The Telltale Signs of Nightmare Clients

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In today’s post, I want to talk about the telltale signs that you might have a nightmare client on your hands. If you are a service-based entrepreneur, a coach, a writer, a consultant, or a freelancer, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We’re talking about the clients that if you could go back in time, you probably wouldn’t have said yes to taking them on into your business. That’s why if you are specifically new in the world of content writing or coaching/consulting, I have a feeling that this article is going to save you a lot of time and a lot of headache.


They keep blaming others for their shortcomings

So the first telltale sign that you might have a nightmare client on your hands is that they blamed their old coaches for their failures when they hired you. In my opinion, having self-awareness and self-responsibility is among the major factors that make someone successful. If you have a prospect that’s been jumping from coach to coach, and you know that they have been blaming their past coaches for all of their shortcomings, then that is a huge red flag.

 While I agree that there might be some coaches that simply weren’t the right fit, what’s important is that this client needs to have enough maturity to understand that they also have equal ownership in their journey to success. If they’re constantly blaming other people or external factors for why they aren’t successful yet, then that’s probably going to be a nightmare client to work. This kind of behavior shows to you that they’re not taking any responsibility for their own journey. Not only this, if a client cannot acknowledge the key learnings or transformations that they took from their previous consultant, then you might want to watch out as their intentions might not be in the right place.

Offering coaching or consulting services is not just getting someone money or getting someone clients. There are so many other transformations that happen that might not be monetary or numerical. Maybe that coach actually helped them gain clarity. Maybe that coach helped them sharpen a skill or learn a new skill that they otherwise would not have learned. Thanks to that coach. Maybe that coach helped them quit the nine to five, or helped them with branding their new project. That’s why it’s really important to understand the intentions of your perspective clients, and making sure that they’re signing up for you for the right reasons, and that their expectations of you are very realistic.


They have unrealistic expectations for their business or from you

Speaking of expectations, the second telltale sign that you might have a perspective nightmare client on your hands is the fact that they’re looking for big results in a short period of time. Unrealistic clients want unrealistic results. That’s why it’s really, really important to make sure you are setting boundaries and expectations of what you can and can’t do.

Trust me on this, especially if you are a new coach, a new copywriter, a new freelancer, or anyone new in the service industry. I understand that you want to offer and promise the world to your clients. However, that’s going to cause a lot of mismatch when it comes to the end result. If you’re trying to bend yourself backwards and twist yourself everywhere to make sure that that client is hiring you by telling them everything that they want to hear, then that client is going to end up being really disappointed. Not only this, while they’re working with you, they’re definitely going to be breathing down your neck, and making sure that you’re getting the results that you had promised them.

That’s why it’s really important to be transparent in what you can and can’t offer. The best way to do that is not only to have awesome application forms that make sure you understand what type of person is walking into your program, but also hosting sales calls, discovery calls, consultation calls where you can actually have a talk with this person so that the level of understanding what you can and can’t offer is very clear from the get-go. Not only are unrealistic clients that want fast and big results going to be an issue in your business, but also these types of clients typically look at you as their savior. You really want to avoid clients who are looking at you as the key to success, or who have a really strong codependency on you. If you notice on the sales call that a certain client has really big goals that they’re turning to you to get for them, that’s going to be a huge issue.

Dream clients are the ones that acknowledge that they themselves are their own saviors. You as the coach or consultant are merely their guide. You’re giving them the roadmap, you’re encouraging them on this journey, but you’re not doing the work for them. That’s why if you notice a client seems to be very desperate and is looking at you to be the key and bandaid solution for all of their problems overnight, then I recommend to you to definitely run the other way.

Not only this, I’m gonna give you a bonus tip, especially to you business consultants out there. You want to make sure that the clients that you’re taking in already have existing skill sets to bring to the table. A big issue that I see is when clients come to you and expect you to teach them everything from A to Z, so that they can replicate it and basically be a copy and paste version of you. You really want to make sure that the people that you’re taking onto your business are independently unique, and all you’re doing is guiding them, not teaching them every single thing that they need to know in order to replicate it back into their own business. That is definitely a toxic relationship, and you don’t want to take on clients that are solely hiring you in order to copy you.


They don’t respect your boundaries

Moving on to my next telltale sign that you might have a nightmare prospective client on your hands is that they don’t respect your boundaries. I’m talking about the people who applied to your program, following up with you day in and day out, spamming you with emails, and messaging you constantly even before you’ve accepted them as a client.

I’ve actually had this happen to me before, where people who have contacted me for taking on one of the services I’m offering keep following up constantly day and night, even though they know that I will get back to them within 48 hours. That’s already a huge sign that this person might be a handful. You want to decide whether or not you want to spend time with people who don’t respect your time. Not only this, I would also caution to people who are already sending you massive proposals on what they expect from you, before you’ve even had a conversation with them.

You really want to pay attention to the behaviors of these prospective clients before you even take them on, because it’s a huge sign of what they’re going to be like when they actually work with you and when they actually start paying you.


They are always late or cancel last minute

Although this one is super-obvious, you would be surprised at the number of people whom I know who do not get the message. Prospective clients who show up extremely late or cancel last minute to your discovery calls are a big and clear red flag. Many coaches or service providers simply let this one slide. I get it when you’re just starting out. You’re just grateful that someone’s signed up for your program, and you want to forgive them for ghosting you or showing up 20 minutes late to your call, or even canceling one minute before your call even starts. However, I’m telling you right now – you are not a babysitter. You are not coaching big babies that need to get their hand held. You are coaching responsible adults who understand how to respect someone’s time.

People do not go see their doctors late. They don’t go to their lawyers late. They don’t ghost people who are important to them. Now obviously, I understand some things might come up, such as bad traffic, or maybe someone had an accident. Those ones are forgivable, and I get it. But those people who do not give a good excuse of why they showed up late to your calls or why they ghosted you, they have ‘nightmare client’ printed all over them.

You need to respect yourself as a service provider, as an expert, and make sure that you are very firm in your boundaries. Have a very clear cancellation policy. Have a very clear late policy. For example, for me, if someone shows up 10 minutes late to a call, I’m done. I cancel the call right away. There are no second chances unless they have a really good excuse of why they showed up late to the call that they had booked, and that I could have prepared for weeks before. You got to make sure that you respect yourself because you cannot let your prospective clients walk all over you.


What is most important is that you have a very crystal clear understanding of who your ideal client is. Not only this, you also have to realize that just because someone has money and can afford your services, it doesn’t mean that you have to take them on as a client. Having a really great fit is very important. As a business owner, you can control the experiences that you have.

Don’t take clients who are jerks to you. Don’t take clients who meet any of these four tips or criteria that I just listed. Just because someone has money does not mean that you have to take them on.

Sana Uqaili

Sana Uqaili is a professional content creator and a strategic marketing adviser, who started off as a freelance copywriter and pass time blogger, and ended up offering her services as a full-fledged business in early 2019. Her ghostwriting contributions and digital marketing tactics have enhanced the Google rankings of various publications and corporate websites. Her passion for writing peaked in late 2019, when she started this site called Opinined. In 2020, she also started podcasting from her home during quarantine, and was able to gain great traction on her podcast channel during the global lockdown.

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