Ep. 2 How to recognise and avoid red flag clients



How it feels to have a red flag client

In the beginning – initial enquiry phase

  • Contact via socials only, and even after asking them to move across to emails they continue to dm you
  • They have been working with another designer (or designers) and those designers just can’t get it right
  • They want to know your pricing straight up – even before talking to you about services you offer OR worse still, they ask if you will budge on your pricing
  • They try and sell you on their ideas straight up – ie. they have a logo already, and want it this particular way, can you just finish it off?
  • They wanted it done yesterday.
  • They may self-identify as a perfectionist
  • A Client asks if they can DIY a portion of the project themselves
  • A client presents their project ideas and requirements and then asks how long it will take, focus on hours vs. value (this should be fairly easy / won’t take that long)

Zoom Call stage

Discovery Stage

On Zoom calls they may:

  • Miss appoint or reschedule
  • Be distracted, screaming kids or barking dogs
  • Rushed or talk over you

At this point you can decide if they’re the right fit for you And if not, here is how I have managed this in the past.

Reverse poop sandwich – that is: Something nice, not nice and then something nice again.

Thank them for their time, you appreciate them reaching out to you and their project sounds fantastic and very exciting.

Explain to them that at this time, you don’t feel that you will be the right fit for the Client, and to ensure the best results for the Client and their project you feel it would be better if they looked for another designer who will be in better alignment with the project.

Again, wish them all the very best with their Project & thank them again for their time, and thats it.

One of two things may happen. You will never hear from them again, or they will reply and ask if you can recommend anyone else, if that is the case, my reply has often been to jump over to instagram, linked in or google for designers in their area…. Honestly, if they found you they know how to find designers and you really don’t want to cause distaste with other designers in the industry by referring a pain in the arse client to them. Remember, good karma always comes around, don’t be underhanded and refer shitty clients to designers you might not like.

How to deal with a Red Flag client who have already paid their invoice

So they might look like:

  • They might call you at 5.05 on a friday afternoon
  • They text you alot without emailing
  • They only ever contact you after hours on your socials
  • They change their mind a lot
  • They are picky and identify as perfectionists
  • They try and sell you on their ideas (this is what they want, vs. these are my ideas, what do you think)

Revisit boundaries

Make it clear you want to enjoy the project and you want them to enjoy the project process, revisit your boundaries and make it clear to them how you would like it to run, take back control.

Consider refunding them and asking them to find another designer if you are only 10% of the way in…

If you are 50-60% of the way in, suck it up, get the project done and then learn from it.

How to completely minimise red flag clients from the outset

Make it clear on your touchpoints what your boundaries and expectations are from your Client.

Creative Processes page / right fit  / Proposal document inclusions

Also revisit your portfolio to see if you are inadvertently attracting red flag clients.

Ie. corporate clients when in your experience corp clients means 5 different stake-holders, and the expectation of a million revisions.

This minimises red flag clients from the outset and ensures you are attracting clients who:

  • Respect your boundaries
  • Respect your time
  • Understand the parameters of the project and inclusions
  • REspect your abilities
  • Value what you do
  • And trust in your abilities to design out beautiful work that is of benefit to their brands future.