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20 min read

Signs Of A Toxic Client & How To Deal With Them

Post by
Yash Shah

Clients are the lifeline of every business. Whether you work for an agency, independently, or have started your own business, clients must be dealt with as much care as the work you put in. Most clients are a joy to work with; however, toxic clients are an unfortunate reality for all businesses.

We have all had difficult clients we couldn’t get rid of fast enough and who have bothered us to no end. As a business owner, you need to identify the warning signs before getting into business with such clients.

So, what are those red flags to look out for in a bad client? How to deal with bad customers?

Let’s look at some of the biggest signs of toxic clients & how to deal with them

1. You Don’t See Eye To Eye On Anything

Initially, there might be some disagreements and hurdles, but eventually, you and your client should develop an understanding. But if your client isn’t working with you peacefully and is raising issues at every stage, expect problems to arise.

Your client need not agree with you on everything, but if a pattern persists, both of you are bound to suffer.

Try to handle this as soon as you notice the toxic client trend. Figure out a way to get on the same page, and if you can’t, you can always end your business with them on good terms.

Explain to them why your services are not the right fit for their requirements.

2. Boundaries Are Not Respected At All

Some clients work on the weekends or holidays to get ahead on the project. It is fine to send emails during these days, but it is not acceptable to expect an immediate response. It's one of the most annoying signs of a toxic person that bleeds into your out-of-office time.

Resolve this issue by establishing and communicating your boundaries.

Specify “working hours” with each client and specific times when they can expect a response from your end, for example – 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. Moreover, it is healthy to specify your average response time for emails as well. Clients who are always trying to push boundaries should be avoided.

3. Zero Direction But Endless Revisions

The alignment of roles and responsibilities should be crystal clear. While it is your job to ideate, it is equally important for your client to chime in regarding their requirements with respect to the final output they expect out of the project.

If they’re not giving you any directions and insisting on moving forward nonetheless, you might have to indulge in multiple revisions, even more so than covered in the scope of work initially finalized.

Develop a sort of input process to ask questions from the client in order to get specific information regarding the project. Before starting work, define the total number of revisions in the contract. In some cases, you may even consider getting paid upfront.

4. Bad-Mouthing Other Service Providers

Sometimes, it is justified when a client badmouths a business but more often than not, defaming other businesses signifies that the client is going to be difficult to satisfy.

Trash talk can be a sign that the customer might be gossipy or desperate or impractical, and working with them could create problems for you. If they are capable of belittling someone, they are quite likely to put down your business and harm your reputation as well.

If you notice this habit of your client, try to find out the reason they are saying bad things about a business. Be polite and don’t bug them too much for the information. By finding out what went wrong in the past, you can learn what to expect from them.

6. Asking You To Compromise Ethics

With ever-increasing privacy/security standards, it is highly important now more than ever to be compliant with the work you’re doing for your clients.

If you have notified a client that a specific action is unethical, but they are forcing you to do it anyway, you’d better get out of this deal before things get messy.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let anyone demean you or take advantage of you. No client is the be-all and end-all, even though it may seem like it at times.

Dealing with toxic clients is not productive for your agency or freelance business, and getting rid of them can lift off an awful amount of weight from your shoulders. It will also help you in focusing your time and efforts on clients that are more valuable.

Clients are the lifeline of every business. Whether you work for an agency, independently, or have started your own business, clients must be dealt with as much care as the work you put in. Most clients are a joy to work with; however, toxic clients are an unfortunate reality for all businesses.

We have all had difficult clients we couldn’t get rid of fast enough and who have bothered us to no end. As a business owner, you need to identify the warning signs before getting into business with such clients.

So, what are those red flags to look out for in a bad client? How to deal with bad customers?

Let’s look at some of the biggest signs of toxic clients & how to deal with them

You Don’t See Eye To Eye On Anything

Initially, there might be some disagreements and hurdles, but eventually, you and your client should develop an understanding. But if your client isn’t working with you peacefully and is raising issues at every stage, expect problems to arise.

Your client need not agree with you on everything, but if a pattern persists, both of you are bound to suffer.

Try to handle this as soon as you notice the toxic client trend. Figure out a way to get on the same page, and if you can’t, you can always end your business with them on good terms.

Explain to them why your services are not the right fit for their requirements.

Boundaries Are Not Respected At All

Some clients work on the weekends or holidays to get ahead on the project. It is fine to send emails during these days, but it is not acceptable to expect an immediate response. It's one of the most annoying signs of a toxic person that bleeds into your out-of-office time.

Resolve this issue by establishing and communicating your boundaries.

Specify “working hours” with each client and specific times when they can expect a response from your end, for example – 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. Moreover, it is healthy to specify your average response time for emails as well. Clients who are always trying to push boundaries should be avoided.

Zero Direction But Endless Revisions

The alignment of roles and responsibilities should be crystal clear. While it is your job to ideate, it is equally important for your client to chime in regarding their requirements with respect to the final output they expect out of the project.

If they’re not giving you any directions and insisting on moving forward nonetheless, you might have to indulge in multiple revisions, even more so than covered in the scope of work initially finalized.

Develop a sort of input process to ask questions from the client in order to get specific information regarding the project. Before starting work, define the total number of revisions in the contract. In some cases, you may even consider getting paid upfront.

Bad-Mouthing Other Service Providers

Sometimes, it is justified when a client badmouths a business but more often than not, defaming other businesses signifies that the client is going to be difficult to satisfy.

Trash talk can be a sign that the customer might be gossipy or desperate or impractical, and working with them could create problems for you. If they are capable of belittling someone, they are quite likely to put down your business and harm your reputation as well.

If you notice this habit of your client, try to find out the reason they are saying bad things about a business. Be polite and don’t bug them too much for the information. By finding out what went wrong in the past, you can learn what to expect from them.

Asking You To Compromise Ethics

With ever-increasing privacy/security standards, it is highly important now more than ever to be compliant with the work you’re doing for your clients.

If you have notified a client that a specific action is unethical, but they are forcing you to do it anyway, you’d better get out of this deal before things get messy.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let anyone demean you or take advantage of you. No client is the be-all and end-all, even though it may seem like it at times.

Dealing with toxic clients is not productive for your agency or freelance business, and getting rid of them can lift off an awful amount of weight from your shoulders. It will also help you in focusing your time and efforts on clients that are more valuable.

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About Author

Yash Shah
Co-founder & Chief Executive
Facebook

Yash did Mechanical Engineering and worked as an Investment Banker before founding a Tech Agency that grew to 55 people team offering SaaS, FinTech and E-Commerce Web & Mobile app Development. He currently serves as Chief Executive at Clientjoy - a platform that helps 13K+ Agencies & Freelancers in 90+ Countries acquire and retain happier clients.

About the Editor & Reviewer

Mansi Shah
Editor

Mansi works as a Content Manager at Clientjoy, a Sales CRM & Growth Engine for freelancers & agencies. When she's not busy working, she keeps herself busy learning or binge-watching her latest sitcom obsession or writing about it.

Tanmay Parekh
Reviewer

Tanmay pursued his undergraduate studies in Information Technology but marketing piqued his interest & he finished his postgraduate in Marketing & Finance from Macquarie University, Sydney. With diverse experience across different domains like Ed-Tech, Digital & SaaS. He currently serves as a Growth Head at Clientjoy - a platform that helps 13K+ Agencies & Freelancers in 90+ Countries acquire & retain happier clients.

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