Sometimes, it’s really nice to be able to say “NO” to a potential client who’s already exploding with red flags. That is one of the great joys of being a business owner – you don’t have to accept everyone’s stupid or ridiculously low bid/offer.
Just in case you haven’t explored the Great Golden Word of “No”, below are some RED FLAGS that should alert you to a bad future client experience:
- Haste (makes waste): The potential client sends out an SOS distress call (“I need you to do this for me right away!!!”) before establishing a business relationship, asking anything about your expertise level, or even your rates. There’s an underlying assumption that you will (a) want/need the work at (b) any rate they’re willing to pay and (c) can get the work done in 24 hours or less. Just because they are in a hurry to finish their badly organized project, somehow, their issue is now your issue.
- Haughty Tone: Always avoid the client who thinks that their insignificant pile of greenbacks should fascinate you to the point of accepting a bad job offer. “But I’m paying!” really means, “You’re probably so broke that you have to accept my rates that would maybe be acceptable in the Philippines.” Sorry, no I don’t have to accept your rates, especially if you are
- Requiring Uber-Expertise at Rock-Bottom Rates. This is Red Flag Ultimo Uno. Never, never, never accept a client who wants you to have a PhD plus 10 years’ experience in (whatever) field but wants to pay as if you’re a homeless person. This scenario is very common on contract job sites such as Freelancer.com, Upwork.com, Fiverr, etc. I’m a bargain-hunter too, but there are limits, and someone implying that my work is only worth rock-bottom rates has just qualified for the Jerk Award. Don’t insult the years that I’ve put into education and business by equating my work to the price of a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Get real!
- Lack of Communication: If the client starts by not responding to emails, and then flooding your inbox with last-minute requests for you to save their hide, they will always operate that way…..unless and until they get therapy. It’s unprofessional and discourteous to be a Last-Minute Lucy, especially since there are 50 ways of getting in touch at the touch of a button. Good clients ask ahead of time, and they are polite.
- Micro-Managing Rudeness. Beware the client who finds it necessary to nit-pick over every detail and then try to change the way that you get paid, implying that they should get additional discounts because you weren’t paying attention last time. Either they don’t have enough money to get your quality services, and they’re trying to work in Point 3 by placing a microscope over every one of their contractors’ jobs. It’s the equivalent of following around your roofer or your handyman, and unfavorably comparing their work to some stranger’s explanation of the process on YouTube.
- Non-Profit Mentality. Even though large companies are expected to engage in vast amounts of pro-bono or reduced-rate work, it’s simply a fact that small businesses cannot afford to operate like non-profits because (a) they need to make a profit to pay themselves and their employees, and (b) they don’t have budgetary wiggle room. Regardless of the greatness of the cause, as I saw recently on a soon-to-be published ebook item, business owners should stop doing….stuff….for free. Until you’re well able to afford it, and are well-established in your trade, it’s only harming you to kill those much-needed profits by being Socialistically Irresponsible instead of being socially responsible. Society will not benefit from yet another small business going out of business by trying to ‘be all things to all men’, because ‘a workman is worthy of his hire’. If a farmer gave away their hard-earned seeds for free, especially to non-starving people who don’t know how to plant and get a crop, that person shouldn’t be a farmer.
- Aggrieved Playground Child Mentality. If nobody wants to be your friend on the playground of commerce, maybe it’s because you don’t know how to be friends. If the potential client mentions how their case/issue/job hasn’t been accepted by three or more people, that’s an instant reason to be cautious about the validity of the work. It may not be illegal, but it may be internally flawed in some way, which is why no one wants to touch it with said 10-foot pole. It’s easy to feel sorry for the person left out in the cold, but it’s a mistake to automatically assume that everyone on the playground is just being mean for no reason.
If I missed or forgot a pertinent point, feel free to comment and let me know!