7 Types Of Clients You Should Fire Before You Hire

Chances are selling isn’t at the top of your list of fun things to do within your business. Sales takes a certain knack and a lot of practice to get it right.

When someone comes into your studio, you spend a fair amount of time with them talking about their needs and desires, and using that knowledge to show how you can fit within those needs.

But sometimes it just doesn’t feel right. There is something between you that makes you nervous. You might not even be able to put your finger on it, but you know they put you on edge.

Yet you’ve spent time with them, and with the economy the way it is, the last thing you want to do is turn away business. Right?

Working with a client – any client – is hard. It takes time, energy, and a lot of emotional input to see a client through from beginning to end. When you are finished with the great ones, you can sit back and say “YESSS!!!” because you know the images are great before you even look at them. And when you do look at them, every one of them has positive energy, and puts a huge smile on your face. You gave it your all and it shows.

The bad ones? Well, if you’ve ever experienced that feeling, you know it well. You’re emotionally drained. You have no energy. You hope and pray you took at least one image that is acceptable, and that they will love enough to buy.

If you had nothing but great ones, you could handle 10 of them a day. That “YESSS!!!” feeling would come again and again, building up your energy in such a way that your clients could feel it. And respond to it.

If you add even one bad one in to the mix, your energy is depleted, and you might as well quit for the rest of the day to recover.

So why take the bad ones?

If you have that feeling when you are meeting them at the beginning, listen to your intuition. Fire them before you ever hire them. Don’t take them on. It will only deplete your energy, and cause you to lose that “YESSS!!!” feeling that will help you move your business to the next level.

So who is a bad client? How can you define them? Here’s what I’ve noticed over the years, and what I look for when I’m making a decision on who to accept as clients.

1. People who don’t show up for their appointments, and have excuses on why they didn’t. We all have emergencies once in awhile. But if people don’t make it a priority to show up for initial consultations, and don’t treat your time as valuable, they will probably continue that way throughout the process.

2. People that don’t follow directions. As a photographer, you probably don’t have a lot of requirements. Choose a package, sign a contract, return some paperwork. If people start asking the same questions over and over, it might be an indication of something more.

3. People who are rude. Not much else needs to be said – I’m sure you can quickly think of examples in your own life.

4. People who start out with a “deal” mentality. They usually start out by saying they aren’t the average client. They don’t need the top package. And they don’t need everything you have to offer. They want a deal because they aren’t the normal client. And I usually agree at that point that they aren’t my normal client. And I only want my normal client because they give me that “YESSS!!!” feeling.

5. People who whine, complain, and question everything you have to say. I prefer to hang out with people who are fun to be with, and have a positive outlook on life.

6. People who ask about money back guarantees from the start. Anyone that heads into a project with the concept of possibly needing his or her money back is heading into it with failure. They are hard to please, and will look for the reasons to fail.

7. People who try and negotiate. They don’t like your prices, or don’t need everything in your package. This is also one of the reasons I suggest keeping your packages very focused so they have less room to negotiate. (i.e. If you are a wedding photographer, don’t include engagements or Trash The Dress sessions in your wedding packages.)

Dig Deeper: 8 Keys To A Great Engagement Portrait
Dig Deeper: 10 Tips For Creating A Trash The Dress Session

Have you ever experienced a negative client? If you have, I’m sure you can fit them into one of the above characteristics. And even now, I’m sure you start to get that “feeling” that brings you down.

So why take them?

Instead, concentrate on the great ones. Great ones will refer you; bad ones won’t. So pass on the bad ones, knowing a great one is just around the corner. And they will leave you energized, excited, and ready to build your business even more.


8 thoughts on “7 Types Of Clients You Should Fire Before You Hire”

  1. Thank you for sharing this! Right now I am having the problem of getting clients who happen to at least carry a few of these issues. I have a hard time rejecting clients but its also hurting my business and making it very hard to deal with them. Time to cut out the problem clients and keep only the good ones!

  2. So how do you “fire” them professionally? I wouldn’t know how to say, “sorry, you seem like more trouble that I am ok with dealing with” in a professional way! I have only had one, maybe 2, clients like that but would love to know how to turn down sessions!

    • It depends on who you’re meeting. If they are looking at something you have price sheets for – a wedding package for instance – its all up to chance. Start by telling them to take their time thinking about it. Then if they leave and happen to call back, you can always say you’ve already found someone for the day, and you only shoot one wedding per day. For portraits, you can do something similar. Tell them to take time to think about it, and even suggest they shop around. They should make sure they are getting the best value for their money. Chances are they will find someone else lower priced that’s willing to jump at anything.

      If its for something you must quote a price for, you can always add in an “aggravation fee”. Chances are they won’t book because the pricing is too high. But if they do by chance, you at least are making more to deal with it.

      And if you really have bad vibes, yet they seem to want to book you on the spot, you may address the problem up front. Let’s say they are really focused on the money back guarantee and won’t quit talking about it, and its making you nervous. Ask them about it. “I’m sensing you really are nervous about a bad portrait, and want to make sure you aren’t going to invest in something you don’t like. Is it the money or the potential bad portrait. Did you have a bad experience before? Sometimes confronting the issue can help them let their guard down, and maybe change their attitude. And if you use the “I’m sensing” phrase, it isn’t about them. They usually will open up at that point, and you may just change around the way they are thinking.


  3. Man, oh man. Boy, do these sound familiar. I would add (although it kind of falls under those that don’t follow directions) those that do not respect your knowledge and experience. I would never claim to know best, but I have been a photographer for a long time, and I hate it when a client decides they are the expert. I try to treat my clients as partners in their portrait session, but the client has hired me for my expertise, not to be their camera technician. As an experienced specialist, I am free with basic advice on appropriate locations, wardrobe, makeup, etc. I can usually tell right away whether they are going to be a good client or not by how they take that advice. Do they ask questions and try (along with me) to make our ideas work together? Or, do they ignore it, argue about it, or flat out tell me to do what I am told (even in a nice way)?

    • Great insight Mike – I couldn’t agree more. Your “camera technician” comment made me think of a time when a client pulled out her camera in the middle of a studio portrait. Uh, NO! It is all about experience and what you’ve learned over the years. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Been there, done that. My “spidey senses” are pretty acute now and when I get that gut feeling that there are going to be a lot of problems with a client, no matter how destitute I’m feeling financially, I try to find a way out. I’ve used many of the suggestions above (kindly suggesting they shop around to assure they are getting the best bang for their bucks), quoting a fee that includes a substantial p-off amount (in case I do get the job despite my best efforts to duck it), and, if they don’t want to book me on the spot, letting them know within a day or two that my calendar (sadly) is full for the period they want. Sigh 😉

    Life is much too short to let people drag you down and ruin your good mood.


Leave a Comment