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



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!

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).

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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No Algorithmic Actions For Site Reputation Abuse Yet




Looking up at an angle at the Google sign on the Head Office for Canada

Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, has confirmed that the search engine hasn’t launched algorithmic actions targeting site reputation abuse.

This clarification addresses speculation within the SEO community that recent traffic drops are related to Google’s previously announced policy update.

Sullivan Says No Update Rolled Out

Lily Ray, an SEO professional, shared a screenshot on Twitter showing a significant drop in traffic for the website Groupon starting on May 6.

Ray suggested this was evidence that Google had begun rolling out algorithmic penalties for sites violating the company’s site reputation abuse policy.

However, Sullivan quickly stepped in, stating:

“We have not gone live with algorithmic actions on site reputation abuse. I well imagine when we do, we’ll be very clear about that. Publishers seeing changes and thinking it’s this — it’s not — results change all the time for all types of reasons.”

Sullivan added that when the actions are rolled out, they will only impact specific content, not entire websites.

This is an important distinction, as it suggests that even if a site has some pages manually penalized, the rest of the domain can rank normally.

Background On Google’s Site Reputation Abuse Policy

Earlier this year, Google announced a new policy to combat what it calls “site reputation abuse.”

This refers to situations where third-party content is published on authoritative domains with little oversight or involvement from the host site.

Examples include sponsored posts, advertorials, and partner content that is loosely related to or unrelated to a site’s primary purpose.

Under the new policy, Google is taking manual action against offending pages and plans to incorporate algorithmic detection.

What This Means For Publishers & SEOs

While Google hasn’t launched any algorithmic updates related to site reputation abuse, the manual actions have publishers on high alert.

Those who rely heavily on sponsored content or partner posts to drive traffic should audit their sites and remove any potential policy violations.

Sullivan’s confirmation that algorithmic changes haven’t occurred may provide temporary relief.

Additionally, his statements also serve as a reminder that significant ranking fluctuations can happen at any time due to various factors, not just specific policy rollouts.


Will Google’s future algorithmic actions impact entire websites or specific content?

When Google eventually rolls out algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse, these actions will target specific content rather than the entire website.

This means that if certain pages are found to be in violation, only those pages will be affected, allowing other parts of the site to continue ranking normally.

What should publishers and SEOs do in light of Google’s site reputation abuse policy?

Publishers and SEO professionals should audit their sites to identify and remove any content that may violate Google’s site reputation abuse policy.

This includes sponsored posts and partner content that doesn’t align with the site’s primary purpose. Taking these steps can mitigate the risk of manual penalties from Google.

What is the context of the recent traffic drops seen in the SEO community?

Google claims the recent drops for coupon sites aren’t linked to any algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse. Traffic fluctuations can occur for various reasons and aren’t always linked to a specific algorithm update.

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WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric




WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric

WP Rocket, the WordPress page speed performance plugin, just announced the release of a new version that will help publishers optimize for Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), an important Core Web Vitals metric.

Large Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is a page speed metric that’s designed to show how fast it takes for a user to perceive that the page is loaded and read to be interacted with. This metric measures the time it takes for the main content elements has fully loaded. This gives an idea of how usable a webpage is. The faster the LCP the better the user experience will be.

WP Rocket 3.16

WP Rocket is a caching plugin that helps a site perform faster. The way page caching generally works is that the website will store frequently accessed webpages and resources so that when someone visits the page the website doesn’t have to fetch the data from the database, which takes time, but instead will serve the webpage from the cache. This is super important when a website has a lot of site visitors because that can use a lot of server resources to fetch and build the same website over and over for every visitor.

The lastest version of WP Rocket (3.16) now contains Automatic LCP optimization, which means that it will optimize the on-page elements from the main content so that they are served first thereby raising the LCP scores and providing a better user experience.

Because it’s automatic there’s really nothing to fiddle around with or fine tune.

According to WP Rocket:

  • Automatic LCP Optimization: Optimizes the Largest Contentful Paint, a critical metric for website speed, automatically enhancing overall PageSpeed scores.
  • Smart Management of Above-the-Fold Images: Automatically detects and prioritizes critical above-the-fold images, loading them immediately to improve user experience and performance metrics.

All new functionalities operate seamlessly in the background, requiring no direct intervention from the user. Upon installing or upgrading to WP Rocket 3.16, these optimizations are automatically enabled, though customization options remain accessible for those who prefer manual control.”

Read the official announcement:

WP Rocket 3.16: Improving LCP and PageSpeed Score Automatically

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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide




Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

This post was sponsored by DebugBear. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

Keeping your website fast is important for user experience and SEO.

The Core Web Vitals initiative by Google provides a set of metrics to help you understand the performance of your website.

The three Core Web Vitals metrics are:

This post focuses on the recently introduced INP metric and what you can do to improve it.

How Is Interaction To Next Paint Measured?

INP measures how quickly your website responds to user interactions – for example, a click on a button. More specifically, INP measures the time in milliseconds between the user input and when the browser has finished processing the interaction and is ready to display any visual updates on the page.

Your website needs to complete this process in under 200 milliseconds to get a “Good” score. Values over half a second are considered “Poor”. A poor score in a Core Web Vitals metric can negatively impact your search engine rankings.

Google collects INP data from real visitors on your website as part of the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX). This CrUX data is what ultimately impacts rankings.

Image created by DebugBear, May 2024

How To Identify & Fix Slow INP Times

The factors causing poor Interaction to Next Paint can often be complex and hard to figure out. Follow this step-by-step guide to understand slow interactions on your website and find potential optimizations.

1. How To Identify A Page With Slow INP Times

Different pages on your website will have different Core Web Vitals scores. So you need to identify a slow page and then investigate what’s causing it to be slow.

Using Google Search Console

One easy way to check your INP scores is using the Core Web Vitals section in Google Search Console, which reports data based on the Google CrUX data we’ve discussed before.

By default, page URLs are grouped into URL groups that cover many different pages. Be careful here – not all pages might have the problem that Google is reporting. Instead, click on each URL group to see if URL-specific data is available for some pages and then focus on those.

1716368164 358 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of Google Search Console, May 2024

Using A Real-User Monitoring (RUM) Service

Google won’t report Core Web Vitals data for every page on your website, and it only provides the raw measurements without any details to help you understand and fix the issues. To get that you can use a real-user monitoring tool like DebugBear.

Real-user monitoring works by installing an analytics snippet on your website that measures how fast your website is for your visitors. Once that’s set up you’ll have access to an Interaction to Next Paint dashboard like this:

1716368164 404 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Interaction to Next Paint dashboard, May 2024

You can identify pages you want to optimize in the list, hover over the URL, and click the funnel icon to look at data for that specific page only.

1716368164 975 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideImage created by DebugBear, May 2024

2. Figure Out What Element Interactions Are Slow

Different visitors on the same page will have different experiences. A lot of that depends on how they interact with the page: if they click on a background image there’s no risk of the page suddenly freezing, but if they click on a button that starts some heavy processing then that’s more likely. And users in that second scenario will experience much higher INP.

To help with that, RUM data provides a breakdown of what page elements users interacted with and how big the interaction delays were.

1716368164 348 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Elements view, May 2024

The screenshot above shows different INP interactions sorted by how frequent these user interactions are. To make optimizations as easy as possible you’ll want to focus on a slow interaction that affects many users.

In DebugBear, you can click on the page element to add it to your filters and continue your investigation.

3. Identify What INP Component Contributes The Most To Slow Interactions

INP delays can be broken down into three different components:

  • Input Delay: Background code that blocks the interaction from being processed.
  • Processing Time: The time spent directly handling the interaction.
  • Presentation Delay: Displaying the visual updates to the screen.

You should focus on which INP component is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time, and ensure you keep that in mind during your investigation.

1716368164 193 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Components, May 2024

In this scenario, Processing Time is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time for the set of pages you’re looking at, but you need to dig deeper to understand why.

High processing time indicates that there is code intercepting the user interaction and running slow performing code. If instead you saw a high input delay, that suggests that there are background tasks blocking the interaction from being processed, for example due to third-party scripts.

4. Check Which Scripts Are Contributing To Slow INP

Sometimes browsers report specific scripts that are contributing to a slow interaction. Your website likely contains both first-party and third-party scripts, both of which can contribute to slow INP times.

A RUM tool like DebugBear can collect and surface this data. The main thing you want to look at is whether you mostly see your own website code or code from third parties.

1716368164 369 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Domain Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

Tip: When you see a script, or source code function marked as “N/A”, this can indicate that the script comes from a different origin and has additional security restrictions that prevent RUM tools from capturing more detailed information.

This now begins to tell a story: it appears that analytics/third-party scripts are the biggest contributors to the slow INP times.

5. Identify Why Those Scripts Are Running

At this point, you now have a strong suspicion that most of the INP delay, at least on the pages and elements you’re looking at, is due to third-party scripts. But how can you tell whether those are general tracking scripts or if they actually have a role in handling the interaction?

DebugBear offers a breakdown that helps see why the code is running, called the INP Primary Script Invoker breakdown. That’s a bit of a mouthful – multiple different scripts can be involved in slowing down an interaction, and here you just see the biggest contributor. The “Invoker” is just a value that the browser reports about what caused this code to run.

1716368165 263 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Invoker Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

The following invoker names are examples of page-wide event handlers:

  • onclick
  • onmousedown
  • onpointerup

You can see those a lot in the screenshot above, which tells you that the analytics script is tracking clicks anywhere on the page.

In contrast, if you saw invoker names like these that would indicate event handlers for a specific element on the page:

  • .load_more.onclick
  • #logo.onclick

6. Review Specific Page Views

A lot of the data you’ve seen so far is aggregated. It’s now time to look at the individual INP events, to form a definitive conclusion about what’s causing slow INP in this example.

Real user monitoring tools like DebugBear generally offer a way to review specific user experiences. For example, you can see what browser they used, how big their screen is, and what element led to the slowest interaction.

1716368165 545 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a Page View in DebugBear Real User Monitoring, May 2024

As mentioned before, multiple scripts can contribute to overall slow INP. The INP Scripts section shows you the scripts that were run during the INP interaction:

1716368165 981 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP script breakdown, May 2024

You can review each of these scripts in more detail to understand why they run and what’s causing them to take longer to finish.

7. Use The DevTools Profiler For More Information

Real user monitoring tools have access to a lot of data, but for performance and security reasons they can access nowhere near all the available data. That’s why it’s a good idea to also use Chrome DevTools to measure your page performance.

To debug INP in DevTools you can measure how the browser processes one of the slow interactions you’ve identified before. DevTools then shows you exactly how the browser is spending its time handling the interaction.

1716368165 526 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a performance profile in Chrome DevTools, May 2024

How You Might Resolve This Issue

In this example, you or your development team could resolve this issue by:

  • Working with the third-party script provider to optimize their script.
  • Removing the script if it is not essential to the website, or finding an alternative provider.
  • Adjusting how your own code interacts with the script

How To Investigate High Input Delay

In the previous example most of the INP time was spent running code in response to the interaction. But often the browser is already busy running other code when a user interaction happens. When investigating the INP components you’ll then see a high input delay value.

This can happen for various reasons, for example:

  • The user interacted with the website while it was still loading.
  • A scheduled task is running on the page, for example an ongoing animation.
  • The page is loading and rendering new content.

To understand what’s happening, you can review the invoker name and the INP scripts section of individual user experiences.

1716368165 86 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Component breakdown within DebugBear, May 2024

In this screenshot, you can see that a timer is running code that coincides with the start of a user interaction.

The script can be opened to reveal the exact code that is run:

1716368165 114 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of INP script details in DebugBear, May 2024

The source code shown in the previous screenshot comes from a third-party user tracking script that is running on the page.

At this stage, you and your development team can continue with the INP workflow presented earlier in this article. For example, debugging with browser DevTools or contacting the third-party provider for support.

How To Investigate High Presentation Delay

Presentation delay tends to be more difficult to debug than input delay or processing time. Often it’s caused by browser behavior rather than a specific script. But as before, you still start by identifying a specific page and a specific interaction.

You can see an example interaction with high presentation delay here:

1716368165 665 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the an interaction with high presentation delay, May 2024

You see that this happens when the user enters text into a form field. In this example, many visitors pasted large amounts of text that the browser had to process.

Here the fix was to delay the processing, show a “Waiting…” message to the user, and then complete the processing later on. You can see how the INP score improves from May 3:

1716368165 845 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of an Interaction to Next Paint timeline in DebugBear, May 2024

Get The Data You Need To Improve Interaction To Next Paint

Setting up real user monitoring helps you understand how users experience your website and what you can do to improve it. Try DebugBear now by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

1716368165 494 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Core Web Vitals dashboard, May 2024

Google’s CrUX data is aggregated over a 28-day period, which means that it’ll take a while before you notice a regression. With real-user monitoring you can see the impact of website changes right away and get alerted automatically when there’s a big change.

DebugBear monitors lab data, CrUX data, and real user data. That way you have all the data you need to optimize your Core Web Vitals in one place.

This article has been sponsored by DebugBear, and the views presented herein represent the sponsor’s perspective.

Ready to start optimizing your website? Sign up for DebugBear and get the data you need to deliver great user experiences.

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Featured Image: Image by Used with permission.

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