top of page

15 Types of Difficult Clients And How to Handle Them Effectively!

Every agency has that one client from hell. The one who monopolizes your time, frustrates the entire staff, and makes unreasonable demands.

If you've got more than one, you probably spend 3 out of 4 weekends in office. If we apply the Pareto principle (or 80:20 rule) to the agency-client relationship, 80% of an agency's resources are utilized in managing 20% of its clients.

Two things are crucial here:
  1. If these difficult clients don't generate majority of the revenue, you need to start diverting your resources to the ones who do.

  2. If the difficult ones happen to be your highest billing clients, here are a few useful tips to help you identify and manage them effectively.


Mr. I'm Not Really Sure What I Want!

01- Mr. I'm Not Really Sure What I Want!

  • Constant change of heart;

  • Says one thing on a call but has a completely different opinion in an email an hour later.

  • Get everything in writing once an approach is decided upon;

  • Reject major course-correction after the fact.


Mr. I Assumed This Was Included

02- Mr. I Assumed This Was Included.

  • Insistence on getting a little bit more out of your team each time you talk;

  • Frequent requests to expand the scope of the project.

  • Agree to do out-of-scope work only at an added upfront cost.


Mr. I Needed This Done Yesterday!

03- Mr. I Needed This Done Yesterday!

  • General lack of awareness of the space-time continuum;

  • Belief that simply having ideas means work is completed.

  • Be straightforward.... if they expect the impossible, educate them to reality.


Mr. Everything's an Emergency!

04- Mr. Everything's an Emergency!

  • Firmed belief that he is the only client you could possibly have and therefore is deserving of 100% of your time.

  • Establish clear time tables and meet all deadlines so you can show the client everything is on track;

  • Remind them that you do have other clients.


Mrs. We Don't Have a Deadline...Oh, Wait... Yes We Do & It's Tomorrow!

05- Mrs. We Don't Have a Deadline...

...Oh, Wait... Yes We Do & It's Tomorrow!

  • Flightiness... often in terms of being out of the corporate loop.

  • Agree on a timeline as soon as possible;

  • Remain confident on rejecting requests that will endanger deadlines or projects for other clients.


Mr. I Don't Really Care, Just Do Whatever You Want!

06- Mr. I Don't Really Care, Just Do Whatever You Want!

  • Completely hands-off approach;

  • Lack of key information even pressed for it.

  • Take advantage of freedom this client provides, but always require client buy-in at critical stages to head off major reworking.


Mrs. I Care So Much... That It Hurts

07- Mrs. I Care So Much... That It Hurts!

  • Comes to the table with an extremely specific approach with little room for your ideas... so much that you begin to wonder why she hired you at all.

  • Be clear on what she is trying to accomplish;

  • Don't be afraid to frankly tell her when her approach won't work.


Ms. I Don't Know What I Want...  But I Know It Isn't That!

08- Ms. I Don't Know What I Want... But I Know It Isn't That!

  • She may not know what she wants, but she certainly knows what she doesn't want.... and it's probably everything you're proposing.

  • This moving target has potential to cause a lot of headache for your team;

  • It might be best to put out the "no vacancy" sign for this client.


Mr. Will This Cost Extra?

09- Mr. Will This Cost Extra?

aka, Mr. I Emptied My Bank Account for This!

  • Penny-pinching... bean counting or whatever you want to call it;

  • This client is extremely concerned about the budget... to the letter.

  • Agree upfront on the scope of the project;

  • If they can't pony up more cash for the extras they want... you just can't do it.


Mr. What's a Weekend?

10- Mr. What's a Weekend?

  • Sending emails at 3 am every day;

  • Scheduling meetings for after business hours;

  • Wondering why you didn't complete that project on Christmas Day.

  • Don't be afraid to say "NO" if what they want will take too much of a toll on your staff.


Ms. I Hate That Colour... for No Reason!

11- Ms. I Hate That Colour... for No Reason!

  • Propensity for latching onto a small feature, colours, font or words in a project and bringing work to a grinding halt as a result.

  • Don't ask their favourite colours... ask what they want to accomplish;

  • Display your expertise by recommending options that achieve those goals;

  • If they're still unhappy, consider dumping them.


Mrs. Won't This Take Five Minutes?

12- Mrs. Won't This Take Five Minutes?

  • A belief that she can do what you do in a much shorter time frame than is possible.

  • As this client is clearly detached from reality, tell her why what she wants won't take just five minutes.


Mr./ Mrs./ Ms. Decision-by-Committee

13- Mr./ Mrs./ Ms. Decision-by-Committee

  • Usually housed at large corporations;

  • This client does everything by committee... even deciding on minor wording or irrelevant aspects of projects.

  • Forced them to agree on a single contact person responsible for a major of the relationship, even if you are still dealing directly with others in the committee. This will allow for at least one comprehensive view of the entire project.


 Ms. Lurker

14- Ms. Lurker

  • Disappearing for weeks or months at a time, then... suddenly bombarding you with requests that need to be done immediately.

  • The best way to block a sneak attack is to be prepared;

  • Set the same expectations for all clients. If your process takes 3 weeks for everyone else, it will take 3 weeks for her, too.


Mrs. What You Did Was Great, but We Want Something Completely Different!

15- Mrs. What You Did Was Great, but We Want Something Completely Different!

  • Dream client - until you deliver the finished project and she realises she wants to go in a different direction entirely.

  • Make it clear that additional costs may apply if what they are asking for is far beyond the scope of the original price quote.


In conclusion, creative agency may have a mix of those difficult clients above in one client. We hope this article helps you to identify and manage your client's experience at the right expectation.







bottom of page