7 Signs Of A Bad Client & How To Handle Them

signs of a bad client so you know how to handle a toxic client
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Whether you’re a new or seasoned freelancer, getting a bad client is inevitable. Check out this blog post, so you know the signs to look out for and how to fire a toxic client.

In freelancing, establishing a strong client base not only ensures a steady stream of projects. But a strong client base also builds trust and loyalty, setting the foundation for a thriving freelance career. As experienced freelancers will tell you, the effort invested in retaining existing clients is well worth the reward. A client base often proves to be a significantly smoother process compared to constantly seeking new opportunities.

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Nevertheless, freelancers are not immune to encountering challenges with certain clients. Despite our best efforts, there may be instances when a client relationship turns sour. Becoming evident that continuing the collaboration is not in anyone’s best interest.

Identifying the signs of a problematic client early on is crucial to avoid unnecessary stress and time wastage. Whether it’s a constant demand for unrealistic deadlines, a lack of communication, or consistent dissatisfaction.

Recognizing these red flags empowers freelancers to make informed decisions and, when necessary, gracefully part ways.

Equally important is mastering the art of dealing with angry clients, a skill that can significantly impact a freelancer’s reputation and overall success. While it may be tempting to react emotionally, adopting a strategic approach is essential to handle such situations professionally and constructively. By demonstrating empathy, active listening, and a commitment to finding solutions, freelancers can often salvage the relationship.

In this blog, we will delve into practical strategies to see the signs of a toxic client and what to do with bad clients.

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7 Signs Of A Bad Client & How To Deal With Them

How To Handle A Toxic Client

In the world of freelancing, encountering clients who are genuinely angry is an inevitable aspect of the journey. Nevertheless, there are effective ways to navigate such challenging situations while preserving client relationships and your professional reputation. 

When communicating with upset clients, it’s crucial to recognize that much of what they say is likely an expression of frustration rather than a personal attack. By remaining composed and understanding during this venting process, you can maintain a level-headed approach and focus on constructive solutions. In doing so, you have the opportunity to turn a challenging situation into a chance to strengthen the client relationship and build lasting trust in your freelance services.

Valuable tips to handle angry clients with tact and empathy

1. Acknowledge their anger

When faced with an upset client, the first step is to acknowledge their emotions. Let them know that you understand their frustration and that their feelings are valid.

2. Show genuine concern

Demonstrate to the client that you take their anger seriously. Listening attentively and empathizing with their perspective can go a long way in defusing tension.

3. Exercise patience

It’s essential to remain patient while the client expresses their anger. Let them vent their frustrations without interruption, as this can be a cathartic process for them.

4. Propose solutions

Once the client has had the opportunity to express themselves, shift the focus towards finding solutions to the problem at hand. Be proactive and offer practical ways to address their concerns.

5. Agree on a time frame

Establish a realistic and workable timeline for resolving the issue. Setting clear expectations helps rebuild trust and shows your commitment to finding a resolution promptly.

6. Ensure the issue won’t recur

Reassure the client that steps will be taken to prevent similar problems in the future. This instills confidence in your professionalism and dedication to delivering high-quality work.

Handling angry clients in the realm of freelancing requires a delicate balance of empathy, active listening, and proactive problem-solving. Embracing these challenges with professionalism and understanding can lead to stronger client relationships, and increased trust in your services.

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What Not To Say To Angry Clients

Throughout your freelance career, you are bound to encounter clients who express anger or frustration. While the reasons behind their emotions may vary, it is essential not to dwell on the causes excessively.

To avoid having to find more and more new freelance clients, here are 5 things that you shouldn’t say

  • Can you wait a moment?
  • Sorry, but…
  • Calm down
  • It wasn’t my fault
  • To be honest

Prioritize resolving the immediate issue at hand. Listening attentively to their concerns and offering alternative solutions or rectifying the problem are key steps in addressing their grievances. Swiftly and effectively addressing any shortcomings without additional charges and within a reasonable timeframe will undoubtedly leave a positive impression on your clients.

As a freelancer, nurturing long-term client relationships is highly advantageous. The effort invested in retaining existing clients is far more valuable than constantly seeking new ones. In fact, acquiring a new customer can cost anywhere from five to 25 times more than retaining an existing one. Therefore, focusing on client satisfaction and delivering exceptional service can lead to loyalty and repeat business.

By focusing on resolving problems and providing top-notch service, you increase the likelihood of retaining clients for the long term. Demonstrating a commitment to addressing concerns and going the extra mile to ensure their satisfaction builds trust and loyalty.

Ultimately, retaining satisfied clients not only contributes to a stable income stream but also enhances your reputation and opens doors to potential referrals. As a result, your freelance career can thrive, and you can enjoy the rewards of building strong and lasting client partnerships.

You’re Suffering In Silence & Creating An Exit Plan

When you find yourself silently suffering and contemplating an exit plan, it’s time to pay attention to the big red warning lights.

Perhaps you once enjoyed working with a client who, at the beginning of your collaboration, brought a sense of fulfilment. However, as time went on, the enthusiasm dwindled, and you now dread receiving emails with more tasks from them.

If this resonates with your current situation, it could be a sign that the client relationship has run its course on your side.

Recognizing these signs is crucial, and you have the agency to take action. It’s essential to acknowledge that not all client relationships are meant to last indefinitely. Parting ways with a client can be a reasonable and amicable decision, especially when the collaboration no longer aligns with your professional goals.

Choosing to fire a client, if done thoughtfully and professionally, can lead to a positive outcome for both parties involved. By addressing the situation openly and honestly, you can ensure a respectful and amicable conclusion to the business relationship. This allows both you and the client to explore new opportunities that may be a better fit moving forward.

Remember, your freelance career should be a source of fulfilment and joy. If a client relationship is causing undue stress and diminishing your passion for your work, it’s important to consider your well-being and make decisions that support your professional growth and happiness.

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The Bad Client Is Costing You Money

Commencing a project with a clear agreement in place is essential, but it’s not uncommon for additional requests to arise along the way. However, such instances can serve as the first indication of a potentially bad client.

Even seemingly small and reasonable additions can lead to a slippery slope of continuous scope creep. Gradually, these constant “little” additions accumulate, consuming more of your valuable time and resources.

Facing this predicament, you now find yourself with a significant problem that requires immediate resolution. Effectively managing this situation entails firmly communicating the importance of adhering to the agreed scope of work and avoiding unnecessary expansions.

Addressing the issue promptly and professionally, you can explain to the client the critical reasons for maintaining the initial project scope. Emphasize that sticking to the agreed-upon scope ensures a successful and efficient completion of the project.

Be transparent about how accommodating numerous additional requests can lead to delays, jeopardizing the project’s timeline and potentially straining your ability to deliver high-quality results.

Setting clear boundaries and expectations for the project’s scope helps manage the client’s understanding and promotes a mutually respectful collaboration. If there are legitimate changes or additions that must be made, consider starting negotiations.

Negotiating a fair adjustment to the project terms while also ensuring it aligns with your capacity and capabilities. Ultimately, open and honest communication about project scope is vital to create a productive relationship with a client.

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Not Showing Respect For Your Time

Being an online freelancer, you have the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with clients from all corners of the globe. However, this global outreach also brings the challenge of dealing with varying time zones.

For instance, while it may be 12 noon in the UK, it’s 4 am for a client in California. This time zone difference can indeed pose a significant hurdle, but it shouldn’t deter you from working with clients across different regions. Instead, setting clear communication boundaries can help overcome this obstacle and foster a harmonious working relationship.

To address the issue of disparate time zones, it’s crucial to establish well-defined working hours when you are readily available for communication. By clearly outlining these set times, you enable your clients to know when they can expect to reach you and receive prompt responses.

Additionally, communicating the expected response time to emails, such as within 24 hours, further ensures transparency and manages client expectations.

Setting these boundaries benefits both you and your clients. It allows you to maintain a healthy work-life balance, preventing burnout from around-the-clock communication. Simultaneously, clients appreciate the predictability and reliability of knowing when they can connect with you. This proactive approach helps avoid misunderstandings and the frustration that may arise when expectations are not aligned.

Moreover, incorporating tools like email autoresponders can be advantageous. You can create personalized messages that inform clients of your working hours and when they can expect a response. This way, even when you are offline, clients will receive acknowledgment of their messages, reinforcing a sense of professionalism and attentiveness.

Remember that clear communication and boundary-setting are key to any successful freelance relationship. By taking the initiative to address the time zone challenges and establish mutually agreed-upon working parameters, you can build strong and positive connections with clients worldwide.

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You Don’t Want To Do The Work

At times, you might encounter a client who initially hires you for a specific task but later assumes that you can effortlessly adapt your skills to handle something entirely different. While adaptation is possible, delivering successful results may require additional training.

If the client doesn’t offer adequate training or the opportunity for self-improvement, you may find yourself feeling frustrated and disliking the client. Such a situation is not conducive to your well-being and professional growth.

It’s essential to prioritize your development and well-being in your freelancing journey. If you find yourself in this predicament, there are two crucial courses of action. Firstly, have an honest conversation with the client and express that you cannot take on the work without the necessary skills and training. Communicate your willingness to improve but emphasize the importance of receiving proper guidance.

If the client remains unwilling to provide the required training, it’s crucial to consider your own professional growth. You may need to decline the work if it is outside your skillset or begin seeking new clients who appreciate and support your development.

Delivering subpar work due to tasks that exceed your expertise is not beneficial to anyone involved. Both you and the client will be dissatisfied with the results, potentially leading to strained relationships and tarnished reputation. Emphasize the importance of setting realistic expectations and maintaining open communication with clients to ensure a positive and successful freelancing experience for all parties.

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Doesn’t Respect The Scope Of The Project

When a client fails to acknowledge and respect the amount of time and support required to complete a project, it can lead to challenging situations for freelancers. Occasionally, you may encounter a client who demands that the project be completed in an unreasonably short timeframe, disregarding the typical duration it would take. Such behavior is a clear indication of the client’s lack of respect for your expertise and skills.

As a freelancer, it is essential to uphold your worth and never tolerate any form of disrespect from clients or anyone else. The services you offer are the culmination of valuable skills that have been honed and refined over time. For instance, as a freelance writer specializing in creating advertising copy, your abilities have been learned and perfected to deliver the best possible results.

To produce exceptional work as a copywriter, you need to take the necessary time to craft well-thought-out and persuasive content. If a client expects a project to be completed within an hour, despite you clearly stating that it requires a week, it is evident that they are not showing the respect you deserve as a professional.

In such situations, it is crucial to communicate openly with the client about the reasonable timeframe needed to deliver high-quality work. Firmly express the importance of allowing adequate time for the creative process, research, and attention to detail. If the client persists in unreasonable demands, consider whether this collaboration aligns with your values and professional standards.

Remember, setting boundaries and insisting on respect for your expertise is essential for a fulfilling and successful freelance career. Surround yourself with clients who value and appreciate your skills, and never compromise your worth as a skilled professional.


Freelancers often discover that retaining clients is more straightforward than acquiring new ones. However, when faced with a problematic client, it becomes necessary to recognize the telltale signs that warrant parting ways. Identifying these signs can help freelancers make the decision to end the collaboration and maintain a positive client portfolio. On the other hand, if a client is merely expressing anger, employing effective strategies to defuse the situation can lead to reclaiming a happy and satisfied client.

About Post Author

Alison Wolf

Helping you to build an online business so you have an extra stream of income or quit the day job. Don't forget to follow me on social media using the handle @heyalisonwolf
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