7 Red Flags You Should Watch Out for As A Creative

In any service-based business, there's the potential to have what I call - and excuse my language - "client clusterf**ks". Let's call them CCF's for short.

These are those moments in working with a client that make you pull your hair out. You might even regret taking on their project altogether. 

The thing is with most of these CCF's, they're pretty avoidable. It's often not worth taking on a client that presents a few warning signs. Sometimes the issue is YOUR system (onboarding + communication) and sometimes they were always going to be problem clients. You just needed to watch out for red flags. 

Would rather watch a video than read the blog? Here you go, pal:

Below are 7 red flags you should watch out for when scoping out a potential client:

1. They negotiate your contract. 

If you've ever been sent back "contract revisions", then chances are that client was a bad fit. Remember: Your contract terms are there for a reason. Those reasons protect both yourself and the client and set the course for a healthy & productive client relationship.

2. They are vague about bad experiences.

They are unhappy with the work previously completed by another creative. They are dissatisfied. But they can't tell you why. They just "didn't like the results".

This is a clear sign of someone who is never going to be happy even if you do your absolute best work. 

3. "Too many cooks in the kitchen."

If they have a large team, all of whom have an equal say in your project, then that's definitely a red flag. Here's why: no two people’s vision are ever going to be totally in line with each other, so you will inevitably be setting yourself up for making one client happy while disappointing the other.

For designers, this might look like having a team of business owners that can’t hone in on their brand vision. For a photographer, this might look like having a bride that really wants to shoot lots of portraits on their wedding day while the groom prefers only candids.

It’s always going to be impossible to please everyone and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

4. They ask you to copy another creative.

If a client, before booking even, asks you if they can send you "inspiration", you have to immediately assess if they just want to communicate their vision visually or if they want you to straight up copy someone else's work. If it's the latter, RUN.

5. They don't have the basic skills for pre-work.

This one is tricky. The potential client is lacking the skills needed to successfully complete your project or maintain your work.

Designers - I'm looking at you here. If you need your client to follow your feedback system or understand how Wordpress works - and that client is completely unfamiliar with that system and seemingly unable to learn, that’s going to be a big red flag.

6. They need 24/7 support (aka. babysitting).

As much as you want to be a service owner that is totally cool and ready to serve your clients however they need, you just can’t because you are HUMAN. Being too available actually decreases your value as a business owner. Dropping everything to help your client at any ungodly hour tells them that your time is endless and cheap. Set boundaries early and stick to them.

7. THE BIG ONE - They ask you to work for free or for a discount!

Bye Felicia! Just kidding... but not really. I get that everyone has a budget but if someone straight up asks for you to work for free or asks about a discount off the bat they will likely never value your work enough to pay for it.

So if you're thinking that you'll offer them work for free now and they'll be sucked in and hire you for paid work, think again.

What's worse is if they belittle you about your prices. Run, don't walk away from that client. 


Being able to figure out what to do when a client isn't the right fit is such an underrated skill for a business owner. The solution is rooted in knowing who your ideal client IS.

My FREE Target Market Workbook will help you assess exactly who you should be focussing your efforts on to serve. Just enter your info below to receive your copy!

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What are YOUR unique red flags? Share them in the comments below!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thanks for dropping by! I'm Caileigh and I create killer brand identities and offer coaching for creative entrepreneurs with gumption. When I'm not helping people build profitable businesses, I document love stories as a fine art film photographer. 

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