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25 Surefire Signs You’re Dealing With A Client From Hell

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25 Surefire Signs You’re Dealing With A Client From Hell


We’ve all heard the stories… and sadly, most of us have lived one or two of them, as well.

They range from high maintenance and unreasonable to demanding, insulting, and just plain rude.

They’re the clients from hell.

I have my own client from hell story or two – okay, more than two.

Getting out of these situations can be a nightmare.

So how do you avoid getting into them in the first place?

Don’t ignore the red flags!

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Check out these 25 major warning signs that you might be dealing with a client from hell.

1. They Insult You

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” is an early warning sign that your expertise won’t be respected.

And that’s if you’re dealing with a client from hell who has a little bit of self-control.

The worst of the worst won’t hold back when it comes to using colorful language.

2. They Email You On The Weekend & Expect A Response

Some clients use the weekends to get ahead on projects.

While it’s okay to send emails during this timeframe (using a scheduling tool like Boomerang is better), it’s not alright for them to expect an immediate response.

Head off this potential issue by discussing “office hours” with each client.

These are specific times they can expect a response (e.g.: 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday), as well as your average response time for emails (e.g.: 24-48 hours during the week).

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3. They Text You & Expect An Immediate Response

Be wary of the client who’s always trying to text you.

Besides the fact that it’s annoying and bleeds into your out-of-office time, it’s always easier to manage responses (and items in need of follow-up) contained within an email inbox.

Avoid this potential issue by stipulating methods and frequency of communication within your contract.

For example: “With your current plan, you can schedule one included strategy meeting with me per month and unlimited access via email. Any additional meetings will be billed at a rate of $xx/hour.”

4. They Give Zero Direction & Have Endless Revisions

Although it may be your job to develop ideas, that doesn’t mean that your client doesn’t have to chime in regarding some sort of template or framework for the final deliverable they’re looking for.

If they insist that you move forward regardless, you’re looking at endless revisions – perhaps not covered by the scope of work initially quoted.

Head off this potential issue with some sort of intake process that includes questions designed to get this information from your client.

Before starting on any new project, define the total number of revisions included in your rate in the contract.

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If you still think that you may be in the process of signing a client from hell, make sure to get payment upfront.

You don’t want them stiffing you if they’re still unhappy when the project is completed.

5. They Send Passive Aggressive Emails

Elements of a conversation sometimes get lost in written communications.

You might think that a client is giving you lip, but it could also just be the way they come across over email.

But, if you’re getting more “Please advise” messages than “Great work!” it might be a sign that you’re dealing with a client from hell.

If you detect what you think is passive-aggressiveness on email, don’t wait – get on the phone and sort it out.

If you can’t come to a conclusion over this new medium, it might make sense to part ways.

6. They Have Issues Signing A Contract

Is there a bigger red flag than this?

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If they won’t sign a simple contract agreeing to the scope of work and can’t give any specific reasons as to why you’re better off ditching this prospect before they become a bona fide client from hell.

7. They Consistently Pay Late

Even the clients who are the easiest to get along with can become a client from hell when they fail to show you the respect that you deserve.

If you’re dealing with someone who fails to pay on time, it will stress you out and take your focus away from more important things.

Avoid this potential issue by getting payment upfront, whenever possible.

Clearly define payment terms in your contract, alongside a late fee, so that there’s no question as to when your client has agreed to pay you.

8. They Want You To Use (A Bunch Of) Their Tools

Sometimes, working with a new client means an onboarding process that includes being invited to a new project management platform and accounts where you can glean the data that you need to complete the job they hired you for.

Acquiescing to using a few new client tools is to be expected, but being required to learn a bunch of new systems can be extremely time-consuming and hard on your focus.

Head off this potential issue with a great discovery process.

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Add this question to your prospecting, “If we were to work together, are there any specific tools I would need to become familiar with and use on a regular basis?”

Based on the client’s answer, you can either build in the cost of getting to know/using these tools – or disqualify them as being a potential headache to deal with.

9. They Have You On A Minute-By-Minute Schedule

…and they want you to report back to them in kind.

These clients from hell will make working with them so annoying that their overbearing nature will inevitably get in the way of getting any work done!

Head off this potential issue by charging a project rate instead of an hourly rate.

Being able to budget for the whole deliverable (as opposed to being worried about variability) will put potential clients from hell at ease – giving you room to breathe and do your job.

10. They Say You Charge Too Much

Maybe you do charge too much, as far as their budget is concerned.

Regardless, someone who puts you down and doesn’t think you’re worth all the hard work you’ve put into developing your skills isn’t someone you’re going to want to have to deal with on a regular basis.

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Avoid this potential issue by making your rates (or ranges/minimums) publicly known on your website.

This will deter the clients who don’t have the budget to work with you while advancing the sale with those to whom your rates are not an issue.

11. They Act Like They’re Doing You A Favor By Giving You Crappy Work At Ridiculously Low Prices

Does it even really need to be said?

Avoid this type of client from hell.

Head off this potential issue by staying away from content mills and freelancer platforms like Upwork.

12. They Threaten Your Reputation

Despite your best efforts, there will be situations where a client absolutely hates a deliverable and decides that, instead of giving you the opportunity to make it better, they’d rather publicly smear you.

Set the record straight if a client decides to publicly shame you.

Publish your own account of what happened with simple facts – let readers come to their own conclusions.

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That said, you can get into trouble if you initiate any public shaming, so be prepared to drop it if your client keeps their negativity confined to within your private conversations.

13. They Act Weird When You Talk Money Details

If you’re getting a sense that a prospect has issues with your pricing but they’re not coming out and saying it – try directly addressing it.

If you’re still sensing some weirdness, but want to give working with them a try, make sure to charge upfront.

14. They Can’t Answer Simple Questions About Their Business

Even the most pleasant people become clients from hell when they can’t articulate the information you need to know to do your job.

If you’re dealing with someone who has a lot of ideas but doesn’t have the focus to execute any one of them well, it’s a red flag you need to consider.

15. They Don’t Have Time For Small Talk

The best clients start every call with a little idle chit-chat.

This is what separates an awesome client from a client from hell.

If they can’t connect on a human-to-human basis and instead dive straight into business, it’s going to be a tough work environment.

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16. They Have Impossible Demands/Requests

“I want to create the next Google” is probably not something that they can achieve based on working with you alone.

That’s not to say that you’re not awesome, just that they have extremely unrealistic expectations.

You might be able to bill them for a few months, but when they realize they won’t ever get what they really want and think that you’ve misled them, the fallout will be more stressful than the pay could ever be worth.

To avoid this potential issue, talk about key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals before work begins.

17. They Don’t Listen To Your Expertise, Then Blame You When Things Go Wrong

So many clients from hell can be described as those that take your deliverable and gut it of all the things you implemented for the direct purpose of achieving their goal.

Your work, now an unrecognizable mess, is no longer optimized for its initial purpose.

Even though it’s not your fault, a client from hell will blame it all on you when things go wrong.

And that should be the last project you complete for them.

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18. They Expect Immediate Results From A Long-Term Campaign

Some clients may think it’s “BS” to have to wait for SEO results and may quiz you on progress every day. I mean how long does SEO take?

Head off this potential issue by educating your client as to typical results and when clients can expect to see them.

If there are still issues, you might have to have the “I think we may not be a fit” conversation.

19. They Expect You To Always Be On-Call

Besides immediate responses, they also expect immediate deliverables.

Avoid this potential issue by defining turnaround and rush fees for any accepted projects in need of a turnaround in a shorter time frame.

Stress the importance of your prerogative to reject work within a short turnaround time, especially if it would bleed into your personal life.

Establishing boundaries is important for achieving an ideal work-life balance.

20. They Need You To Be Their Tech Support In Addition To The Job They Actually Hired You For

This is especially relevant when you provide digital marketing services but your client has no idea how it all works.

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Head off this potential problem by defining the cost of providing tech support/exceedingly in-depth explanations as to what you’re doing, or ask questions to suss out a potential technophobe client from hell during the discovery process.

21. They Take Credit For Something You Did, To Someone Else At Their Company

Not unlike a corporate job, this type of client from hell can really take the wind out of your sails.

If you’re not interested in credit, this may not be a problem.

Regardless, dealing with a liar can bleed over to include other troublesome client-from-hell warning signs.

22. Unscheduled Calls & Constant Meetings

All clients are different and some may require weekly meetings to stay on top of things.

If that’s defined in your contract and you’ve accounted for it in your pricing, there are no issues.

A client from hell is someone who’s especially needy and hasn’t given you the opportunity to account for all this extra hand-holding in your contract.

If they’re constantly calling you and require additional meetings on top of what’s stipulated in your contract, you’ll want to cut your losses sooner rather than later.

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23. They Make You Feel Like You’re In Competition With Other Freelancers/Vendors

If a client is unhappy with the work you create, their feedback should make that obvious.

If they’re unhappy enough to threaten to outsource your role to someone else – let them.

You don’t need someone acting like you’re no good but stringing you along, anyway.

24. They Ask You To Compromise Your Ethics

With increasing privacy/security standards like that of GDPR, it’s more important now than ever to be compliant with the work you’re doing for clients.

If you inform a client that a specific action clearly goes against your ethics, but they ask you to complete it anyway, you’d better get out before you’re implicated in their bad behavior.

25. Their Edits Take Your Work From Great To Tacky

Even if they don’t blame you for what their Frankenstein edits have done to your deliverable, it’s hard to be proud of something that you’ve created if it doesn’t achieve the potential you knew it was capable of.

If a client constantly puts you in a position where your work is transformed into something tacky, you’re better off spending your time looking for someone who appreciates you as you are.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, as much as we try to avoid dealing with such horrific clients, you may need to fire a client.

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When this time comes, be direct and try to maintain cordial relations.

Use this as a learning opportunity and focus on attracting more of the type of clients that grow your business.

More Resources:


Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock

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When To Canonicalize, Noindex, Or Do Nothing With Similar Content

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When To Canonicalize, Noindex, Or Do Nothing With Similar Content

Picture your content as you do yourself. Are you carrying some baggage you could get rid of? Carrying something you want to keep but maybe want to repurpose or see differently?

This is no different when it comes to website content. We’ve all likely sat around as a group of minds thinking about the content we would like to slice off our website but realize there is still a need for it, whether it is for a specific prospect, internal team, etc.

While we look for ways to slim our websites as much as possible for content management purposes, we also want to do the same to appease crawling search engine bots.

We want their, hopefully, daily visit to our websites to be fast and succinct.

This hopefully shows them who we are, what we are about, and ultimately – if we have to have content that can’t be removed – how we are labeling it for them.

Luckily, search engine crawlers want to understand our content just as much as we want this of them. Given to us are chances to canonicalize content and noindex content.

However, beware, not doing this correctly could render important website content misunderstood by search engine crawlers or not read at all.

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Canonicalize?

Screenshot by author, July 2022

Canonical tags provide a great way of instructing search engines: “Yes, we know this content is not that unique or valuable, but we must have it.”

It can also be a great way to point value to content originating from another domain or vice versa.

Nonetheless, now is your time to show the crawling bots how you perceive website content.

To utilize, you must place this tag within the head section of the source code.

The canonical tag can be a great way to deal with content that you know is duplicate or similar, but it must exist for user needs on the site or a slow site maintenance team.

If you think this tag is an ideal fit for your website, review your website and address site sections that appear to have separate URLs but have similar content (e.g., copy, image, headings, title elements, etc.).

Website auditing tools such as Screaming Frog and the Semrush Site Audit section are a quick way to see content similarities.

If you think there might be some other similar content culprits out there, you can take a deeper look with tools such as Similar Page Checker and Siteliner, which will review your site for similar content.

Now that you have a good feel for cases of similarity, you need to understand if this lack of uniqueness is worthy of canonicalization. Here are a few examples and solutions:

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Example 1: Your website exists at both HTTP and HTTPS versions of site pages, or your website exists with both www. and non-www. page versions.

Solution: Place a canonical tag to the page version with the most significant amount of links, internal links, etc., until you can redirect all duplicating pages one-to-one. 

Example 2: You sell products that are highly similar where there is no unique copy on these pages but slight variations in the name, image, price, etc. Should you canonically point the specific product pages to the product parent page?

Solution: Here, my advice is to do nothing. These pages are unique enough to be indexed. They have unique names differentiating them, and this could help you for long-tail keyword instances.

Example 3: You sell t-shirts but have a page for every color and every shirt.

Solution: Canonical tag the color pages to reference the parent shirt page. Each page isn’t a particular product, just a very similar variation.

Use Case: Canonical Tagging Content That’s Unique Enough To Succeed

Similar to the example presented above, I wanted to explain that sometimes, slightly similar content can still be appropriate for indexation.

What if it was shirts with child pages for different shirt types like long sleeves, tank tops, etc.? This now becomes a different product, not just a variation. As also previously mentioned, this can serve successful for long-tail web searches.

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Here’s a great example: An automotive sales site that features pages for car makes, associated models, and variations of those models (2Dr, 4Dr, V8, V6, deluxe edition, etc.). The initial thought with this site is that all variations are simply near duplications of the model pages.

You may think, why would we want to annoy search engines with this near duplicative content when we can canonicalize these pages to point to the model page as the representative page?

We moved in this direction but still, the anxiety on whether these pages could succeed made us move to canonically tag each respective model page.

Suppose you canonically tag to the parent model page. Even if you show the content importance/hierarchy to search engines, they may still rank the canonicalized page if the search is relatively specific.

So, what did we see?

We found that organic traffic increased to both child and parent pages. It’s my opinion that when you give credit back to the child pages, the parent page looks to have more authority as it has many child pages which are now given back “credit.”

Monthly traffic to all these pages together grew five times.

Since September of this year, when we revised the canonical tags, there is now 5x monthly organic traffic to this site area, with 754 pages driving organic traffic compared to the 154 recognized earlier in the previous year.

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Monthly traffic to all these pages together grew five times.Screenshot by author with Semrush, July 2022

Don’t Make These Canonicalization Mistakes

  • Setting canonical tags that endure a redirect before resolving to the final page can do a great disservice. This will slow search engines as it forces them to try to understand content importance but are now jumping URLs.
  • Similarly, if you point canonical tags towards URL targets that are 404-ing error pages, then you essentially point them into a wall.
  • Canonical tagging to the wrong page version (i.e., www./non-www., HTTP/HTTPS). We discussed finding through website crawling tools that you may have unintentional website duplication. Don’t mistake pointing page importance to a weaker page version.

Noindex?

You can also utilize the meta robots noindex tag to exclude similar or duplicate content entirely.

Placing the noindex tag in the head section of your source code will stop search engines from indexing these pages.

Beware: While the meta robots noindex tag is a quick way to remove duplicate content from ranking consideration, it can be dangerous to your organic traffic if you fail to use it appropriately.

This tag has been used in the past to weed down large sites to present only search-critical site pages so that site crawl spend is as efficient as possible.

However, you want search engines to see all relevant site content to understand site taxonomy and the hierarchy of pages.

However, if this tag doesn’t scare you too much, you can use it to let search engines only crawl and index what you deem fresh, unique content.

Here are a couple of ways noindexing might be discussed as a solution:

Example 1: To aid your customers, you can provide documentation from the manufacturer, even though they already feature this on their website.

Solution: Continue providing documentation to aid your on-site customers but noindex these pages.

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They are already owned and indexed with the manufacturer, which likely has much more domain authority than you. In other words, you will not likely be the ranking website for this content.

Example 2: You offer several different but similar products. The only differentiation is color, size, count, etc. We don’t want to waste crawl spend.

Solution: Solve via the use of canonical tags. A long-tail search could drive qualified traffic because a given page would still be indexed and able to rank.

Example 3: You have a lot of old products that you don’t sell much of anymore and are no longer a primary focus.

Solution: This perfect scenario is likely found in a content or sales audit. If the products do little for the company, consider retirement.

Consider either canonically pointing these pages to relevant categorical pages or redirecting them to relevant categorical pages. These pages have age/trust, may have links, and may possess rankings.

Use Case: Don’t Sacrifice Rankings/Traffic For Crawl Spend Considerations

Regarding our website, we know we want to put our best foot forward for search engines.

We don’t want to waste their time when crawling, and we don’t want to create a perception that most of our content lacks uniqueness.

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In the example below, to reduce the bloat of somewhat similar product page content from search engine reviews, meta robots noindex tags were placed on child product variation pages during the time of a domain transition/relaunch.

The below graph shows the total keyword amounts which transitioned from one domain to another.

When the meta robots noindex tags were removed, the overall amount of ranking terms grew by 50%.

When the meta robots noindex tags were removed, the overall amount of ranking terms grew by 50%.Screenshot by author with Semrush, July 2022

Don’t Make These Meta Robots Noindex Mistakes

  • Don’t place a meta robots noindex tag on a page with an inbound link value. If so, you should permanently redirect the page in question to another relevant site page. Placing the tag will eliminate the valuable link equity that you have.
  • If you’re noindexing a page that is included in the main, footer, or supporting navigation, make sure that the directive isn’t “noindex, nofollow” but “noindex, follow” so search engines that are crawling the site can still pass through the links on the noindexed page.

Conclusion

Sometimes it is hard to part ways with website content.

The canonical and meta robots noindex tags are a great way to preserve website functionality for all users while also instructing search engines.

In the end, be careful how you tag! It’s easy to lose search presence if you do not fully understand the tagging process.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Jack Frog/Shutterstock

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