et’s talk about bad clients and how to spot them.

In my 15+ years of career as a UI/UX designer, I’ve worked with all kinds of people. I have to say that most people are good people with good intentions. But even among those good people, there are a lot of bad clients.

Here are three toxic trades that can poison the client relationship that you can spot early in the engagement:

#1 No Goals

It’s obvious they don’t know what they need and don’t have a goal.

This can lead to endless iterations. Clients with shiny object syndrome jump from one thing to the next. They often don’t make a distinction between the tactics and the goal. They often share conflicting information. For example, they might tell you about their grandiose app ideas with 20 features and then ask you to give them a price for 5 screens max.

If you spot that — run!

#2 No Timeline

They don’t have even a rough timeline.

This means this could drag in time indefinitely. Potentially slow feedback cycle. No timeline means no conscience in whatever you are doing, ending up with resentment on both sides and a project you can’t use for your portfolio.

This type of client often says, “You can take your time, we can work on it as long as it takes.”

If you spot that — run!

#3 No Money

They avoid budget questions or asking you for a price too early.

In these cases, they already know they don’t have the budget and are looking to bargain with you. Sorry, those are the worst clients. As I said before, good people but bad clients. They often want to pay you in exposure or they have a next project coming up with a bigger budget, “We just need to do this one first.”

If you spot that — run!

So how do you run from bad clients?

First, always be polite. I don’t even have to say that. But just in case. You can use language like this, “Based on what you’ve said so far, it seems to me that we might not be a good fit.” And make a suggestion of what you think they should do instead of hiring you. If they ask why you can always voice your concerns.

Make sure they don’t change your mind with an empty promise.


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