How to spot a difficult freelance client

Every freelancer dreads working for difficult clients, and soon learns to spot the telltale signs of a potential bad client a mile off.

If you’re a mum working as a freelancer, time is even more precious to you, so it’s important to learn which clients to avoid – or charge more to make working for them worth the stress and time away from your children.

To help you, we list some of the signs to look out for in a difficult client.

A client who has only bad things to say about other freelancers

While we can all come across someone difficult or not particularly good at their job from time to time, if a new client has nothing but bad things to say about other freelancers or companies they have worked with, alarm bells should be ringing loudly in your head. It may be a sign that the client is tough to work for, difficult to please or just not a very pleasant boss. Work with them if you wish, but don’t be surprised if you become next on their list to badmouth.

Clients who are paranoid about being ripped off or deceived

While it’s quite normal to be asked to sign confidentiality agreements when working on freelance projects, if a client seems particularly over-cautious, it may be that they just have problems trusting freelancers. And if something does go wrong, you could be the one in the firing line of blame.

Likewise, if they seem paranoid that you’re going to overcharge them, and ask you lots of questions about what they should be paying for, they may be the type of client who questions every last penny on your invoice, and may get picky about paying for all your work once it’s done.

Clients who ask you to do a sample of work before giving you the job

As a rule, most companies thinking about using a freelancer for the first time will ask you about your experience on similar freelance jobs, and possibly even ask to see examples of your work or for references.

But sometimes you may be asked to produce a sample of work for their freelance project in order to secure the job. It’s up to you as to whether you’re happy doing this. You need to weight up the time it’s going to take you with how much the job is worth to you or how much you want to do it. However, be wary of clients that habitually ask a large number of freelancers to produce examples of work or complex quotes. It may be that they’re not experienced in working with freelancers, or are just using you to benchmark a freelancer they already want to work with.