Freelance FAQ #11: 3 Warning Signs Your Client is a Nightmare


If you’ve taken on clients as a freelance writer, you know that it’s not always a smooth experience. Sometimes, you run into clients that are difficult to deal with.

Often, you can catch this early on, but you need to know what to look for. Here are the 3 red flags to watch out for:

There’s a lot more to these red flags than you might think. Each one tells you a lot about a prospective client.

Here’s an in-depth look at each warning sign:

1. The client is vague and unclear.

As I mentioned in the video, lack of clarity means communication issues, and that means it’s harder for you to do your job. But it can also result in client dissatisfaction, and they might even blame you for it (even though you don’t deserve it).

Why? Because most times, clients think they’re giving you sufficient information, but a lot of what they should actually say just stays in their heads. If you don’t make it clear that you’re not on the same page, the client could end up being disappointed and pointing the finger at you. Don’t be afraid to ask for more detail!

2. The client asks a ton of questions.

While this is an obvious sign of micromanagement, it’s also a sign of communication problems. Clients who ask you a lot of questions will expect a lot of answers, sometimes more than you can give. Sometimes, they’ll expect way too much. If you don’t answer their every question immediately, they’ll stop trusting you, which is very manipulative behavior. This is a serious red flag that shouldn’t be overlooked.

3. The client won’t pay you upfront.

More than anything, this signals a lack of trust. Of course, you should have a contract ready for your clients to sign (and we provide an example in our No B.S. Course on Freelance Writing), but if your client still isn’t willing to pay upfront, that’s a huge warning sign that they have reservations about you, and that’s not the best way to start a working relationship.

Remember, you’re a seller of a product––you’re selling the client your writing services. Can you imagine going into a bookstore, buying a book, and telling the person behind the counter that you’ll pay half now and half once you’ve read the book? It’s the same concept, but many clients don’t think of it this way.

Your turn: What red flags have you seen from troublesome clients and/or prospects?

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