‘Warning! Warning!’ Do you ever hear that in your head when you meet/talk with a prospective client? Today this happened – right before the contract was signed. The potential client dumped me, and although I was mad this morning,  I know it’s actually for the best.

For me, it’s taken a few years to get to the point where I can quickly pick out most of the potential troublemakers just from one initial conversation. Having a long intake form usually dissuades the tire-kickers, but there are others who are really serious about their website, have plenty of money to spend, but nevertheless are not the clients I want to have. Spotting these types of potential problems is sometimes trickier than the ones who come to you with ‘I don’t have a lot of money.’

So what are some of the signs that the person you’re dealing with may not be your ideal client? Besides the obvious (‘can you build me a 20-page site for $500 and can you finish it in ten days?’) here are some that I’ve personally encountered:

  1. They insist on going against your stated and preferred ways of doing business. For example, if you prefer email for communicating with clients, they’ll call you every time. They’ll leave voicemails 6 minutes long explaining in intricate detail what they want. And if they catch you on the phone, they’ll take an hour explaining something that should take five minutes.
  2. They ask you to testify against their previous designer. I kid you not.
  3. They want you to take responsibility for the success (or lack thereof) of their website. I don’t simply mean that you should do a good job for them – I had one pre-client that insisted I change the wording of my contract to implicate myself as the cause if they didn’t get more conversions with my design on their site. I wasn’t doing SEO work for them, either.
  4. They ask you to clarify the same thing over and over and over and over.
  5. They balk at contracts. This is a definite ‘run away!’ scenario – I do nothing without a contract.
  6. They have a great design idea that they want you to code. Sometimes they do, but most often this is a big red flag.
  7. They’ve read an article about SEO, or design, or blogging, and are now experts. They don’t believe anything you tell them, no matter how much experience you have in any particular area.
  8. Big one for me – they place little value on their website. It’s definitely an on-the-side kind of effort for their brick-and-mortar business. They want to invest minimal time and effort and thought on the web design project and have no plans to update the site in the future, market it, interact with customers on it, optimize it, or pay any further attention to it once it’s built.

Anything else?