In any business or startup, the thrust is to get clients or customers. I always emphasise the importance of being customer-centric. It is the open secret to success in business or entrepreneurship. Fair enough you need to get as many clients as possible. However, did you know that there are some clients you should not take on? This is something that many might not appreciate but it is important. Especially if you are someone who deals with gigs, projects, or consultancy work, this article will speak to you immensely. I am discussing indicators of clients you should not take on.

Problem Is Not Clear

The precursor to effectively solving any problem is clearly understanding it. That is why a problem statement is paramount before doing anything. When a client approaches you they must be able to articulate the problem they need to be addressed. It can never be easy trying to solve a problem you do not understand. The clarity of the problem makes it easier for you to ascertain whether or not you can solve it. Solving an unclear problem often results in you solving the wrong problem. The fallout with the client when that happens is something you must avoid. If the problem is unclear please, do not take on such clients.

Cannot Pay You Immediately Or Directly

Never take on clients who cannot guarantee immediate or direct payments. They can promise to pay some other time or they can propose indirect payments. For example, someone can say they can or will pay when they start realizing a profit. Another example can be said, drafting a grant request and they say they will pay you if the request is granted. Such payment terms are not good; never settle for such clients.

First Time Clients

First-time clients can be a breath of fresh air sometimes. There being new can afford you the opportunity to call the shots. Unfortunately, dealing with such clients might involve too much hand-holding. This might result in making the work more tasking and time-consuming. If that extra effort and time cannot be compensated or factored in when charging them, then it is not worth it. I have seen first-hand how tasking it can be dealing with first-time clients.

Request For Proposal First

I have seen so many gigs that request a proposal first. I know there are some scenarios where this can be necessary. In principle, you need to weigh the time, resources, and effort it will take to put together the proposal. Weigh that against the possibility of still not getting the job, gig, or project. Ask yourself whether or not it will be worth it. I have even heard that most who request proposals do it as a formality. Otherwise, they would already have determined who they will go with. Some of the requests for proposals are so tasking that it is not worth it. Do not blanket by outright ignoring all clients who request proposals though. The key point here is that oftentimes it is not wise to take on such clients.

One-Person Buy-In

This usually applies when your client is say, from a group or a company, project, and the like. This means they will be interacting with you but on behalf of a collective. You need to be sure everyone in that collective is aware and on board with what they need you to do. If it is only just them and no one else is in on it then that will be a recipe for disaster. It is typical to deal with contact persons when dealing with clients. However, ascertain that several more people (of significance) have also bought in. Imagine taking on a gig or order that has a one-person buy then when it comes to payment, the actual decision makers say they never sanctioned it. Those are some of the possible pitfalls so be wary.

Partially Committed

When you are taking on a client you are literally committing. You are committing to addressing their problem by delivering a consummate solution. Commitment is not a one-way street though, it must be two-way. The client must also make certain commitments as well. These commitment obligations must not be partial. Working with a client is a process that is even mostly multi-layered. You need to have a client who is fully committed to the process. Avoid clients who are only partially committed. Partially committed clients usually end up pointing fingers at you when things go south. Of which their partial commitment does lead to things going south.

Ever Shifting Goal Posts

When working with any client there is a goal in mind i.e. you are aiming for a specific target. Imagine a scenario where every time you chat or have a call with the client, the goal shifts. When that happens, this means after each interaction you now have a new problem to address. This renders all the previous work and efforts obsolete. This is why you need to have what is called a discovery call with a client. These are or are interactions (e.g. via call) where you ask the client to enunciate their problem and what they need to be done. If they keep shifting goal posts then kindly decline to take on such clients.


Generally, micromanagement is called out as a bad leadership or management approach. It stifles autonomous, creative, and innovative thinking. Someone who is micromanaged ends up failing to give expression to their knowledge and skills. When a client approaches you they need your expertise in addressing some pain point(s). In as much as they have to specify what they want they must not boss you around telling you how to do it. It is difficult to be efficient and productive when you do not have operational autonomy. If you notice that a client wants to micromanage you, it is safer to not take them on.

These are 8 of some of the indicators of clients you should not take on. There are still more indicators to talk about so I will do another article on them. These indicators should serve as warnings on the type of clients to avoid. Take heed!