Business 101: Disaster Clients – The 7 Types of Clients You Should Avoid at All Costs


Not all clients are created equal.

Everyone talks about finding your “ideal client” or the perfect “fit”. Not many people tackle the topic of the disaster clients. The train wrecks waiting to happen. The drive-you-insane clients you should see coming from a mile away.

Somehow we let them sneak in, under the radar, when our guard is down, or when our bad client filter is on the fritz. Perhaps it’s the guilt of turning down someone who needs help or maybe it’s simply that you needed the money to pay the bills.

Whatever the reason, you choose to ignore your intuition, failing to see the obvious warning signs and blindly step into a relationship doomed to failure. It’s time to take the blinders off and watch out for these disaster clients!

The 7 Types of Disaster Clients You Should Avoid at All Costs

Make no mistake about it: the best way to deal with disaster clients is to simply not work with them. If you find yourself faced with a client relationship that is looking more like a disaster in the making, try to untangle yourself as quickly as possible and use these coping mechanisms:

#1: Disorganized Client – The scattered creative entrepreneurial type who is always in a rush because they are ALWAYS running behind. Their constant lateness isn’t your fault, but it quickly becomes your problem when you become the rescuer of soon-to-be-missed deadlines.

Early warning signs are arriving at meetings late and/or unprepared, late night emails, and requests for last minute rush projects. The key with disorganized clients is to not become their superhero. Set clear boundaries around rush projects and insist on a clearly defined project before starting.

#2: Demanding Client – The bossy types who believe their needs come first, no exceptions. Beware: their demandingness borders on abusive and they do not respect your rules or your boundaries while (ironically) expecting others to respect theirs.

Watch for boundary pushing behavior, like calls to your cell phone after hours, or snarky remarks aimed at you or others. Both signal the beginning of what will turn into a toxic relationship.

#3: Needy Client – The emotional time bombs who turn consulting meetings into personal therapy sessions by dumping their emotional baggage on you. They are constantly dealing with some sort of crisis and attract drama like a Shakespearean actor.

Warning signs are oversharing of extremely personal details early in the relationship and a perpetual “Poor me” complex. Try not to engage in their personal drama and set clear boundaries between your work and personal lives.

#4: Dazed and Confused Client – The space cadets who simply cannot make up their minds, but expect you to shift your project 180 degrees at no additional cost to them because they had a flash of brilliance.

Typical dazed and confused types often can’t put into words what exactly they are looking for and resort to a “I’ll know it when I see it” approach. Avoid stepping into this minefield – you are not a mind reader!

#5: Cheapskate Client – The penny-pinchers who take frugality to the extreme. Often they tend to expect top dollar from THEIR clients, but ironically aren’t willing to pay you the same courtesy.

The cheapskate clients tend to want to “Cherry Pick” your time and expertise for quick one-off projects, only paying for what they have to and doing it themselves whenever possible.

#6: 24/7 Workaholic Client – The 24/7 workhorses who rarely take a day off and never turn off the BlackBerry. The trouble is they also expect that you are on-duty whenever they get inspired, even if it’s 3 in the morning or during your child’s soccer game.

The best way to deal with these boundary pushers is to simply not be available. Turn off the cell phone, don’t look at email and whatever you do, don’t respond to their after hour requests!

#7: Financial Pinch Client – The on-the-brink clients who, despite all their good intentions, will not be able to pay your invoice at the end of the day. Unless they are upfront about it and you are agreeable to not getting paid, steer clear.

Often it’s difficult to gauge the true financial situation of potential clients unless you do a credit check so watch for early warning signs like not paying bills on time or conveniently misplacing your invoice.


About Author

Carla Young, Publisher If there’s living proof that women can have it all – and then some – it’s Carla Young. Building her multiple businesses on a virtual work-at-home model, Carla is an inspiration to other mothers who want to start a lifestyle business. During her early days as a mom entrepreneur, Carla made every single mistake in the book (and a few new ones for good measure). Realizing that “doing it all” was unhealthy and unsustainable, Carla started by getting organized to the extreme, developing support systems for both her work and family. After other mothers started asking how they too could enjoy her lifestyle, Carla launched to support moms at work, at home and at play (because every mommy deserves a little me-time)!


  1. Really good info, Carla. I started my own business last year and so far, all has gone well but I I interview my clients the same way they interview me. I also required two hours up front via PayPal — that way there is no question of getting paid at least that much. At least I know my time is worth something to them. 

  2. Hi Carla, I’m not sure that this is all good advise.  Brandon is right – every client has one of these characteristics. You have good points about setting boundaries but it’s rarea you get that absolutely perfect client…and let’s admit it, even some of US have some of these characteristics (workaholics!).

    I do totally agree with you about the #5 Cheapskate Client and #7 Financial Pinch. Gotta put bread on the table!


    Tanya (@mtnmamma_web:twitter )

  3. It all depends on what business you are in. I see a Travel Consultant as being in the “Helping People Business” so it is really hard to weed out everyone. It is a good guideline though.

  4. Uhm, so you are in the business of finding the nicest and least demanding clients. Interesting concept.

    – You’re clients can’t be too busy, but they also can’t be to slow.
    – They can’t be the type who knows exactly what they want, but they also can’t be confused.

    And here I thought it’s a business’s purpose to serve its clients, yet it’s the other way around.


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  6. This is a good wake-up call for me to be a better client. I often fall into the first category, and it must be frustrating for my contractors. 

  7. Yes, this takes care of about 75% of the market place… now onto the 25% that are decent or worthy enough of our time… lol.  Thanks for the good points!

  8. wow, so that leaves me quite free to work with…. no one, ever. both as a client and as a service provider, I have fallen under any of these categories and my clients have fallen in ALL of these categories.

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