Recently, I wrote about several things clients say that drive freelancers nuts. Some of these things are annoying, but can be addressed.

There are, however, certain types of prospective clients that freelancers should avoid at all costs.

Without further ado, avoid the client who…

  • Asks you to first work on spec. While amateurs and those who are desperate for work will often agree to take on spec work in the hopes that it will lead to a paying gig, a prospective client who would ask you to perform services without pay is almost certainly not worthy of being your client.
  • Expects a firm price quote before deliverables are finalized. It should go without saying, but it’s kind of hard to agree to perform work at a certain cost when you don’t know what that work is. Yet some clients will expect precisely this. Sometimes freelancers are tempted to go along, especially when dealing with a large project budget, but agreeing to do work on a fixed cost basis before you know what you’re going to have to deliver usually doesn’t end well for the freelancer.
  • Wants you to make all of the decisions. It’s nice to have clients that trust you to make certain decisions, but be very careful about clients who want you to make all of the big, tough decisions. Nine times out of 10, these types of clients will decide after the fact that they really want the opposite of what you decided. As such, it’s best to avoid clients who are too lazy to help you help them.
  • Has a bad reputation. If a potential client has a legitimately bad reputation (eg. is notorious for not paying on time, has acted dishonestly in the past, etc.), run, don’t walk, away. Zebras don’t change their stripes.
  • Is rude. Some clients are difficult. But there’s a difference between a client who is difficult and a client who is downright rude. It all boils down to personal respect. A client can be demanding and business-like to the extreme. That’s fine. Your clients are paying you to deliver the goods, not to be a friend. But when a client is insulting and treats you like trash, it’s my opinion that you will always come out feeling like a loser. Your dignity and happiness doesn’t have a price tag.

Acquiring clients can be hard work, so it’s often difficult to turn a prospective client away. But problem clients end up hurting your bottom line and reducing your ability to deliver for the good ones, so if you want to succeed as a freelancer, focus on building a roster of quality clients and avoiding impostors.

Photo credit: Totoro! via Flickr.