One of the beauties of working for yourself is the ability to choose who you work with. Seriously, this alone makes even the most difficult days totally worth it.
Unfortunately, many beginning entrepreneurs go through the growing pains of having to deal with less than spectacular clients. I get it and I’ve been there. You may bring on less than stellar clients to pay the bills. You may think you need to “pay your dues” or you think you just have to put up with it because the customer is always right.
Well here’s a newsflash – the customer is not always right for you.
This is critical to understand if you’re going to make it in business. When you value yourself enough to put a halt to the dud clients then that value will be reflected back to you.
So how do you tell if a client is a dud even before signing on the dotted line?
They are totally unprofessional.
This was a pet peeve of mine as a recruiter and it’s a pet peeve of mine as a business owner. If I get an email from a prospective writing client where they are rude, unprofessional or just downright hoighty-toity I immediately cut them loose. Simple as that.
They may not even be rude but maybe unprofessional, like not setting up a proper meeting or emailing me on weekends. These are clear cut signs to me that they just don’t have it together and they would be, as Marie Forleo puts it, a PITA (pain in the ass).
Another little litmus test I use if they treat me the same way I strive to treat my own contractors. I pride myself on treating my contractors as equals, if your prospect isn’t doing that you may need to kick them to the curb.
They don’t meet your ideal client standards.
It is imperative to know who your ideal client is both for marketing purposes and for keeping you sane.
If you know who you do your best work with it becomes easier to tell when you shouldn’t let someone into your world (by the way this applies to your personal life as well).
For instance, I’m pretty picky about who I invite to private coaching. It’s not because I’m being rude, it’s because I know who I can help the most in that moment. If I’m at my best then I can make the biggest impact on someone’s life while having fun. Simple as that.
Clearly identifying your ideal client is something I walk students through in the Make Money Your Honey Academy and it is by far one of their favorite exercises. Why? Because it makes their entire business so much easier to run.
They don’t pay enough.
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. However, let me paint a picture for you just in case. If a prospective client wants to pay you $5 for a 500 word blog post you need to kick them to the curb.
Being very clear on the kinds of clients you let into your business speaks volumes about how much you value your work. And as I preach all the time, when you’re an entrepreneur you are trading value, not time, for money. The more you value your work the more it’s reflected back to you in the world.
Additionally, as you gain expertise and find yourself making more money, don’t be surprised if you end up dropping older clients who don’t want to pay your new rates. In fact, my friend Carrie Smith over at CarefulCents.com suggests doing a client audit every once in a while to make sure you’re only keeping the highest quality clients in your pipeline.
They ask you to do shady shit.
As I’ve gained more visibility I’ve had prospective clients ask me to do some shady – and I’m pretty sure some illegal – things. For example, I had someone offer to buy my Huffington Post column. That can’t possibly be legal. Or, I get approached by companies for sponsored posts who don’t want me to put a disclaimer saying it’s a sponsored post. Uh, pretty sure that’s against FTC guidelines there, buddy. Or, I get approached by companies wanting me to push some product I’m not comfortable with because they see I have a following.
All of these examples are a big fat nope. As soon as I find out something fishy is going on I drop them like a bad habit. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
They don’t want to sign a contract.
Most of the companies I write for have their own content agreement for freelancers, but sometimes I have to draft up agreements myself. It goes without saying that at this stage in the game I won’t do shit without a contract so if they refuse to sign one I keep it moving.
They can’t give you a number.
This isn’t for clients that are quoted per project, this is for those companies that approach you promising to give you a cut of the revenue share if you do x, y and z. Don’t get me wrong – you can make some passive income this way – but you need to make sure it’s legit. For example, ask to see sales projections and ask for exact revenue share numbers. If they can’t answer then they’re probably bullshitting you.
They want too many meetings.
My colleagues and I seem to agree on one point – we tend to think most meetings are a waste of time. Most of the time it’s something that could have been sent in an email, but instead the prospective client insists and tying up your time for half an hour on the phone. Granted, this doesn’t happen to me that often, but when it does I consider it a red flag.
They have a ridiculous non-compete.
I recently got approached by a company who wanted me to write financial articles for them. They are well known in the industry and it would have been a cool opportunity – except for the fact that they required full-time work, I couldn’t write for any competitors and I would have had to stop writing for my own blog.
Yeah, no thanks. As a personal finance expert the worst thing you could say to me is that I can no longer have multiple sources of income, or that my time now belongs to you. Bye Felicia.
By keeping an eye out for these signs you’ll be able to avoid signing on clients that are only going to be a headache down the line. Instead, you’ll be able to dedicate your time and your business to working with awesome people and making more money.