Why Nightmare Clients Cost You Money

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

Designers don’t want nightmare clients, but when business is slow, it is tempting to take any client because it seems like a better idea than having no clients. Is it worth taking a difficult client just to pay the bills? My answer is a resounding “NO!”

Here are a few red flags that warn you of trouble ahead:

1. One of the first questions the prospect asks is “how do you charge.” That indicates they are price shopping and that is never a good client.
2. They are late for your first appointment with no good excuse or apology. Most people are on their best behavior at the very beginning, and things tend to go downhill from there.
3. They are “too easy” saying they want you to make all of the decisions. You’ll be the one that is frustrated when they aren’t happy and they don’t pay your bills.
4. They want several changes on your contract. If you have a contract that’s worked for most of your clients, this could be a sign that they will nitpick your work and your invoices.
5. It’s hard to schedule a time to meet with them. If so, it will be hard to get them to meet to make decisions and move your project along.
6. They want you to hold their hand and be their friend. This means lots of extra non-billable hours.
7. They are too busy reading their text messages or taking calls (unless it is an emergency). You’ll be frustrated by their lack of attention to the details especially with your contract!

It’s crucial to take on clients that fit your values. Drue Lawlor, our Director of Coaching, wrote a blog post about values this year – be sure to read it if you missed it.

What are your top 3 values? If your clients don’t fit those values, you’re headed for challenges.

Why do nightmare clients cost you money?

1. They question bills.
2. They negotiate for better rates (which leaves you frustrated that you are working for less than your ideal clients pay you).
3. They get angry to control you which is stressful and can end up in you walking away with bills they haven’t paid.
4. They micromanage which costs you time and ultimately money.
5. They delay decisions which affect your efficiency and cash flow.
6. You find yourself working extra hard to convince them of your value, and that means more non-billable time.
7. You question your abilities and your confidence sags which means it is harder to get yourself “up” and positive when ideal clients do reach out.
8. You’re too busy trying to make difficult people happy and you spend less time on your good clients leading to other unhappy clients that might have been ideal before they were neglected.
9. Difficult clients make lead to unhappy staff members that make costly mistakes.
10. If you keep taking difficult clients, that can lead to you doubting yourself… and who knows… that could lead to counseling fees!

Just say NO!

Get your complimentary copy of Interior Designers: Avoid Fee Mistakes.

Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting

3 Comments

  1. Aurielle on February 9, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    Your first few sentences describe what I’m going through right now perfectly! I feel like I’m being pulled in 2 different directions. One way is telling me to say no, don’t accept this project because it doesn’t align with your ideal client or the projects that you know that will make you happy and profit. The other way is telling me “you have bills to pay and no foreseeable clients, you can afford to say no.” Whats even crazier is that I KNOW the consequences of accepting projects that are no good for me, but I take them anyway out of fear. Thank you Gail for posting the signs because Ive delt with every one of them and they always turn into nightmares.

  2. MaLinda Perry on February 17, 2017 at 7:50 am

    So true!! Thank you for sharing! Unfortunately so many of us learned this the hard way.

  3. Kay Bradshaw on February 26, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing your Knowledge. l have not had a Client yet. So all this info is very enlighting and helpful.

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