4 Ways Freelancers Avoid Bad Clients

There are clients you love to work with and then there those you dread to here from. Yet, it seems that some freelancers and consultants only get work with the former and never with the latter.

Do they never work with horrible clients? Is there a way to replicate their success?

For variety of reasons, sometimes bad clients are unavoidable. Sometimes you will realize how bad they are when you are very deep into the project.

However, if most of your clients are bad and not just sometimes, then you better do something about it. Here are a few tested ideas from my experience and from what I observed from other freelancers, that might help you.

1. Higher Prices

You might think that with a higher price tag come more demanding and strict clients. Think again. Actually, it is usually the opposite.

Higher paying clients pay you more because they value you, your work and your skills more. They can go and find another freelancer who promises the same thing for less, yet they chose you.

Because they value you more, they know that your time is precious so they waste your time less than cheaper clients. For the same reasons they value also your advice and your work much more. As a result they will rarely question them.

All this makes them much easier to work with then most cheaper clients.

In addition during negotiation higher price point also indicates that your quality is probably better then those with lower rates. So it not only helps you get better clients, but also creates a better image of you.

However, this is not all. I’ve spoken with successful people from many different industries and all of them tell me again and again the same thing. Their cheapest clients are the worst clients they have.

They not only waste their time and never listen, but they are also the most demanding. Whereas higher paying clients are much less demanding. This happens even when your cheaper clients are very nice people.

You can also apply this observations in your freelance business. If you want to work only with better clients and if you want to earn more, raise your rates.

Many freelancers have done it, including me, and the results have been great.

Of course, this is not universal rule and there are clients who pay well and then treat you badly. If you see such a person, don’t work with them.

2. Focus on value

Some of the clients that treat you worst are those that consider you a commodity and an expense. They think that they can get any other freelancer and the result will be just the same. They even might say it out loud to you.

That’s why you should show your clients from the start that you are an investment and not an expense.

When negotiating, don’t focus on yourself. As freelancers we especially love to focus on our skills, the experience that we have and the projects that we have done. They might sound impressive to us, but believe me no client cares so much about them.

Your potential customers can easily find other people who have the same list of skills for a cheaper price, just like they will do with a commodity.

Instead focus on them. Focus on the value they will receive by working with you.

There are several ways to that. Depending on what you do you might be able to get raw numbers, for example you can focus that you can apply proven marketing tactics on their web site which can increase their user base and their revenue by 5%. For a relatively medium size company this can be quite a lot of money.

If you don’t have easy access to numbers show them what their project will become if they work with you and what it will mean for them.

Maybe if you are a designer it will attract more customers with the way it looks and the better user experience. If you are developer maybe a fast, stable and secure site will make their clients trust them more and as a result bring more revenue. Even better if you are copywriter it will convince more clients to buy their product.

No matter how you try to convince them, focus your conversation on them and their product. It should never be focused on you or your skills. The client doesn’t really care about your skills. He cares about his product and how he can make it better.

You might think that as soon as they see your skills they will understand how you will make their project better and they will be super grateful.

However, with the same set of skills you can achieve many different results and create many different products. Moreover, the client is not the expert, you are the expert, so you know better than him what value he will receive at the end.

Don’t let your client figure this out, instead tell them. It will save them time and it will make everything easier.

All of this will protect you from avoiding bad clients by making them aware that you are an investment and that you are not a commodity but an expert who can help them. If they don’t get it, don’t work with them.

3. Don’t take jobs where the client has already decided everything.

This kind of jobs are what I call “monkey” jobs, because basically from the point of view of the client a well trained monkey can do them. Nobody respects a monkey, and it is better that you are not in that position.

In general they might look something like this “Looking for X to do Y”. Some examples for such a tasks can be:

  • Looking for web developer to implement our new design.
  • Looking for a mobile developer to fix a few bugs.
  • Looking for writers to write copy on one specific theme.

Even though all of those jobs may sound perfectly normal, you can already see the pattern. The client already has decided what needs to be done and he doesn’t say what is the business goal. He doesn’t need your brain, he needs your hands.

Why is this wrong? Does it makes the client bad?

These are jobs where the client can easily change you with someone else. Therefor, he has no reason to thing that you are more valuable than anyone else.

These are also jobs where the client doesn’t value your expert advice because he has already decided what he wants to be done in advance. The client doesn’t trust you to take a decision.

As a result on this kind of jobs you will be usually paid poorly and you will end up with clients who will treat you badly because they see as a commodity.

4. Don’t work on vague or too broad projects

The other extreme is also not a pleasant place to be. Clients who just say “I need a web site” or “create me a web app just like Facebook but for dogs” are also rarely good clients.

These clients might be also interested in your brain and advice in addition to your hands, unlike the clients from the previous part, but then they don’t know what to do.

They don’t have a clear goal and as a result they might change it every week with something new, while expecting that the budget and time frame is still the same.

Another problem, that you actually might have, is when negotiating with those clients. Because they are too broad and vague, there is nothing specific on which to work on to show that you are the right person to do the job and to show them what the value will be.

As a result it is very easy for them to drive down the price for those kind of projects. And we all know what happens when the price goes down, as we’ve seen in the previous sections.


Unfortunately, sometimes we are unable to avoid bad clients. Maybe, right now you are in such situation.

If that is the case, check out our free 7 part email course, which will teach you how to handle difficult clients in some specific situations.

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We are Stefan Fidanov & Vasil Lyutskanov. We share actionable advice about earning more and working with better clients as a freelancer and consultant.

It is everything that we have learned from years of experience working with customers from all over the world on projects of all sizes.

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