If you haven’t figured it out by now you will soon enough. Some people will be really, really bad freelance web design clients. The kind that will make you want to quit freelancing altogether.
You have to make sure you do what you can to avoid nightmare clients. You know the kind that doesn’t get back to you after you’ve emailed and called and sent carrier pigeons to…okay, maybe not carrier pigeons.
How do you spot those nightmare clients?
Well, they give themselves away pretty easily with the things they say to you in those first few conversations.
Here are a few phrases you’ll most likely hear from really bad freelance web design clients.
7 Things Really Bad Freelance Web Design Clients Say
1. I’ll Know What I Want When I See It
“I have no clue what I want and don’t want to make the effort to figure it out.”
If you hear this phrase it’s likely that this client is going to be a lot of work.
You’ll spend a ton of time on revision after revision until you finally figure out what it is he or she had been envisioning all along.
It’s like throwing an arrow at a dartboard while being completely blinded.
But, this client might not be hopeless.
Before you say yes, ask them to send you 5 websites they like. Use that as a starting point and then send back some screenshots of different designs that might fit what they’re looking for.
If they seem to narrow down what they’re looking for from that point then you’re off to a good start.
It’s also good to have what I call a “come to Jesus meeting” with them. That’s where you talk about the boundaries you’re placing on them and the project.
Boundaries like the number of revisions and the effort THEY’LL need to put into the project as well.
If all goes well after that, they might not be a bad freelance web design client after all.
2. It’ll Be a Quick Job for Someone with Experience
“I don’t really know what I need and this will probably take a long time.”
This one is almost like a challenge to your pride. It’s like they’re saying, “If you were any good, you wouldn’t have any problem knocking this out in 15 seconds.”
Every job I’ve ever taken that were sold to me as “simple,” or “quick,” never were.
So, don’t fall for it.
This might salvageable IF you explain to the client that there’s hardly ever a quick job when you’re jumping in on something you’ve never worked on before.
You have to back things up, figure out how everything was set up in the first place, fix bugs that might or might not be affecting what they’re asking you to work and much much more.
It’s you’re job as a freelance web designer to help educate the clients you work for. You can’t assume that they know more than you do.
If after that they are okay with things taking longer and costing more than they’ve anticipated then proceed with caution.
3. I Have a Lot More Work for You if This Goes Well
“I’m trying to get you for as cheap as possible by making you think I’ll actually give you more work.”
Repeat business is great. It’s what we all shoot for as freelance web designers. But, not at the expense of doing something for less than the rate you’d normally charge.
Here’s the thing, I’ve only had a handful of clients that have told me this ACTUALLY give me repeat work.
Life goes on. Clients get busy and forget about you or don’t actually have the work they were hoping to have to give you.
All isn’t lost here though.
If you stick to your normal prices and don’t back down to the promise of future work and they’re still willing to hire you, you’ll probably be ok.
And, listen, there are some legitimate reasons to lower your prices BUT the promise of future work is not one of them.
Keep your head up high my freelance web designer friend and get paid what you’re worth.
4. This Will Be a Great Opportunity for You to….
You finish the sentence:
…show off your work
…get seen by a lot of heavy hitters
…get the experience that will help you get to the next level
“I really just want someone to do this for free.”
If anyone has to convince YOU the freelancer that the project your about to take on is a good opportunity THEY WILL ALMOST ALWAYS BE A REALLY BAD FREELANCE WEB DESIGN CLIENT.
I’m not sure there’s a good way to recover from this UNLESS the client is willing to pay you exactly what you’d always get paid under the same terms and conditions of every other project you’ve done.
BUT, unfortunately, the very next sentence is usually “So, I can’t really pay you this time.”
Then they’ll likely combine this phrase with another phrase often heard from really bad freelance web design clients.
5. I’ll Talk to the Project Manager and Let You Know What They Say
“You won’t ever actually talk to the people who are making the decisions and you’ll likely go crazy trying to get a final answer.”
I once ALMOST got a project with a really big advertising firm here in Phoenix. They had me come into their offices, present to their website re-design committee and send in a few proposals.
That’s right, I said a few. I’m not proud of it.
I even got a signed proposal returned after about 2 months of going back and forth.
You know what happened after that?
They reorganized their entire team.
The people who used to be in charge of getting their website redesigned were now doing something completely unrelated.
The thing about working with big organizations as a freelancer is that you will likely have to go through layers and layers of people that will want to weigh in on what you’re doing.
BUT, you’ll only ever actually talk to 1 or 2 people.
The person you talk to is really just the messenger doing their best to interpret what their boss’s boss told them.
This is a tough one to turn into a good project. I think the only way to really make it happen is to very gently and humbly ask who’s making the decision and ask to speak to them directly when it comes to your work.
This is another good chance to help educate them on the process of building or redesigning a website.
A lot of folks think that once they hire a freelancer their job is done. But, there’s much more to it than that.
You need to get feedback, ask questions and get clarifications regularly if the project is going to be a success.
If there’s anything that keeps that from happening it sets the project up for failure OR at least wasted time and effort for both parties.
6. I Need This Done Like Two Weeks Ago
“I’m horrible at managing my time and I’m about to bring you into my own chaotic world.”
I get that we live in a busy world and not having enough time in the day to finish things is the norm.
But, when you dig a little deeper you realize that the reason we all feel that way is because, for the most part, we’re really bad at managing our own time.
And, I get it, it’s tough.
It’s so easy to push off stuff that we don’t like doing in exchange for binging some Netflix. So, I don’t fault clients that say this.
BUT, it doesn’t mean I have to partake in their crazy schedule.
Almost every client I’ve had that pressured me for a timeline has turned out to be a really bad freelance web design client.
So, I’ve learned to stick to my timelines like I stick to my prices.
If they really can’t wait to have it done in my time frame I’m totally fine if they move on. BUT, most of the time, after a dose of reality and what it takes to do a good job on a website, they’re willing to work with my schedule and not the other way around.
So, give them some insight on how building or redesigning a website works and then let them say yes or no on whether they are willing to work in your time frame.
7. My Designer Friend Said…
Here’s another fill in the blank.
…you’re too expensive
…what you’re saying is wrong
“I’m not going to trust any decisions you make.”
Ahh, the designer friend. The one you’re always trying to win the approval of but you’re not even sure they actually exist.
My question for this client is if you value your designer friend’s opinion so much why are they not working on the project with you?
It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback. You know what that means right?
It’s someone that doesn’t do anything helpful but is always willing to offer critique or advice that’s generally negative or condescending.
Some times my friends come to me with advice on a project they hired a designer for. And, when they do they typically start with, “Don’t you think this is bad?”
It’s like they’re setting me up to give them ammo to take back to the poor person they’ve hired just to prove their point.
I always try to give them fair advice and if someone is taking advantage of them or doing a bad job I will try to offer some help.
But, more times than not, the designer is doing great, my friend just needs a bit of perspective.
If someone comes to you and always has input from a friend who is an expert at what you’re being hired to do then it’s likely this will be a really bad freelance web design client.
Again, this is one you likely won’t be able to salvage. The only way to tell if you can get them on your side is if they stop arguing with you after you make your point.
If they keep referring to the wisdom of their designer friend or continue to contradict you, you’d be better off not taking the project.
7 Things Really Bad Freelance Web Design Clients Say
Believe it or not, these are all things I’ve heard from potential or actual clients of mine.
Most of the projects that started this way turned out pretty bad in the end. There were a few that turned around but they were rare.
And, listen, from the sound of it you might think I’ve been jaded by these situations but I’m really not. I actually love the work I get to do and love every client I’ve had even the bad ones.
But, it’s fun to look back and laugh at the things really bad web design clients have told me. And, it’s also good to learn from mistakes.
My encouragement is to always start out assuming a client has the best of intentions. Don’t start out thinking they’re out to get you or they’re going to be a pain.
If you look at them that way it makes you super cynical and no fun to be around at parties.
But, I’m positive you can assume the best about people while still holding your ground and defining clear boundaries for you and your freelance web design business.
And if all else fails, you might just have to let a client go.
One way to potentially avoid that is by looking out for these 7 things really bad freelance web design clients will often say.
What about you?
What are some things you’ve heard that were an indicator of a nightmare client?