Eight Dysfunctional Client Personality Types for Freelancers to Avoid

After years of freelance writing, I have developed an uncanny ability to spot a bad client quickly. Of course, this talent was honed after having been burned repeatedly by a wide selection of shockingly irritating and dysfunctional individuals who for one reason or another turned my life into a temporary nightmare. Thus, I thought that my insight I developed from experience could help those novice freelancers who are still trying to determine the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Before I get to the personality types that freelancers should watch out for when assessing a new client, I want to express my appreciation for the vast majority of those who provide me with projects (my clients). They’re wonderful, supportive, and have taught me many things through the years. They have been generous with referrals, inspired me, and many I now call friends. Without them, I would be probably sitting in a cubical somewhere not able to achieve my dreams and goals as I currently am thankfully doing.

That being said, here are the creeps to watch out for – whether you’re a writer, designer, photographer, programmer, strategist, or any other solo entrepreneur.

Johnny Namedropper
Johnny starts off by telling you that he’s “friends” with the mayor, in tight with a d-list celebrity, close with some important business guru who you’ve never heard of, or any number of so-called big wigs. Namedroppers have lofty thoughts of themselves and believe that they’re more powerful, important, or witty than you are simply because of who they know. They long for your respect, yet typically deliver lots of promises that never come to fruition. Expect low paying projects from Johnny Namedropper. Interestingly, I’ve worked with a number of high profile clients, and they’re typically the least likely individuals to name drop.

Brian Big Talker
Mr. Big Talker is a close relative to Johnny Namedropper. However, he’s more into talking about cash. He’ll gladly show you his business plan that details out his goals to be the next Donald Trump in the next six months. He has facts and figures from leading competitors, but doesn’t realize that he’s not a “leading competitor”. Brian is a dreamer and has a bloated ego. He’ll promise you a huge amount if you’ll just do this first project for little or nothing. He says things like, “Stick with me and we’ll go far.” And, “You and I will be sitting on a beach somewhere counting our cash 12 months from now.” If you hear these quotes or ones like it, run fast. Brian Big Talker will be saying the same cliché things 30 years from now as he sits in the senior center shooting the breeze with the over 65 set waiting for his social security check to arrive.

Secretive Sue
Secretive Sue won’t tell you anything about her micro-business until you sign an NDA and promise, promise not to tell anyone what she’s doing. Everyone is out to steal her “million dollar” idea for dog food, party planning, or some other mundane product and service. She’s paranoid, and fearful that you’ve been planted by her “competition” to steal her trade secrets. Secretive Sue will never give you enough information to ever successfully complete a project, and she’ll become even more suspicious of you the more questions you ask.

Candy Clueless
Candy doesn’t know how to send an email, properly use Word, or pay you using PayPal. Shoot! She’s never even heard of PayPal. If you can put up with receiving lots of phone calls and faxes because of her inability to work online, she can be an ok client. She’ll value your opinion and make you feel especially talented and smart. However, her constant questions can drive you to need a big glass of wine at the end of the day.

Mike Romanager
Mike Romanager’s mantra is if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. And, he’s always on a hunt to find your mistakes. He’ll send you floods of emails with so much detail that you’re wondering why he just isn’t doing the project himself. He’ll catch you every time you miss a comma in a sentence. Don’t expect a weekly call to catch up on things. Nope. He’ll be calling you hourly to “check status” of his projects. If you want to turn prematurely grey, choose lots of Mike Romanagers for your roster of clients.

Helpless Hank
Helpless Hank won’t write a sentence without your help, and needs you to read and give him feedback on every piece of junk mail and email spam that he receives. You’ll be left wondering why he ever thought he could be in business. His career path really should have been in something that required absolutely no decision-making skills. He’s usually one of your nicest clients and very appreciative of your help. But, he’s also wasting your time and most likely, not paying you for all of the little extras that he needs you to do for him.

Harry Last Minute
Harry is always on a tight deadline. He’ll call you up and frantically say things like, “Oh my god. I’m under the gun to get this proposal done in the next hour. Can you help me?” Sure, everyone from time to time has something that requires a quick turnaround. However, when it’s happening on a daily or even weekly basis and interrupting your planned-out calendar of projects, it’s time to gently remind him that all of your clients want their work done quickly. If he still doesn’t get it, you might have to cut him off all together. No one is ever perpetually in a last minute crunch who is effectively managing their business.

Tim Intimidator
Tim will challenge you on everything. He questions why you’re doing what you’re doing, and has no tact or diplomacy. He’s the proverbial jackass. Usually he’s scoped out quickly and rarely stays with a freelancer for very long. We solo entrepreneurs left traditional employment to get away from Tim Intimidators. Now that we can pick and choose who we work with, it’s easy to tell him to take a hike.

1 Comment

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One response to “Eight Dysfunctional Client Personality Types for Freelancers to Avoid

  1. chris

    Know it all Nick – the person who knows everything about everybody elses faults but never takes a look in the mirror.

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