How to Avoid Toxic Clients

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It’s becoming more and more common for web designers and developers to go it alone and set up their own design agencies and freelance businesses. There are plenty of positive things about working for yourself: creative control, flexibility, managing your own time and enjoying the sense of achievement that can be tricky to obtain when working to somebody else’s schedule. However, there are a few negative aspects that many freelancers struggle with, and one of these is what we’re going to be talking about today.

Toxic clients. Everybody’s worked with one and nobody wants to go through the stress of ending a toxic working relationship more than once. Whether they’re constantly trying to beat your prices down, giving you unrealistic deadlines or refusing to pay your invoices – it’s not fun, and it can be difficult to end the working relationship and remain professional and civil throughout. To try and help you avoid future toxic clients that may come knocking at your door, here are a few tips that we hope will help you maintain rewarding working relationships for many years to come.

    1. Know Your Worth

One of the most difficult things to do when working with clients is to stay firm when your prices are challenged. We’re not saying you should refuse to negotiate but know your lower limits and stick to them. Spend time getting to know the industry standard pricing and adjust it to take your own skills into account. Be firm, be polite and don’t accept less than you know you’re worth; if you do you could be on a slippery slope to resenting your client, which is the first step to poisoning a working relationship. And if they constantly undervaluing you by trying to drive your prices down? Then maybe they’re not a client you want to form a long-lasting relationship with.

2. Know Your Client’s Expectations

There’s nothing more important than managing expectations when it comes to maintaining healthy relationships with your clients. Before you send over contracts and finalise your business arrangement, take some time to get to know your client, their business and the tasks they want you to undertake.

Maybe you’re going to be creating branded images for their latest brochure, or maybe you’re going to manage their social media or design their new website – whatever it is, ensure they know how you work and what your turnaround time will be. Many work-related stresses come when a client expects more than you’re willing to (or more than you’re able to) offer, so set boundaries before contracts are exchanged and work begins.

3. Know When to Say No

Some clients and projects, no matter how well paid or enticing, just aren’t a good fit for you or your business. It can be tough to turn work down but it’s an essential part of being a business owner. Not every project is going to be suitable and you’re not going to work with every client for years to come – and that isn’t a negative reflection on you or the client.

In a recent course on business growth and development, Digital Marketer’s Ryan Deiss reminded us that every project you take on should help you work towards fulfilling your mission statement, so this is something to bear in mind when taking on a new client. Will they help you achieve your business goals, or is it just a way to earn a quick bit of cash in the meantime? And if you’re taking on a project just for the money, remind yourself why you left traditional employment to work for yourself – wasn’t it so you could do more than just work 9-5 to pay your bills?

4. Know Not to Take it Personally

When working with multiple clients it’s inevitable that you’ll run into disagreements from time to time. After all, everybody has a different working style and it’s impossible that you and all of your clients will have the exact same method of communicating. Plus, if the majority of your communication takes place over email then remember that tone of voice is missing and things can often sound a lot harsher than they were meant.

It’s easy to take things personally when a client comes to you with negative feedback or constructive criticism but taking things in your stride and staying calm in the face of potential conflict is an invaluable skill you’ll need to acquire if you want to avoid toxic relationships with your clients. Be straight with them, be honest and be sincere – nobody has time for game playing or passive aggressive notes.


We hope our tips for how to avoid toxic clients helped you out, and if there’s any advice you think we missed then please leave a comment and we’ll add it to thie post