freelance writing

7 Warning Signs You’re Dealing with Your Worst Client Ever

I’ve been freelancing for almost 2 years now and within this time I’ve had my own fair share of ‘worst clients’.

While most of my clients are very passionate about what they do and are positive about what I can do to help their business, some very poor ones come along the way.

It’s usually very obvious when a potential ‘worst client’ comes along, but it’s natural to ignore the warning signs because I want to boost my client portfolio and earn more.

After considering my experience and that of others around me, I’ve noticed that there are danger-signs clients you don’t want to work with.

Here are 7 warning signs you don’t want to work with a particular client:

1. The Client Tries to Get You to Work by Saying He has a Lot of Work for You, Only to tell You to Get Started with Little: If a client comes to you with the appearance of someone who has a lot of work but eventually offers little, there’s every probability you won’t have a great experience working with that client.

If a client comes to you and asks for a better offer with a promise of having a lot of work for you, only to end up telling you to start with 1 or 2 articles, then that client will probably be a problem.

If a client needs 40 articles in a month and you’ve successfully negotiated your rates, why does that client need you to start with 1 post?

2. The Client’s Focus is on Negotiating Your Rates than on the Results You Can Deliver: If you haven’t agreed to a price after sending dozens of emails to a particular client, or if a client has to spend 2 hours with you on Skype just to talk about your pricing there’s every probability you’ll have a problem with that client.

Based on my experience in dealing with over a dozen clients in the past 2 years and the experience of my some of my friends, I’ve realized that the very best clients don’t care about your fees. They care about results!

If a client puts more emphasis over how much you charge than what you can do for him/her, then that client will be a problem. It’s not worth working with him/her!

3. The Client is Comparing You with Other Writers: If a client has to compare you or your work with that of other writers, then that client will usually be a problem.

In my own experience, my worst clients have been those who kept comparing my rates to that of fellow writers. The discussion basically goes like this:

Client: What’s your rate?

Me: $100 per article

Client: Why not let’s go for $50?

Me: Actually, $100 is my rate for this article due to the effort involved and also due to the fact that I work with the aim of getting you results.

Client: I know a lot of other writers who do this at a much lower rate. I want to work with you but I surely can’t do it at that rate.

Me: That’s my rate and I believe it’s worth it since I can help you do this, that and this…

Client: {Spends the next 30 minutes talking about your rates, with no mention whatsoever about the project or what you can do}.

The above seems like a simple, harmless discussion but in my opinion, carries with it a lot of negative connotations.

Why not go for other writers if they can do it at a much lower rate?

Most clients who compare you with others have this kind of bidding mentality and believe you have to charge less because other writers are doing so, without regards for the dedication and time you invest to do their work as well as differences in location and economy depending on where you live – when compared to other writers.

One thing I’ve noticed in discussions with clients like these is that there’s little to no emphasis on the results they want or what you can do.

If you encounter a client like this, run far away. This is a psychological tactic that is often used to get new freelance writers to lower their rates. Don’t let it get the best of you!

4. The Client Believes that What You Do is Very Easy and Anyone Can Do It: When a client starts telling you that you’re charging “too much” for what “almost anyone can do“, then at all costs run away from that client.

Not working for the client will probably not kill you, especially when compared to the emotional damage the client can do to you in the long run.

Your greatest asset as a writer is your feeling; about your abilities, your worth and how much value you can give.

How a client will treat you will often depends on how much value the client thinks he can get from you.

When a client sees something you do as something “almost anyone can do”, then the client will never appreciate what you do.

If anyone can do it, why isn’t the client doing it himself?

5. The Client Complains Even about the Slightest Things: When you get a client that rejects every pitch or idea you send, then that client is probably not worth having.

Of course, there’s a difference between feedback and complaining, and it’s also obvious when a client is trying to milk you for all you’ve got.

Just to give you an idea how this works; good clients will give you feedback in a positive way that helps you improve, but bad clients? They complain about every single thing with as much negativity in their complaint.

Yes, you want to make some extra bucks but no matter how much a client is willing to pay you, it’s not worth sacrificing your perception of your self-worth over it.

You’re probably better than you think so don’t ever allow a bad client make you undervalue your worth.

6. The Client Never Talks about Your Payment: If a client keeps talking about what you can do, how to do it and how to improve it without any mention of your payment then you should be wary.

To determine how to proceed, during the discussion mention your rates once or twice without interrupting the flow of discussion.

If the client ignores it or say nothing, tell the client – directly – that you require payment, half up-front and half after you finish the work.

The client will now show his true colors and will either start to beat down your price or agree. If the client agrees, you’re good to go. If not, you can determine what to do based on how your discussion goes.

7. The Client Knows it All: When you start interacting with a client who knows everything about what you do, how to do it and how easy it is to do it and who also starts lecturing you about the same. It’s time to step back.

A client who knows everything won’t appreciate what you do, or value what you charge and the client could as well do it by himself.

Of course, having a client who knows a lot about what you do could be a great help, but having a “know-it-all” as a client will make your life miserable.

8. The Client is Not Passionate about the Project: It’s time to call it quits when you start working with a client who isn’t passionate about the project you’re working on.

Not only will this make it difficult for the client to give you as much details and resources to make the project perfect, the client will also keep complaining about not being satisfied with what you’re doing when the fault was his to begin with.

Passion is infectious and you can easily spot it when interacting with a client. Not all clients who aren’t passionate are bad, but you have to ask yourself if it’s worth taking the risk.

Drop them Now, like a Bad Habit!

It seems like getting a client to contact you is the most difficult part of client generation and as a result you should keep all clients at all cost. But is it worth having every client?

In my own opinion, getting the clients to contact you is the easiest part; ensuring they are an ideal match is an even more difficult task and something that can affect you negatively in the future if proper care is not taken.

If any of your clients have one or more of the above traits, then it’s better to drop them now like a bad habit!

Of course, there’s a school of thought that believes no client is perfect and that a client with any of the above traits is better than none. But, is it worth it?

Having a client with any of the above traits can fill you with so much negativity that your good clients notice it. And that won’t be good for your business.

Have you worked with any client who has any of the above traits? How did you go about dealing with them?

18 replies on “7 Warning Signs You’re Dealing with Your Worst Client Ever”

Even, I feel so bad when a random clients talks to me for a long time about the rates and then finally texts- “Sorry, I can’t hire you. I want someone to work cheap”. I don’t know how a client can get awesome quality when he hires someone who is ready to write even for a penny.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

I can feel your pain, Koundeenya. It really sucks when some clients want the best but are only willing to pay pennies.

True words, @Koundinaya Same experience for me too bro, but your service is Content writing and mine is SEO, that’s the little difference. I think those type of clients are very common in every flied.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Aha, yes. I think the above tips apply to clients in any industry.

I hate when clients compare me with other writers. I actually wrote a post to address this on my blog. Oni, did you still remember the two clients I sacked? That was about 5 months ago. They wanted to rip-me-off by comparing me with others.

This can be disheartening and I don’t condone it. The only way to have peace of mind as a freelance writer is to SACK CLIENTS WHO DON’T RESPECT YOU.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

I feel you there, Michael.

I recently got a “client” who started to compare me with other writers and even commented that “anyone can do” what I want to do for him – that inspired me to write this post; without hesitation I decided not to work with that client.

Any client that exhibits the above traits will spell trouble in the future. It’s better to “sack” them when you still can…lol!

Thanks for the response Oni. I’m so glad you SACKED the client who studied “comparison” in School. Lol!

Hey One, nice article as usual.

Clients wastes so many time taking and discussing without talking about the rates.

Even i had experienced like you. But finally dropping the client is the best option at last.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

I’m glad you agree 🙂

I write SEO content for clients and getting very less for it. Looking forward to write blog posts and other type of articles in future to get paid more…I want to find more work for myself but I am afraid that I may get bad clients So I stay happy with my current work…People like Onibalusi are really doing tremendous work by motivating writers like me to start believing that we can find good clients..

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

I’m glad the article could motivate you 🙂

In regards to not wanting to leave a particular client, you’re not alone. Most of the times, though, the most difficult decisions deliver the best results.

James Hannansays:

Yes, Oni you are right. Few of your points are totally applicable on me. I got lots of clients who just complain my rate is too high.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Thanks, James!

I’m glad you agreed with the article 🙂

Ups and down both are part of business and when you are dealing with lots of client then it’s true some from those are very worst so you should handle them with these tips which are mentioned in your blog post.


Article and the points you have shared are very good and informative but the tone sounds very immature and repetitive. I read almost all your posts and appreciate them but this one was just not up to the mark.


Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Hi Pragya,

That’s an interesting observation; can you please give me an example where you think the tone is immature so I can improve and deliver better articles in the future?

Best Regards,

I’ve been with this client for years. I’m his VA and writing is not part of my job. When his writers become busy, he asked me to write an article. As a good VA, I adhered. Now, I’m his writer cum VA. But sorry me, there is no extra pay for the writing. How to pour out my complaints before him? Hmm, I don’t know (he’s been a good boss, that’s why). I’ll rather train a cockroach – way too easy. 🙂


REALLY, if a client start comparing you with other writers he is doing a fraud.. nice one

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