that’s not willing to take it.

But you will come across professionals that take just any gig even if it comes from clients from hell, and as long as you are upfront about it, if they’re willing to take this kind of clients, even though I wouldn’t, then you are happy, they are happy, and the clients form hell are happy too!

4. Sometimes, you need to fire clients from hell, but fire them the right way

If you’re already in business with clients from hell, you’ve tried everything to set things right, you’ve tried directing them to other professionals but no one wants them, then it may be time to fire them.

Yes, you will loose money, but your health will thank you, your family and friends will also thank you because you won’t be as stressed anymore, and your good mood will put you on the right track to attract better clients, not to mention the new time slots available to find and work for such clients.

But, do this the right way.

Only you know your clients, so you’d know the best way to handle this depending on their profile, but it may be having a peaceful but assertive discussion about you realizing things are not working the way it should and that you think it would be best for both parties to stop working together, it could be not showing availability for future gigs, it could be systematically redirecting them to other partners.

As I said, you know your client and would know what would work best, but the general idea here is to part ways in the best possible ways. It is not always possible unfortunately, but you should always aim for it, and if you do it that way, even the client is angry, they won’t be your enemy because they will have no real objective reason to treat you as an enemy, except their own anger, which, with time, will fade.

Clients from hell, gone with the wind?

So, I hope that you enjoyed the tips shared in this post, and that it will help to limit your interactions with clients from hell! If you have other tips you want to share please let me know in the comments of this post. Now how do you deal with clients from hell? Let me know in the comments.

If you watch the companion video and if you liked it, please give it a thumbs up, as it really helps growing the channel and if you know someone that could benefit from it, I’m going to ask you if you’d like to share it now, because let’s face it, there are so many things to do in a day that if you don’t do it now you’ll probably forget.

Now if you want to brand, market and grow your business it in the Digital Age make sure you subscribe to my email newsletter so that you never miss your share of digital alchemy and tips, tools, services and case studies that can help you grow your business online.

So I hope to see you around here or on the Youtube channel, and in the meantime, do you know what time it is? I think you do, it’s time to invest in your success!

Share this post

Privacy Settings saved!
Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

Cookies essentials to the navigation on this website.

Cookies used to remember your choices regarding privacy.

Decline all Services
Accept all Services

Join me on YouTube

subscribe & get exclusive tips to be your own boss

Brand, market

& grow online

​By subscribing you accept to receive my newsletter and occasional marketing offers. Unsubscribe anytime.

Scroll to Top

My Account


Check out the shop!

Subscribe to my newsletter