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6 Red Flags to Watch Out For to Avoid Signing a Difficult Client

For a business to make sales and grow, there needs to be some form of exchange between the company and a client. This relationship helps to foster success in business growth.

But some clients can make you wonder if the relationship is beneficial or downright destructive. Once you know the red flags they exhibit, you can identify them and avoid them in future deals.

Without further ado, find out red flags to watch out for to avoid signing a difficult client.

1. They don’t know their goals

red flag
Image by mdjaff via

Their words are similar to, “Do your best. I trust you.” Or “I’m not sure whatever you think is right.”

Though it might seem like creative freedom, there are limits. More often than not, these clients tend to dislike the delivered tasks.

Then they tell you that that’s not what they had in mind. And it would help if you changed numerous specificities. But, even then, most of these clients are unsatisfied and shift the blame to you, saying you should have known what they wanted.

If it is part of your skill set, help them define their goals. If not, ensure that the contract shows they gave you rights to use ample creative freedom, or you can ask them to either define it and come back to you.

2. They’re sure to have more jobs for you 

These clients believe you would receive exposure, be put on a retainer and probably gain the world’s attention by working for them — for free.

This is a ubiquitous red flag across all industries.

They give lofty promises of lifting your brand, by virtue of working with them, to heights their brand hasn’t reached. Even worse, they offer peanuts to “help with expenses” while you pour your creativity, sweat and time onto delivering their project.

Don’t get me wrong. When you have no knowledge and are interested in an internship, working under a brand to learn is different. However, there’s no excuse when you have the skill set (and experience) needed for the project.

If they aren’t willing to pay for your expertise, you shouldn’t work with them.

3. They say you can do their task in just a short time.

Image by onlyyouqj via

They tell you they have all the skills and a lack of time, so they already know the job will be fast.

This is a major red flag in business. By putting an assumed (and shorter) time on the task to be delivered, the clients reduced your worth to their perceived value.

Rather than let you give a timeline, there’s this pressure to deliver in the tight period because they believe they know how to accomplish the task, and it’d take *just* a short time.

Sometimes, clients don’t use time as the metric. Instead, they use resources, skills, intellect and more. Once a client assumes any of the things to be involved in your project are less than, they’re a red flag for your business.


Defining your target audience is the first and most essential step towards success for any business.

4. They refuse to sign a contract 

This might have been the next thing on your mind. If you don’t use a contract to sign your clients, you’re doing yourself a big disservice. In fact, this is your business holding a red flag for other established companies to see and avoid. If you don’t already, this is your sign to start using one.

Now, if you have a contract, and a client refuses to sign it, then the screen should look bloody. Agreements can be amended and should satisfy involved parties. But outright refusing to sign anything is a signal to put a big gap between you and that client.

Without a contract, there’s no proof of work, and you can’t put in nonnegotiable parts that both parties can attest to. Without a contract, the paying party might decide to ghost and not pay you or credit you for any of your work, and there’s almost nothing to do about that.

5. They don’t fit your target audience

Image by kenshinstock via

One of the most important things to do as a creative is to define your target audience. This is important because it helps you understand how best to provide for your clients and how they can grow your business. If you don’t have a target audience, you might want to identify yours.

A client might seem great, but if they are very different from your target audience profile’s basics, you may want to save energy on growing that deal. It shows desperation because you’re trying to close every deal that might bring you revenue.

Remember, your target audience profile also helps you know how to handle clients, so if they don’t fit, you’d be out of your league. And if they aren’t satisfied, it’ll hurt your creative business more than it can help it. So, this is a red flag in business.

6. The clients have unrealistic expectations

There should be a defined range of assets your business offers, and you should also outline the specific assets needed to accomplish the client’s goal. When clients expect more than your business can offer, they have unrealistic expectations.

They might try to add more deliverables to the project while keeping money, the time needed and quality the same. This is highly unrealistic and is a big red flag.

Make sure to review the proposals carefully to see if they are aligned with what your business can offer in terms of price, time and quality.


Most creatives find it challenging to monetise skills. And because of that, they will ignore red flags to progress or think of them as a learning phase.

But risking stress and tension because of a client is not worth it in the long run, so note these red flags and avoid them in future business deals.

Want to get into the business of creativity? Download our free ebook: The Ultimate Creativity Playbook.

Angel Umez

With an aim to be a top gun in the marketing world, Angel creates diverse forms of content to connect brands with their customers. She is also adept at creating content strategies, especially for creative, marketing, product and tech brands. Known as the “Fashionable Parrot”, she’s an avid reader and an SDG advocate.

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