The Five Traits of Difficult ClientsBy Corina Manea

We’ve all been there at some point in our careers when we had to deal with difficult clients.

I am sure you asked yourself more than once what was it you were doing wrong and how you could have made things right.

Not only this, but you also spent a great deal of time looking for ways to make things work, because maybe that one time, they would be happy.

And my guess is it was useless.

They still were not satisfied and had something to be angry about.

Let me give you a hint: You did nothing wrong.

Some clients are difficult just because.

There is no way to make them happy even if you do a supernatural effort to meet all their requests.

They would still have something to be unhappy about.

Sometimes you start a business relationship, all goes well and suddenly nothing you do is right anymore.

Let me be clear on this: It’s not you.

If things continue to be complicated you have only one choice: Extract yourself from the toxic relationship.

You may not know it at first, but a business toxic relationship affects your work with other clients.

You become fearful and hesitant of taking bold steps, you are overly stressed, and your creativity suffers.

You lose sleep at night, and your overall health is affected.

Your colleagues notice it as well, and you transmit part of your anxiety to them.

Of course you can ask your client’s boss to assign you a different contact person, but oftentimes, the difficult, stress-inducing person is the one with the highest role in the company.

Which leaves you with the only option to get out of the relationship.

The big question is how do you identify the difficult clients before you begin the relationship?

Today I am going to look at the five “traits” of difficult clients, at least from my own perspective.

Trait No.1 of Difficult Clients: They Don’t Respect Your Time

As much as you’d like to believe that he or she might be caught in traffic or whatever lie you tell yourself, a client who repeatedly shows up late for your meetings,—online or offline—is a difficult one.

They don’t respect your time and think they are the only person in the whole, entire world who is busy.

What this says is you are not important to them, and that they see you as someone who is there to serve them at their whim.

Trait No.2 of Difficult Clients: They Micromanage You

There is no more lack of respect than when a client micromanages you. After all, they hired you for your expertise, but then they want to tell you how to do your job.

These kinds people have issues letting go of control, can’t trust the smart people they’ve hired, and want to have their hands in everything.

The fact they try to micromanage you is only the beginning.

Next they’ll give you orders, and ask you to do things not included in the signed contract for the same money. 

Trait No.3 of Difficult Clients: They Are ALWAYS Unhappy With Your Work 

Have you met him? He’s “Mr. Disappointed.”

No matter how hard you work, meet crazy deadlines and requests, or deliver above and beyond, there is always one tiny little detail you didn’t do (because, hey, you’re not a robot) that disappoints.

It doesn’t matter you helped land big clients or generated hundreds of thousands of dollar. It doesn’t matter if you’ve exceeded your goals. If you have a typo in a blog post, that’s what he’ll focus on and beat you up about.

Oh, and don’t for one minute think if that typo hadn’t been there, he’d be happy.

Nope, something else would have been on his endless list.

There is no way to win with these kinds of people.


So do yourself a favor and get out of this relationship before it becomes harmful for yourself and your team.

Trait No.4 of Difficult Clients: They Are Demanding

Another trait difficult clients have in common is the fact that they are demanding.

In fact, they never ask you to do something for them; they state it.

It’s worth mentioning they change their minds quite often about the job they asked you to do.

You start working on one thing, when suddenly and with no warning, they ask you to drop it and start on something totally new.

They act as if they are your only client, and are entitled to be this demanding, to ask extras of you, and are demanding about your doing them.

Trait No.5 of Difficult Clients: They Get Lost When You Talk About Value

Probably the biggest sign of difficult clients is the look on their face when you talk about bringing value and building trust with their customers.

If you’ve somehow managed to successfully pass all the above (you might be a robot, after all), when it comes to the “delivering value” talk, you’ve lost.

What value?

They are interested in money.

They want to sell and that’s the only thing they think about.

They don’t care about their customers, or employees for that matter.

They use phrases such as, “I don’t care if I make 12,000 people mad as long as one buys.”

And now comes the hard question: Do you want to keep working with someone like that?

There you have it, my five traits of difficult clients.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. What would you add to the above?

image credit: shutterstock

Corina Manea

Corina Manea is the chief community officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She works directly with Spin Sucks students and writes for the award-winning PR blog. She also is the founder of NutsPR. Join the Spin Sucks  community!

View all posts by Corina Manea