Who's NOT your ideal client? Check out these 8 red flags

This past Sunday was brilliant! Blue skies, a balmy 75―perfect for a mountain bike ride in my favorite coastal Connecticut state park. Plus, just got my bike back from the shop, super tuned up and looking sparkly new. Wow! Couldn’t wait to hit the trails!

First 20 minutes everything roses. As I descended a windy path and hopped over a log, my back tire got caught. Stuck! Clipped in! Aack! I tipped into a bed of…wild thorny roses. Yeow!  And got my right leg tangled in the bike (owwee).

Okay. No worries. Up we go. Ride, ride, ride. Up a big hill, nursing my leg, so in an easier gear. Oops! Not enough momentum. Wham! Tipped into nest of green briars. Stuck. Stuck. Stuck. Kicking bike off.  Bloody scratches. Owww:(

Okay. Lots of red flags. Message received. Save the trickier stuff for next time. Today’s not the day.

Prospective clients and project partners can send up red flags too.

In my last post I shared a big lesson about attracting the wrong client and noted 8 red flags. Today, let’s explore traits and requests that could make you batty or, worse yet, bloodied, at least in mind and spirit. It’ll help you jumpstart your own list of what to watch out for when talking to a prospective client or project partner―and sidestep trouble!

Red Flag #1―Need it yesterday
Arranged to talk Friday night―albeit I had a big family dinner at my mom’s. Why did I agree? I was in scarcity mode last fall and wanted to be flexible. Lesson? Boundaries are critical to preserving your balance. Ignore at your peril (or at least for a good reason and definitely not scarcity).

Red Flag #2―Excuses
“I lost my other copywriter.” Excuses come in all forms. Absolutely, some are valid. But if you’re talking to a prospect and you hear excuses about why things aren’t working,  dig deeply. Lesson? You don’t want to waste your time and end up as another “excuse” in that person’s discard list.

Red Flag #3―Unreasonable schedule
“Still need to wrap it up early next week.” Danger zone! An unreasonable time frame that disrupts your schedule can create stress and anxiety, and even bring grief to other clients should things go astray. Lesson? Create a scheduling policy for onboarding new clients or project partners, to protect your precious time and ability to serve all your tribe well.

Red Flag #4―Underestimating project scope
“There’s not too much to do!” Famous last words, right? I know I've fallen into this trap, especially on home projects;) Lesson? Take a hard look at project parameters and expectations before you make a commitment, and ensure you've got a comfortable time buffer.

Red Flag #5―Intruding on your personal life
“Can you help me this weekend?” Sigh. See red flag #1. Sigh. Lesson? This is a HUGE sign that prospect is in PANIC mode and happy to swallow you up in their turmoil. RUN!

Red Flag #6―You feel uncomfortable
Gulp. I ignored the fuzzy tingling in my brain and stomach when I agreed to work on the weekend and commit to a tight time frame (“But of course I can jump in and save the day! And I have some time, right? Right?!”). Lesson? Get to know your visceral signals―butterflies in your belly, headache, achy shoulders―and when things seem out of kilter, HONOR THEM!

Red Flag #7―Shortcutting your process
No proper time to reflect. It was sacrilege for me to ignore this fundamental element of my creative character. I need time to write, sleep on it, refine; several rounds, in fact, to ensure every word is perfect. Especially for a new client I’m just getting to know. Lesson? Decide on what you need to deliver a wonderful first experience for a new client, and make those elements requirements in your process, so they’ll be singing your praises and you’ll be thrilled to do more for them.

Red Flag #8―An immediate, unhappy surprise
O no! Once I looked at the client’s manuscript (she wouldn’t give it to me until I’d signed a non-disclosure agreement and had agreed to payment terms (more red flags), it was in rougher shape than she led me to believe, full of editing remarks from her coach and another reader. Lesson? Project disconnect or creep can cause hard feelings if not properly checked and dealt with. To protect yourself, get a signed agreement outlining exactly what you’ll be doing for your client and the agreed upon expectations. That way, when new or unexpected issues arise, you can properly charge and schedule for these additions.

What’s your most memorable red flag when enrolling a prospective client or project partner? Tell me in the comments below. I’d love to know!

Have a GREAT day and talk soon:)


P.S. Have a question about writing your website copy? Let me know and I'll answer it in the comments below!