5 clients you don't want

5 clients you don't want

We've all been there, caught up in the excitement of landing a new client and the potential financial win it brings.

It's easy to overlook warning signs and gut instincts when our need for work overtakes our common sense.

But here's the hard truth: some clients are just bad for you.

They aren't the right fit for you.

It's not that they are bad people, they are just bad for you.

They may appear tempting at first, but taking them on can lead to stress, overwork, and a feeling of being trapped in a never-ending cycle of misery.

It never ends well as you feel like crap and the former client isn't particularly fond of you afterwards.

In this article, I'll dive into why some clients aren't the right fit and why prioritising your well-being over short-term gains is crucial.

Bad Idea Clients

First up, we have the Bad Idea Clients. These folks want you to make their flawed plan work. They don't want to change; they want the world to change for them. You're hired to execute their plan, not to help them achieve their desired goals. Deep down, you had a gut feeling about this client, but you chose to ignore it. It's time to trust your instincts. Taking on these clients will leave you frustrated and spinning your wheels, without any real progress.

Tony Robbins said "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten" Well, these clients are in denial.

They are hiring you to help do them do what they've always done to get what they've never gotten.


We all encounter Dreamers in our professional lives. They have grand ideas and big dreams, but when it comes down to putting in the work, they fall short. These clients sign up enthusiastically but lack the commitment and drive to follow through.

They're in love with the idea of success, but the actual grafting part?

Not so much.

Dealing with Dreamers will drain your energy and leave you feeling disillusioned. Lovely people, yes, but not serious about achieving tangible results.

I love these people because they have an awesome idea and really want to make an impact.

But if they aren't committed to taking the action to turn that idea into the reality, with all the struggles that brings, you are wasting your time and their money.

We all know taking an idea and then making it work is tough.

It rarely works out of the box.

You have to refine, test and tweak.

It's frustrating, but it's part of the process.

Ask any start-up founder.

Dreamers often will struggle with this reality and rather than stick the course and refine a process, they will want to try different ways.

Wheeler Dealers

Beware of the Wheeler Dealers. They entice you with contra deals, profit shares, and promises of an endless stream of referrals.

But here's the truth: someone offering referrals as a negotiating tool is likely a blagger. These complicated deals might seem appealing, but they'll only complicate your life further.

Keep it simple.

Avoid the wheeling and dealing, and focus on establishing straightforward and fair terms.

In the past, I've gone along with these kind of proposals. To this day, I've never had one work out. Referral come from client delight, they should never be a negotiating tool.

In one case, I was almost held to ransom by a wheeler dealer. He referred in a ton of work based off of their experience and we struck up a great relationship. Then one day, we had a catch up and they asked "so when am I getting my 25% shareholding".

I thought he was joking.

He wasn't. I told him, I wasn't up for a business partner. I had a bad experience in the past. Guess what happened next? The referrals dried up and 3 of the clients served notice on their contracts overnight.

Quick Win Clients

The Quick Win Clients are the ones constantly chasing short-term goals at the expense of long-term success. They'll drive you up the wall with their impulsive decisions, abandoning signed-off projects to chase a fleeting victory. Dealing with their erratic behavior will leave you feeling like you're trapped in a whirlwind. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, and sustainable growth requires patience and a long-term perspective.

It's easy to be critical of clients who want quick wins. I'm not in that game. My experience has been that if a client is in need of instant success or very short term wins, in days rather than weeks or months - that's not my game.

It might be yours, but it's important that both sides understand the expectations.

In the past, I've not been great at that.

I've had to learn the painful lessons of my own failure in not being firm on who is not the right client, as well as who is the right client.

You're the Expert Clients

Finally, we have the clients who claim to hire you for your expertise but never truly listen to your advice. These clients will incessantly tweak and change things, even when you strongly advise against it.

And when things inevitably go wrong, they'll conveniently shift the blame onto you, claiming that you should have guided them better.

These situations will leave you frustrated and undervalued. It's essential to set boundaries and make it clear that if they don't follow your advice, they're setting themselves up for failure.

I once had a client who hired me and they wanted to do LinkedIn their way.

I didn't know this at the beginning, but it slowly unfolded as it always tends to do.

Now, I make it clear what is expected up front, so the client accepts the proposal based on how I want to achieve the result, rather than just quote the project.

Once we got started, he told me:

"I don't want to post"

"I don't want to connect"

"I don't want to message"

"I just want inbound leads"

I'm not joking.

I've also had a client who wanted to sell to a target market who didn't need their offer. All the research and data made it clear it was not a priority for their target market. Her reply was "they just don't understand".

I made the error.

Because I took on the business.

Finding the Right Clients

Now that we've identified the clients to avoid, let's focus on finding the clients you truly want. It all boils down to setting boundaries and being clear from the outset.

Exclusivity Sells: Use It to Your Advantage

When it comes to finding the right clients, exclusivity can be your secret weapon. Instead of trying to please everyone, position yourself as someone who is selective about the clients they work with. Showcase your expertise and let potential clients know that you have specific criteria for taking them on board. By highlighting your exclusivity, you create an aura of desirability and attract clients who value what you have to offer.

Establish Non-Negotiable Rules: Why They Matter

Clearly define your non-negotiable rules and communicate them to potential clients. These rules could include your preferred working style, specific deliverables, communication expectations, or project timelines. By setting these rules, you're effectively stating what is required for a successful working relationship. These boundaries protect your well-being and ensure that you can deliver your best work without unnecessary stress or compromise.

Be Picky and Proud

Don't be afraid to be picky about who you take on as a client. Explain to potential clients why you have these high standards and why it's essential for your work and their success.

Emphasise that your selectivity stems from a commitment to providing top-notch service, tailored expertise, and achieving tangible results. By being picky, you ensure that you work with clients who align with your values, appreciate your expertise, and are genuinely invested in the process.

It's easy to overlook the toll that ill-fitting clients can take on your well-being.

Recognise the warning signs and learning to say no to clients who don't align with your values is crucial for your long-term success and happiness.

Prioritise your well-being, set boundaries, and find clients who appreciate your expertise.

Remember, it's not just about the money; it's about building a fulfilling and sustainable business.

Be exclusive, establish non-negotiable rules, and proudly be picky about your clients.

Your success and well-being depend on it.

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