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The “Bad Clients” Report: Research Reveals the #1 Red Flag That Someone Is Going to Be a Nightmare Client

Research Reveals the #1 Red Flag That Someone Is Going to Be a Nightmare Client

If you’ve worked for yourself, you’ve no doubt encountered a bad client. Every small business owner has a story from the trenches – someone who nickel and dimed a project, used profanity during business calls, threw tantrums about deadlines – ask around, and you’ll hear about client encounters that will make the hair on your arms stand up. 

While the majority of people who work for themselves say they wouldn’t change it for the world, bad clients can certainly put a damper on the day.

To learn more about bad clients and how to spot them as early as possible, FreshBooks surveyed 400 small business owners and asked about the worst clients they’ve encountered.

Here’s what we discovered:

First Signs

  • Sound the warning bell! 41% of small business owners said “making unreasonable demands” was the earliest sign someone would be a bad client
  • Women were twice as likely as men to say their worst client was “skeptical of their abilities” early on in the relationship

Bad Behavior

  • 34% of small business owners said “meanness” was the #1 bad behavior exhibited by their worst client 
  • 1 in 4 small business owners said being “dishonest” or “not paying on time” made someone their worst client
  • Women were 30% less likely than men to identify “dishonesty” as a trait exhibited by their worst client, and 50% more likely to have experienced “mean behavior” from a bad client
  • Small business owners over the age of 35 are less likely to cite “meanness” and more likely to identify issues with getting paid as their #1 worst client behavior

Calling It Quits

  • What became of that nightmare client? 35% of small business owners said they ended the relationship by firing their client
  • More than a third of small business owners, however, said that despite everything, they’re still working with their worst client 
  • Women were 30% more likely than men to still be working with their nightmare client 

Ready to cut ties with a client from hell? For advice on how to deal with a bad client without burning bridges, check out these articles and more from the FreshBooks blog.

Everything You Need to Know About Managing Bad Clients

How to Fire a Client: Why, When, and How to Do It Professionally

Ghosted: What to Do When a Client Doesn’t Pay Up

5 Steps to Getting Better Clients

To learn more about FreshBooks research, get in touch:

About FreshBooks

FreshBooks is changing the way business owners manage their books. Its owner-first accounting platform, loved by businesses in over 160 countries, takes an easy-to-use approach to managing finances, billing, payroll, payments, and client engagement. Known for its 10x Stevie award-winning customer support, FreshBooks serves customers of all sizes from offices in Canada, Croatia, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, and US. FreshBooks has been recognized as a Top 10 employer by Great Places to Work for seven of the last eight years.

Survey Methodology

To learn more about the difficult client experiences small business owners face, FreshBooks fielded an online survey of 400 U.S.-based self-employed people and small business owners across various industries, between late September into early October, 2022. The study’s margin of error is +/- 5% at 95% confidence. 

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