Clients from Hell. How to spot and protect yourself against Abusive, Manipulative and Toxic Clients.

“Wise men learn from what they observe and taught, fools only learn from experience”

– Some old wise man

As a freelancer, you probably have had an experience like that. I have had my fair share of clients from hell believe me.

It might look fun to dance with these types of clients/people when you are a young graduate until you have to pay rent, bills, have a family to take care of ….and you have to think about your retirement plans.

These people can waste years of your life, your mental health and ruin your reputation in the process. Clients from Hell will make you hate your job/career path, they are emotionally manipulative, oblivious to reality and they are just plain toxic.

I just wanted to share my personal experience here so that you can get red flags waving when you spot this pattern in your daily hustle and work.

These are people I have faced and they have dragged me to the darkest place I have never been before in my life…

“Just start the work I will send advance money next week”

Yeah, when you send the money next week I will start the work.

“I worked with a freelancer before and I had to drop him because he did not do my work well”

This is a HUGE RED FLAG!!! Don’t think you are so special and so much better than the previous freelancer they worked with. Stay alert.

“No need to sign a contract I trust you”

Thank you, but I don’t trust you yet…I don’t even know you. Sign here, please.

“How long will it take! One month? I wanted it to be done in 4 days”

If you pay 1 person, it can be done in a month. If you pay 10 people it might take lesser time

Here is where you should tell your client your creative/project management process. If they don’t want to adhere to it…well…RED FLAG!!!

“You only use your brain power, you don’t buy any tools. You should only take (an amount they want) “

It took me years to be able to do this. You are paying me for my invested skills, for the perceived value of YOUR work and for my time. Get it?

“You are so young, not married, you are not having any responsibility, you should finish in less time/take less money”

Again, you are paying me for my invested skills, for the perceived value of YOUR work and for my time.

Don’t plan to freelance until you die even though you love it. Many software devs get tricked in the hobby as an income and forget the INCOME part. Get enough money in savings for future expenses and responsibility. Spread your investment into different vehicles. Get health insurance and start to think about your retirement NOW.

“Is there no offer for family, I am your uncle?”

No, just No. Thanks.

This is the typical African problem. If your relative or neighbor has skills or a business people naturally feel like they can just take and get things for free without paying for them. Even if it is your blood relative…don’t do it. Learn to say no. I know its hard when you see them at the next wedding ceremony.

“I need you to add these features…I have already paid you on the amount you said, I want a great product, without these features it won’t be.”

You need to PAY EXTRA For every new feature you want besides the one we agreed at the first time and making changes in the middle of the project you should know that will ruin my process and thus take more time than expected.

As a freelancer you want to build something great, but if they want to manipulate you by stretching their budget by saying this work won’t look good on your portfolio because there is no this feature and you convince yourself that they are right and you should what they ask so your work will be good…my dear friend you will never finish that work and you will spend more time to do the work with the same budget.

“But you just copy and paste from Github”

So, Why couldn’t you do it yourself? Huh?

“I have seen the design mockup but I can’t comment on the design until you build the entire system “

Changing the mockup design is simpler than changing the actual code, and it’s more expensive. Doing what you want will ruin my process

You have studied project management. Stay on course, make better mockup using AdobeXD n stuff but if the client remains unreasonable…RED FLAG!!!

“But doing this work will look great in your portfolio”

Yes, and the money will look great in my bank account

“I have your social media handle I will ruin your reputation if you don’t do this”

Things like this are reasons why I like to communicate by text and not by calls. To have proof.  But all in all, they can threaten to do it. They might even do it. But if you are in the right. It’s fine. And if they say things like these. RAISE THE RED FLAG!!!

“I want an app exactly like Uber”

Do you have Uber Money?

Do a quick Google search for Uber’s staff count and budget and present to your client so they can know what they should expect from you and be very clear about it.

“I am the one paying you, I want you to do it my way”

If their requests are unrealistic and they don’t respect your ideas and suggestions as a PROFESSIONAL ……RED FLAG!

“This project is taking too long, pause it and write me a quotation for this new project “

These types of clients are having short “attention spans” they want fast stuff and they will likely give you bad rep if the work doesn’t make 1million by the first week. RED FLAG.

“There are other good freelancers out there but I chose you because I thought you were capable to do it my way”

Again don’t think you are that special. This a manipulative tactic to use your ego to do more than you get paid for. If you roll like that its alright, but doing a 4 weeks project in 4 months in order to satisfy your ego……RED FLAG TO YOU.

“I don’t care, just give me backdoor access to change my user’s data whenever I want”

I’m just saying….stick to your personal and professional ethics also obey the LAW. If you hear something like this RAISE RED FLAG.

“I know it is Sunday night but it can’t wait”

Keep boundaries earlier in the project. You are not a tool. I get the time zone differences but state everything clear at the beginning.

“I just want a very small simple app”

I charge according to your requirements, let me know more about your project. Additional features aside from the quoted ones will be subjected to extra fees.

Get requirements. DONT GIVE PRICE WITHOUT GETTING REQUIREMENTS. If you don’t do this.. they will not want to stretch out of your initial price. If they decide to reduce the requirements to fit their budget but in the end, it will be a bad project. you can advise them to get a better budget..all in all, this is a judgment call.

Client giving feedback on your work after 2 weeks

This is a straight RED FLAG! You are invested in your client’s project more than them. You might be up against a person who is delaying to pay you.

You don’t have to do all the work, its okay to not have work, it’s okay to say no to a client, its okay to quit on a client. Peace of mind is everything. If they ruin your peace of mind. You won’t be able to do anything worthwhile. You need to protect your peace of mind. I think I will write an article on this subject soon. Stay safe.

Thanks for reading. I hope you get something. Please let’s connect and share. tell me about your experience with clients from hell.

Instagram : nickyrabit

Twitter : nngailo

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