How To Spot “Red Flag” Clients – Part 2

Here’s the dirty truth I’ve discovered during my last year as a freelancer: not all clients are rock stars.

Truth be told, there’s even been a few along the way that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Unfortunately, when I was first getting started as a freelancer, I didn’t always know how to spot bad clients until it was too late. So, the purpose of this series is to help budding freelancers identify clients who will be less-than-pleasant to work for. Learning to spot “red flag” clients early helps prevent unnecessary stress.

identify red flags quickly

In the first part of this series, I covered some over-arching client personality traits that are dead giveaways that something is broken on their end. I’d encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already, it’s a great introduction to six big-picture things that every freelancer should learn to look out for.

But let’s move on to part two now, shall we? It’s true, sometimes little things will bug developers just as much as the big stuff. Heck, sometimes the small things seem even worse. So, here’s my list of the seven most common, and specific, red flags that have popped up throughout my last year as a freelancer.

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Red Flag #1 – Tasks marked “urgent” AKA “I needed this done yesterday.”

Okay, was your corporate website hacked and now routing to porn sites? I agree, that’s urgent and I’ll help you get that fixed that right away. But for just about anything else, bugger off. Seriously, please stop sending requests that require a time machine to complete. Your developer isn’t Marty McFly, I’m sorry.

time machine

I’ve literally had clients ask me to complete their full website development project, A to Z, by the time the sun goes down. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but requests like these aren’t going to happen, ever.

Requests like this scream poor time management on the client’s end and if you end up taking on a project like this, you can rest assured it’ll be high-pressure with low reward. #ThanksButNoThanks

Other times clients mark their project as “urgent” yet still expect to pay the standard rate… Say what?

Think about ordering from Amazon — if you want overnight delivery, you pay more, right? Well, the same concept applies here. I wasn’t expecting your urgent project, so now I’ve got to push other clients back in order to to bump you to the front of the line. Express delivery = higher rates. That’s just how it is.

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Red Flag #2 – Blaming the exchange rate.

Developers are not bankers. I’m sorry, but we don’t have those fancy up-to-the-second tickers like they do at the bank or the airport to compare the relative value of your local currency against ours.

Clients who blame the exchange rate then try to negotiate a better deal are being petty.

get paid

If money is really an issue, then you should figure out your maximum budget then compile a list of your wants vs needs. As a developer, I’m happy to work through your task list one-by-one for as long as your budget allows. But, I’m not going to do huge favors solely based on the current exchange rate.

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Red Flag #3 – Touting your non-profit status.

If you’re a non-profit business, that’s great! But, most of us are for-profit developers. Our heart strings will not be tugged by your tales of community stewardship. We’re not trying to sound like a bunch of heartless monsters, but we can’t set a precedent of providing favorable treatment based on circumstance.

Once per year I’ll personally take on a pro-bono project for one legitimate non-profit organization, but that’s by far the exception to the rule. I can’t donate my time to every group that approaches me, so please do us both a favor and stop including your non-profit sob story as the opening line of your project brief.

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Red Flag #4 – Attempting to negotiate.

Negotiate once, shame on you. Negotiate after I warn you that I don’t negotiate, and I’m out.

Often times when you’re hiring, or purchasing from the best in the business there won’t be any room for negotiation. Don’t believe me? Head on down to your local Ferrari dealership and try breaking the ice with their salesman by attempting to negotiate the price. How’d that go for you, did they laugh you off the lot?

Now, I’d like to think you’ll have a more pleasant experience with a developer than a used car salesman, but still, please stop trying to haggle with us. Again, it comes back to creating your needs vs wants list.

Successful freelancer rules to follow

Simply put, if you want to reduce the price, you need to reduce the workload.

We’re in business to put a smile on your face from the work we do, not the discounts we hand out.

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Red Flag #5 – Posting the same task multiple times.

Developers are smart. You’re going to have a hard time pulling one over on them, especially when they’re working so closely together.

That isn’t supposed to be a cocky statement either. I’m saying that any attempts to game the system and start a lowest-bid war by posting the same task multiple times on the same network isn’t going to work.

Post your task once, if the estimate isn’t aligned with your expectations then let’s figure out why.

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Red Flag #6 – Not knowing your passwords.

In the first part of this series I mentioned that we developers dislike lazy clients (red-flag #3).

But not knowing your passwords takes lazy to another level. C’mon now, this seems like common sense, you’re going to need to know your passwords in order for your developer to get started working.

When we ask for your login information and you say “try this” we’re instantly less excited about you.

try this

99% of the time, passwords prefaced with “try this” don’t work, and neither will the next couple you send either. Great, so now we’ve both wasted our time and you still need to reset your password anyways.

If you can’t spend 30 seconds testing your own logins before sending them to us, we’re moving on.

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Red Flag #7 – Not accepting an experts advice.

This is just the nature of any client/contractor job in any field. But still, some clients think they know better than the experts whom they’re trying to hire to solve their problems.

It’s perfectly fine to have an opinion, but you’re consulting with experts for a reason. Many developers on Codeable, all of whom are among the top 2% in their field, reject clients with a “my way or the highway” mentality. To be blunt, we’re only interested in your money if you’re interested in best practices.

codeable expert wordpress developers

Just because you can pay for it doesn’t mean we’re going to build it for you. Our reputation is on the line with every project and we believe in providing quality work above all else, every single time.

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So there you have it. An extensive, but never totally complete, list of ways you can set yourself apart and establish yourself as a great client while searching for expert developers. I’m sure I’ll continue adding onto this list over the coming months as surprises are seemingly never-ending in this business.

I hope you’ve learned something here from a developer’s perspective, I’d be happy to chat about this topic with you any time. If it seems like I’m picky when it comes to new projects, well, that’s because I am.

I’m passionate about the work I do, and the clients I work for — so, if you’re a great client, let’s connect!

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