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RANT Be picky when choosing clients, even when you're starting out

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Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 9, 2011
I guess she is an elderly who uses complaints
as a mean to find people to talk to...

In my experience, it was more an 80/20 (Pareto's law/rule) thing, and did not have to do with age. Some people are just a PITA (Pain in the @$$). Its just their personality. I learned from my mentor that there are people out there who tend to want attention any way they can get it, even from businesses. It has nothing to do with what you are selling to them. Its their narcissism.

In my experience, 20% of my customers made me 80% of my revenue.

20% of my customers took 80% of my time. They tended to be in the group that made me only 20% of my revenue (opposite of the time suckers).

In other words, our BEST customers also tended to be the ones that bought the MOST from us, and demanded the least amount of attention.

We made the decision to fire those customers. The time demand went from 9 to 10 hours a day to 6 hours a day. Sure, we made less money overall, but the reduction in stress was WORTH IT. Now we had more time to find more of the 20% (ie Good) customers.

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Platinum Contributor
Speedway Pass
Oct 9, 2017
Nikiski, Alaska
Ever since I joined this forum, people have been telling to charge what I'm worth and work with good people.

Because I only just started working on my business after leaving the rat race, I lack the experience, so, a lot of mistakes were made and will continue to be made.

One of the worst mistakes I made was I undercharged, even worked for free, and chose to work with really bad people.

Today, I got the wake up call I deserve when a client outright disrespected me during a meeting.

I was doing really cheap programming work for this guy. I built him a really nice custom ecommerce site with a ton of fancy features just because I wanted such a project on my portfolio. I'm not even going to say how much he paid me because it's too embarrassing.

Today, this same guy, instead of being grateful, told me that I'm pretending to be a programmer. And you know why? I simply refused to add a complicated feature to his site for free. A feature that would take 2 months to implement.

And you know what happened? He and his business partners were laughing their a$$es out while I sat there with my dumb face wondering what I did wrong.

So, right there decided that I don't need this and I had done enough boot licking.

I multiplied my original embarassing price by 10 and told them it was going to cost this much and it's either take it or leave it. Obviously they didn't agree, so we're working on terminating our contract and I feel very happy.

Lesson learned: Just because you're a new business doesn't mean that you need to allow people to shit on you.
I've always fired clients. A bad client takes several times the time and energy that it takes to service a good client. When a deal goes bad, it's horrible until the end. And sometimes longer. When I'm putting a deal together, I have a habit of looking at the person on the other side of the table and I ask myself one question, "Is this person going to be reasonable and respectful?" If the answer is no, then I give them the card of one of my competitors. I tell them that I can't help them, but maybe this other person can. I say thank you and I leave. Why do I do this? I skim the cream -- try to work with the most reasonable people with whom I feel that I have a good chance of making a good deal. If they aren't reasonable, and I refer them to my competitor, they'll keep that other person very busy trying to please their demands. It kills two birds with one stone. And it fits into the 80/20% rule.


Oct 15, 2020
I think only the best way is to escape bad clients who are made fun of your works for cheap or free, just create own portfolio examples and put in in your website to show it for future clients and charge higher prices :D

Zahida A. Khan

Jun 11, 2020
Lesson learned: Just because you're a new business doesn't mean that you need to allow people to shit on you.
Great share, @LaneMan

When we give something for FREE there is little appreciation to the receiver

When we charge, the receiver is expecting value - a much better transaction

Thanks for sharing and many of us have walked this path before

Wish you great success!!


New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Aug 27, 2020
Thanks for sharing your experience.

I've been there as well. The undercharging part. As someone who's struggled with confidence in the past it's true what everyone else has said, when you don't value what you have to offer others won't. And we've all heard it time and time again, it's never about the price. A client will literally ask you to name your price - hopefully the impulse to undercharge goes away with practice and confidence.

To be honest, I'm not sure how I would handle the A-hole behaviour or how to move forward from there.

I like @Johnny boy 's advice about putting in place some systems so you don't get screwed over big time by a bad client

Without being preachy - I think it's a good idea to set boundaries around pricing and what kind of behaviour you'll tolerate. And be willing to walk away 100%. And make it clear - professionally of course as per your industry


Bronze Contributor
Jul 4, 2020
I once had a client who would call my support staff every month after billing. She would dispute and question every charge. Then sometimes she would escalate it to me "let me talk to the owner/manager" stuff.

After 3 months and hours of time spent with this woman, I finally asked my employee what her average bill was.

It was $12 f*cking bucks.

I wrote her a nice courtesy letter that in effect said, "You're fired."

Your $12 ain't worth 6 hours a month in support time.

And if you're wondering what the letter said, it basically stated that our company doesn't appear to be a fit for your needs.

Fire bullshit customers who pay more in bullshit than profits.
Amen brother.
is it good for beginners though?

It's not only good but absolutely necessary because if you take on bad clients at the beginning, you risk shutting down your business because it will suck the life out of you.

I can't tell you how many times I wanted to crawl back to my 9-5 job because of how shit it was working with these kind of people but once I fired them, the sun came out.

It's never easy handling clients because working with a large range of people exposes you to all kinds of character.
Some will be wonderful experiences, others will be bad.
Try to sniff out the ones you think you can't work with early enough.
There will always be signs. Don't ignore the signs.
Be quick to tell them no, that they are not a good fit for you and your organization, and move on to the next available person that needs your services.
Someone you can work with, and that will appreciate your efforts.
We've all been there...

This. The signs are always there but we decide to ignore them out of desperation -- a very bad move.


Gold Contributor
Speedway Pass
Feb 8, 2019
The questions is a bit tricky as OP’s title says it “Be Picky about Client even when you are starting out”.

It is easy to fire the bad clients when you have many good clients.

Everyone loves good clients.

What if you are starting out and most of good clients are currently served by your more established competitors. You end up meeting “demanding clients” who always ask 20-50 percent more than what the “fair market price is.” They know they wouldn’t get away with an established business that has option. They are the typically blood smelling bargain hunters who target new players. They try to push the boundaries more to squeeze your margin. They still want you to make money, just make a lot less per deal size.

I would argue that these “demanding customers” are the best resources for a new player to ensure survival and gain rapid growth. Once you have a reputation for “taking their shit” the words of mouth marketing will take effect and other bargain hunters will flock towards you.

A good client is useless if he or she is not your client and has no incentive to switch their service.

There is a very good psychological experiment done on cooperation of sharing ten dollar among two strangers. The first stranger will propose the split. The second one will just answer accept the deal or no deal. If no deal both gets 0. Psychologist find that the first guy proposing mostly wilpropose 5-5, 6-4 or 7-3, never a 9-1. Even though logically the second person should also accept 9-1 as it is still still better than 0-0. The point is people by nature accept a sense of fairness will will be angry if treated unfairly.

From my observations there are actually some ( a large minority) who constantly want to impose a 8-2 or 9-1 on you. They would not get entertained by comfortable business owner because the sign of greediness is enough to piss them off. If you are a new player I would argue they are your gold. Birds of a feather flock together. Blood smelling Bargain hunters have extremely strong referral ability. I have seen many small business rise to the top rapidly serving this group at first.

As your experience grow, you become more productive in delivering higher service at lower cost. But that only comes later. I see that fast growing new player always disrupt by willing to doing more for less money first.
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