Yes! You deserve a better client

David Yu
David Yu
Jul 3 · 5 min read

As freelancer and friend of freelancers, our well-being is often tied directly to the people who we work with. Heaven or hell.

When you move beyond the “beggar can’t be chooser” phase, meaning that you have established your reputation, and clients are coming to you instead of you approaching them.

As you try to distribute your finite time to clients, here’s a guide to effectively spot bad clients before they claim your time away from the good ones.

1. The Flaky One

Simply put, the one who can’t keep a simple promise.

Each failed promise, while seems painless by itself, they stack up and becomes a pattern.

Postponed meeting after postponed meeting, promised assets not received, contract signing delayed, payment delayed, etc.

What to do?

Before starting the project, try to ask for a small favor and see how they respond. The ones who respond quickly and positively are usually the committed clients who see you as a teammate.

If you’re already working with one and the project is far from finished, you will need to have a hard conversation with the client about how you can help them fulfill the commitments.

2. The Slave Owner

Because they paid, they think they own you 24/7 until the project ends.

Besides the service you promised, you might be asked to take meeting notes, expected to answer late night text, or maybe become their personal assistant.

And worst of all, they think you are “supposed” to do those tasks.

What to do?

There should always be mutual respect between client and service provider as a human being.

Because the gig economy put a price on individual services, it’s easy to forget that we’re working with another human being on the other side, not a vending machine.

Always work with people you can respect. You can gauge this person’s working style by checking how often he or she requests for project help.

3. The Bargainer

They are going to bargain no matter what’s the market rate. It’s their habit and part of the thrill.

The reason why meme like this exists.

What to do?

Be empathetic. Maybe they are a startup or a small company.

At the same time, know your worth.

Break down your services into smaller bits and different price ranges.

For example, after talking with the client, you might learn they only need a prototype of the product.

Then you could set your price range for prototype, MVP and full-fledged product.

If it’s a client you like, maybe try to work out a long-term plan. Just beware of those people who try to pay you in passion.

4. The Indecisive

Indecision is a virus that can run through an army and destroy its will to win or even to survive. — Wendell Mayes

They don’t know what problem they’re trying to solve nor what they want to achieve. They come to you hoping all their life problems will disappear.

What to do?

Try to understand their motives.

Are they talking to you because they’re being paid to do so?

Are they always window shopping?

How clear is their need to work with you?

If there’s no sense of urgency to start working, the project can become on and off that leaves you thinking, “What’s next?”

A client should care about the value you provide. Therefore, you need to be clear about exactly how you could be the cure to their specific problem before working.

5. The Middleman

The clients with clients. They can’t make the final decision and their interest is driven by cutting cost: your wage.

You might think as long as I’m getting paid, I’m good.

However, the communication cost usually out-weight the benefits.

What to do?

Always ask “what is this for?”

If the company’s name ends in “agency”, that’s pretty obvious.

6. The Dictator

From a communication tool to workflow to the technology stack, this person micromanages to the finest detail.

From Silicon Valley

Once you don’t agree with them, you will spend more time arguing than progressing.

What to do?

Understand what’s end goal you and the client is trying to achieve.

As long as they’re coming from a place of good intention, maybe you could make some methodology compromises.

7. The ASAP Commando

Every request is urgent and spontaneous.

We live in a world of instant gratification. Most things we buy online can be delivered to us the next day.

Service is ultimately different from finished products.

Some company packages their services such as website templates give the illusion that these products don’t take time to build.

What to do?

Set the correct expectation from the start.

Every customer is different, a solution needs to tailor to the individual project.

Anything tailored and customized will take time.

If it’s a large project, try to set some milestones if it makes your client feel more comfortable about the progress.


I am lucky enough to have wonderful clients, who feel like a friend that I can count on.

At the end of the day, you should feel grateful to have people come to you for your expertise. Client and freelancer relationship goes both ways.

Walk the talk. Keep your word.

Give respect and earn respect.

Everyone’s time is limited.

Success is intentional.

A direct relationship is the best.

Focus on what you want to achieve.

Expectation management is art.


If you’re looking to expand your skills or knowledge to acquire more Chinese clients, here’s a free PDF about WeChat development.

Captain of Destiny

You are in control of your destiny

David Yu

Written by

David Yu

Software Freelancer based in Shanghai. More articles at

Captain of Destiny

You are in control of your destiny

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