How to Avoid Clients from Hell


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Clients from hell are a freelancers worst nightmare. If you’re Batman, this client is the Joker. That’s how bad they can be. The great news is that there’s hope and I’m here to help.

So over the years, I slowly became aware of what makes these clients so bad and how to avoid them all together. Some of these methods may even help you turn a bad client into a good one.

1. Keep it simple and stick to what you’re best at.

Have a clear list of services that you offer and stick to them. Don’t spread yourself too thin and say yes to any and everything that comes your way. For the most part, I like to keep what I do simple. I offer services where I feel like I’m best at and that’s it. A client may ask me to do something that technically I could do. However, since it isn’t on my list, I tell them no. I also have no problem with referring them to someone else that solely does that type of work.

By knowing what you do, your business will have a clear identity of who it is and what it does. Which makes it easier to run, manage, market and brand.

2. Never lower your prices or cut yourself short.

I charge my design fee by the hour. If a client ever wants you to go down on your price, that is a huge RED FLAG that they’re a client from hell. This is a perfect example of where you give someone an inch and they turn it into a mile. A client who wants you to lower your price is a person looking to take advantage of you. In many cases they will try to get you to do even more work after you already lowered your price for them.

You never know how easy or hard it will be to work with someone until you do. So there’s no guarantee that they’re going to be a good client. If the client is a pain to work with at least you will get paid for your work, because you didn’t lower your price. However, if you go down on your price, not only will the whole process be miserable, but you won’t even get paid for putting up with it. Lowering your price and then finding out that your client is from hell is always a lose-lose situation.

3. Make them set a budget.

In many cases, a client may think that you’re too expensive. Rather than lowering your price or telling them no, have them set a budget and work under those constraints.

Example: A client sets a budget of two hours. You create a mockup within one hour and allow the other hour to be used for any type of revisions.

This way you never have to worry about a client being surprised by the bill. Before you did anything you had them tell you what they were willing to pay and you also get paid for the work you put in. This always ends up as a win-win situation.

4. Ask for details and picture references.

A client who’s indecisive may also be a client from hell. Having someone who doesn’t know what they want being the person who’s over the decision making process is one of the worst feelings ever. The best way to avoid this is to have your client give you as many details as possible. Have them send picture references of what they like and what they want.

This is a huge time saver, because rather than shooting in the dark and hoping that they like what you come up with, you now have some type of clear direction of what they want.

5. Always set deadlines.

Deadlines ensure that projects are completed in a timely manner and that you get paid. If you’ve been working on a project for over a month and still haven’t got paid, chances are you and the client never set a due date. Other than having them set a budget, one of the first things I ask my clients is when do you need this?

If you have multiple clients and projects going on, having due dates will also help you prioritize which projects you need to work on first.

6. Charge an express fee on last minute work.

Nothing annoys me more than having a client tell me they need something that day.

Example: It’s 9pm and I need this design by tomorrow morning. So now I’m working on this during hours where I should be off.

My first response is always well how long have you known about this and why are you waiting until the very last minute to tell me?

Now if it’s a quick and easy project, I have no problem with doing a job on the spot. I actually take pride in being able to offer that type of service. However, what I don’t appreciate is a client not being considerate of my time and also my other clients. I don’t think it’s fair for me to let someone skip all of my other clients who came to me before them. Especially if it’s a huge order under a short time period.

So the best way to avoid clients who do this is to charge them an express fee. Oh you want 5,000 cards by tomorrow? Okay, it’s going to cost you more because not only am I letting you skip everyone else, but I now have to work late in order to make that this happen. The express fee is the best way to force a client to stop doing last minute orders or to make sure that you get paid for the inconvenience.


If you apply these tips, you will eliminate a lot of the habits that make a client so hard to work with. Based on my experience, a client from hell can also make it very discouraging to keep doing what you love. I know how that feels and I definitely don’t want anybody else to go through that if they don’t have to.

22 thoughts on “How to Avoid Clients from Hell

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