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Warning Signs of a Difficult Client

There’s almost nothing worse than landing a difficult, challenging or complex client. Instead of working with difficult clients, look out for these warning signs and red flags so you can be sure you only work with your dream client!

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Signing on a difficult client is basically a right of passage when you start offering web design services in your virtual assistant business. I’d even argue that you’re not a seasoned web designer until you deal with one client who you massively regret ever taking on because they’re just so annoying, so nitpicky, or such know-it-alls.

With that logic, I became a seasoned web designer in 2018 when I signed on my most difficult client yet.

I’m talking about:

  • Mutilating the contract I sent over to her and rewording everything to her liking
  • Missing deadlines regularly and expecting me to speed up my process to make up for that missed time
  • Telling me that I (who had 6 years experience in ecommerce and website analytics) didn’t know what I was talking about while she (who had zero web design experience) knew what was best
  • Refusing to pay the late fees that were very clearly laid out in the contract

And yes, you’re right. It’s not very nice to talk about your clients like that.

“The customer is always right.” Blah blah blah (I disagree).

“They’re paying you after all.” Yes. They’re paying for your expertise so they should treat you like that – an expert.

But once you have one of these pull-my-hair-out-I-want-to-give-you-a-refund-and-never-speak-to-you-again clients… you’ll get it.

While I massively regret ever taking this client on, I learned a lot about how to spot warning signs of a difficult client on a sales call. Working with this client helped me refine my difficult client radar so that we could go our separate ways before getting that contract signed.

5 Signs of a Bad Client

They miss their scheduled sales call or reschedule it at the last minute

Anyone that you work with as a business owner should respect your time. Contractors, leads, clients, partnerships… it doesn’t matter if you’re paying them or if they’re paying you. Running a business is made easier when all parties involved respect each other, what they bring to the table, and how their time is spent.

When a lead books a time to speak with you about how you can work together, they’re blocking out a time on your calendar where you will be 100% focused on them. They’re expecting you to show up prepared. They’re expecting you to show up ready to wow them. And they’re expecting you to show up and give them your full attention.

You as the business owner also should have high expectations for that half hour or hour that has been blocked out on your calendar. You should expect the lead to show up and you should expect the lead to give you their full attention as well.

Missing their scheduled sales call (free consultation, brainstorming session, or whatever you call it in your business) without so much as a notice is a huge red flag. You can almost guarantee as a client, they’ll be just as disrespectful when it comes to how important your time is to them.

Unless it’s a true emergency, even a last minute notice asking to reschedule is pretty disrespectful. That’s time you’ve blocked out and could have spent working on something else. If they can’t even make their free call that THEY SIGNED UP FOR, you’re going to have a heck of a time getting them to meet deadlines that you assign to them.

How to Make Web Design a Number One Source of Income Without Any Previous Web Design Skills | Free Training | Kristen Leigh

They question if the package can be amended to make it cheaper

Creating your web design packages can be a true challenge because there’s strategy that goes into it. Just ask my students. When they enroll in my course they create their packages and then we work together to improve them using a specific strategy. In the end, a higher converting package is created that’s pretty hard to say no to.

When you’ve spent so much time working on the creation of your web design packages, the last thing you want to hear is, “can we remove XYZ from the package to make it cheaper?” or “I don’t really need this thing so if you remove it will the price go down?”

Your package is your package for a reason. Your price is your price for a reason. The second a lead starts asking to negotiate your price is the second you need to walk away. Price negotiation is a huge red flag that the lead is a penny-pincher and that they don’t see you as an expert that knows best.

A solid lead and your ideal client won’t blink when you tell them your prices. They’ll understand that your packages reflect what should go on and be included in a converting website and that your prices reflect the value you provide your clients.

They play the price-comparison game

Some leads won’t even ask you to remove anything from your package. Instead, they’ll straight up tell you they can find the same service somewhere else for a cheaper price.

You know what I say to that? Go right ahead!

When a lead starts comparing your services to someone else’s, it’s time to realize they aren’t your ideal client. If you lower your price for them so that they sign on, they’re going to push-back on so much more than just price.

They mention their own website expertise (or that of someone close to them)

You are the expert. Say it with me, “I am the expert.”

The lead is not an expert at web design. The lead is an expert at whatever their business specializes in. If they start a sentence with something like, “I’ve heard that best practices are…” pay special attention to the rest of the sales call to see if they give off the impression that they have some preconceived notions around what a website should and should not do.

Trying to convince a client that something they believe to be true about websites is actually false is a tough thing to do.

As long as you know who your ideal client is then you should also know who your ideal client is not. Even if someone seems like they’re the one you’ve been waiting for, if they show any of these 5 warning signs, I suggest you think twice before signing them on as a client.


How to Make Web Design a Number One Source of Income Without Any Previous Web Design Skills | Free Training | Kristen Leigh


  1. Kaisa

    This is painful as well as super useful! I actually had a small taste of a “bad client experience” when designing for a good friend! I thought I wanted to fire her, haha, but couldnt obviously. It thought me so much about boundaries and who my actual ideal client is NOT. But it’s a good reminded that money certainly is not everything, vibes matter, and that there are plenty of fish in the sea.

    • Kristen Leigh

      Hey Kaisa!

      I’m so sorry to hear that you had a a bad client experience. I really feel like it’s a rite of passage for becoming a successful web designer because of what it teaches you! The fact that you learned about boundaries and who your ideal client isn’t is awesome. You’ve taken a bad situation and learned from it. How did you handle working with her?


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