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Red Flag Client

Charge What Youre Worth & Remove
Clients That Dont Matter
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Problem Client #1: The Price-First Mentality
Problem Client #2: They Expect Free Work
Problem Client #3: They Commoditize You
Problem Client #4: They Use
Problem Client #5: Discount Seekers & Tire Kickers
Problem Client #6: The Control Freaks
Problem Client #7: They See You As Their Employee
Problem Client #8: The Scope Creeper
Problem Client #9: The Confused / Disorganized Biz Owner
Problem Client #10: They Refuse to Pay Upfront % Fee
Problem Client #11: They Want to Pay In Referrals
Handle problem clients with integrity. Upgrade your perceived
value. Charge premium rates.
Table of Contents
Parting Thoughts, Key Takeaways, About the Authors 64
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 1
Choose the projects.
Choose the clients. Choose
what works for you.
Welcome to the Red Flag Client Playbook! Further investing in yourself as a
creative consultant takes a lot of work, creativity and strength. For that, we thank
you for downloading this guide. We know from experience the importance of
establishing trust, authority and authenticity in the eyes of your clients. These
attributes, coupled with key triggers well discuss throughout this guide, will
dictate the overall success in working with the clients you WANT and on
interesting projects that cause you to grow. We want to not only support you
and others to be the best in your feld, but always be the go-to CHOICE in your
consulting career. Our hope for you, the reader, is that you get to:
Given the vast feld of consultancy, there are a ton of mistakes that new AND
experienced creative consultants can fall into, due to either a lack of preparation
(which were pretty sure is NOT you), or a lack of knowledge of the psychology of
powerful client/consultant relationships. When the psychology is understood, the
relationships will dictate an outcome where both parties come away with what they
want. From our experience, these are the outcomes and client experiences that
allow the top consultants in their feld to charge premium rates.

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Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
What this not-so-brief, but easy-to-read
guide is:
A document to arm you with the ability to not only identify problem
clients, but how to turn SOME of those problem clients into ideal ones.
The types of clients that let you do what you do best, all while happily
paying the premium fees that you ask for.

An outline of a few red fags we have encountered throughout our

combined 25+ year consulting practices, and some solutions / scripts to
combating those red fags.

A way to reach out to other global consultants, share some of the fner
points from our careers and then listen / gain valuable feedback from all
of you to dive into deeper issues. This is only the beginning. We want to
get hyper-focused on numerous other issues with Charging What Youre
Worth based on starting the conversation with this document.

We do not go into pricing strategies, formulas or guidelines.

We do not include specifc frameworks, deliverables or documents. Wed

love to create those for you, so please let us know what youre looking for
via feedback and well be happy to produce it . . . IF IT MAKES SENSE.

What this not-so-brief, but easy-to-read

guide is NOT:
We are not the last word in digital consulting, or consulting in general, for
that matter. Everyone has opinions and ideas on how to interact with clients,
and were just recommending some of our own based on our experiences.
In life, there are no guarantees, but learning from the experience of other
successful people can defnitely stack the deck in your favor. There go,
we DO NOT make any guarantees for your outcomes, but we hope this was

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 3
We believe the best entrepreneurs
and consultants focus on educating
and informing their clients.
Whether you are a digital strategy consultant, branding expert, or digital
services provider (web design, web developer, UI/UX pro, mobile app
developer, marketing copywriter or SEO guru, make no mistake: THIS
The best consultants also aim to always provide
more than just a commodity service. Rather,
their goal is to help the client gain a clearer
picture of their current business challenges
and the opportunities that lay before them.
As a result, the client can make an informed
decision, based on established trust and
authority, ultimately bringing them the tangible
results they are after. Information is the most
valuable, sought after product on the market.
Knowledge of this alone should give you the
confdence to charge what you and your
expertise are worth.
We consciously wrote this reference playbook
to be a one-size-fts all for all digital consultants
- these types of red fag client archetypes
arent confned to just a single industry. Rather,
there are complex psychological and behavioral
aspects at play, dictating the outcomes of nearly
every client / consultant interaction. The more
you prepare, they better youll be able to handle
these scenarios in the moment, when it counts.
Weve been in your shoes on countless
occasions over many client engagements over
the past 15 years each. Weve learned from
hands-on experience (including epic failures)
what consistently works and what doesnt.
Were fortunate to have built up a strong base
of knowledge of the precise psychology and
steps to convince high-end clients of our worth,
in terms that they understand.
Each section will diagnose the frequently
encountered problem client and provide simple
actions for overcoming each scenario, often
with verbatim scripts we have used with our
clients to more powerfully dictate the terms
of the engagement. These strategies have
consistently led us to the retention of more
sophisticated clients, commanding higher rates,
decreased stress and nearly efortless referrals.
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 4
Ready to start charging what
youre worth as a creative
At the end of this guide there will be a link to a feedback form. Please
take the time to tell us what you think of this document. Were big boys
and can handle it. We always tell our clients that we cant efectively help
them unless they tell us what they need more information on or would
like to know.
With that, lets jump right into the most commonly experienced
challenges most have us have seen in our client interactions.
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Problem Client #1:
A Price First Mentality
When a clients frst question for you is what are
your rates, this is an opportunity in disguise for you
to take control of the situation and steer it towards
where youd like it to go. Of course, an ideal client
will be asking about the tangible value your
expertise and project execution will add frst, while
discussions of price would come much later.
Weve both faced numerous experiences where
a clients frst question was fxated on price alone.
Yet, with careful maneuvering and a focus on client
education, weve achieved upward fexibility on
price, once our authority, expertise and explicit
value to their business was communicated.
Price is a fuid concept. That is, there shouldnt
be any rigid structure to pricing as it adapts to
changing conditions. Conditions you set. Any
business owner or client worth their salt should
want to hear value frst, so they have context
on how your fee fts into the potential Return on
Investment (ROI) your work will deliver them.
Simply put, if a client is focused on cost over any
other factor, they are missing the bigger picture
of what SMART results they could potentially
be achieving. SMART = Specifc, Measurable,
Attainable, Realistic & Timely.
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SMART results are clearly defned business
outcomes that might include:
Increased % of closed sales
Increased gross (or net) proft
Improved efciency or time to market
Increased recurring revenue
Increased net new customers acquired
Higher click through ratios (CTR)
Decreased bounce rate for a website
Decreased attrition

A good client sees paying
for value as a savvy
investment. An investment
they are willing to make, to
ensure their desired results
are achieved (aka a return).
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Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Any business in need of professional services should have a clearly defned
budget for what they are willing to pay. This topic often sees a lot of back
and forth, especially for those that are less experienced in negotiation - or
low on self-confdence.
The client might be hesitant to reveal their budget, in fear that youll bump
your prices to ft those numbers. Whereas you, the consultant, dont want to
quote a price until you know the full nature of what is needed, such as:
Can you deliver the defned results they are after?

How much time investment from you is required?

Is this a good client ft?
We want to show exactly
how to avoid this kind of
stalemate, so you can get to
the win-win, and close more
ideal clients.

Try this 4-Step Process
How To Overcome
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
The 4-Step Process
After getting to know what their business is and which customers they serve, use this 4-step process to
drill down to the precise problem you are there to diagnose and solve:
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Where would you like to be? In other words, what
does success look like to your organization using
the SMART approach?
SMART = Specifc, Measurable, Attainable,
Realistic, Timely

Ex: By this time next year, wed like to achieve 60%
more sales from our digital channels (i.e. website,
social media, mobile apps, etc.) for our 2 primary
customer segments.
2. 4.
Where are you currently? What problems are you
having RIGHT NOW?
This is damn important! You must fnd out why
they are experiencing these problems and not
achieving the results they want. This will help you
not only benchmark what you need to accomplish
for them, but help you better prepare a laser sharp
scope of work. Clarity equals power.
What you are trying to fgure out: Does the client
lack the resources or expertise? Are internal
politics interfering with the progress and execution
of important projects? Is the client bogged down
in putting out existing fres, preventing them from
implementing any long-term initiatives? If you can
diagnose their pain accurately, youre a big step
closer to closing the sale.
Make sure to ask probing, open-ended questions.
Often times, the root cause for the problem is
not the frst thing that they tell you. Root out their
true pain. Whats the bigger problem behind the
problem they have presented you with? Think like
a detective.
Ask them how much money they are
leaving on the table by not solving the
problems they are facing.
This is a big one. In most scenarios, if the
client is knowledgeable of their industry,
the number they say will be larger than
what youd like to charge them - at your
maximum value. This is the best strategy
weve employed to stop charging and
quoting hourly rates. Period.
Ask them how much money they are
willing to invest (its key to use the word
INVEST) to solve this specifc problem and
achieve the results they want.
NOTE: Dont worry if they initially push
back when asked about their budget.
Well explain overcoming this objection in
the Key Action Takeaways section.

Psychology of Success
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 8
You are not a commodity.
You are an expert that creates
Experts get paid premium prices because they create
premium results.
If you have done this step correctly, you have positioned yourself as an investment into
solving their main problems.
You have successfully removed the perception that you are a cost. Rather, you are now seen
as an investment in achieving a specifc outcome - with a clearly defned upside for them.

The client now knows they are experiencing X resulting in a loss of Y. As a result, they will
now likely be receptive to making an investment to solve those problems. You are here to
diferentiate them in the market, save them wasted time, and improve their proftability.
This is your value-add to them, not your actual technical skills. Now, the client will be laser
focused on the promised business outcome that your overall skills and expertise can
produce and deliver.

If they still see you as a cost, even after making an airtight case for the value you will create,
they are likely not a client ft. Not for you, as youre now aiming to work with only the best
clients out there those that place a premium on value and results.
Psychology of Success

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Key Action Takeaways
Its important to open a candid dialogue about a clients budget from the start. Still, some clients will hesitate to re-
veal their budget, fearing you will scope the project to that exact amount.
To resposition this:
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Tell them you use their budget as simply a benchmark. Its to help you determine
how you can either save them money in the process or be more realistic and
prepared if the full scope will take more money.

If it will require more money, tell them that knowing the reality of what kind of
budget is needed will ensure you can prioritize the appropriate revenue generating
activities frst.

Create immediate results by going after revenue generating activities frst. When
results happen, the decision makers who release annual budgets will be happy. And
when decision makers are happy with the ROI of a project, theyll likely release more
funds for subsequent phases.

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Problem Client #2:
They Expect Free Work
Expecting to work for free is not only an insult, but
its also bad business - and the sign of an amateur
A desire for free work signals they simply do
not value quality results. Its one thing to want to
mitigate their risk, so they can feel assured you
are going to do a good job. It is a whole other can
of worms (and a red fag) if they value everything
being cheap and easy instead of creating a
valued outcome.
This is analogous to getting shoddy work done
by a bargain-basement mechanic. It can lead to
even more problems and pain for the client. Then,
in order to clean up the mess of the cheap or free
service provider, it will cost them more than had
they invested in quality and value from the start.
If the client doesnt value quality results above all else, they will
likely not value you, or anything you produce for them.
Any potential client that runs a business knows they cannot stay
in business if they give away everything for free, period.
Top-tier clients wont expect this from you.
In Other Words

Yeah, Weve Seen It
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Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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Yeah Weve Seen It
Does Any Of This Sound Familiar:
By doing this work, you can put this on your resume or portfolio. (Uh, I didnt just
graduate college!)

Once we have sales from your work, well pay you. (And if you dont get sales??)
We can give you some of our products. (Great, now were both working for free
and will both go out of business)

Weve never worked with you before. (No time like the present. I bet if you pay
me Ill do even better work.)

Were in startup mode. (We love startups. Are you afliated with Y-Combinator,
500 Startups or Tech Stars? No, okay, then well most likely never be paid for
our work.. And if we do, didnt we essentially create your company for you? Can I
have 51% equity please?)

We dont know about you,

but weve both heard all
of the above and about 20
other zingers just like that.
They are, yep you guessed it,

How to Overcome
How To Overcome
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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Explain to them the dangers of FREE work:
Here are 4 possible solutions:
PROBLEM: On any given day, you work on X number of projects. Lets say 2 (1 at a time, of
course). Those projects are currently paying you Y per hour. Lets say $75/hour.
For every hour you spend doing FREE work, you are losing $75/hour.
SOLUTION: Treat yourself as your own client, and you will have no problem operating from a
standpoint of value consistently. Even if you have no external clients currently, you always have
your primary client you. The time you invest into your own education, honing of skills, building
your relationships and brand is the most valuable investment of your time you can make.
Additionally, by working on free projects, you are essentially stealing from your paying clients,
because you are not adding value to their projects. You erode value for existing clients by
spreading your focus too thin. Your other clients trust you to make the best available use of your
time, as your output is their potential gain and your compensation.
2. PROBLEM: FREE work is dishonest. You have other clients who trust in your work and they pay
you what youre worth. By doing FREE work, you are being dishonest to your other clients/
projects that pay you for your time.
SOLUTION: Thats not fair. Be honest. Enough said.
PROBLEM: Free work devalues you, the consultant. If you have 2 projects that each pay you $75/
hour and you work 8 hour days (4 hours dedicated to Client A and 4 hours dedicated to Client B),
thats equal to $600/day. Hence, you receive $300/client each day.
Now, lets say you decide to add a third client, yet still keep 8 hour days. You know you can still
get great work done in a little less time for each client knowing that you are still meeting your
timelines. If you add a third project for free, you lose both hours and revenue.
Lets Do Some Math
SOLUTION (SCRIPT): Tell your potential client that you value yourself and the way you run your
business. If you behaved with the FREE mentality, then the outcomes you produce will be built
under stressful circumstances, and thats not something any results-oriented client would want
to hire. (Whats in it for the client, you ask? Anything built under extreme tension or stress does
not produce the kind of output a client is really needing right now to elevate their business. If
they need results, you need to be paid.)

You Spend 2.5 Hours
For Client A
You Spend 2.5 Hours
For Client B
You Spend 3.0 Hours
For Client C
($75 X 2.5 = $187.50) ($75 X 2.5 = $187.50) (FREE X 3 = $0)
Your end result is 3 hours of lost time and a loss of -$225.
BONUS SOLUTION: The win/win scenario is to ofer an undecided client a test drive of your
services. This wont be hourly billing, of course, but you can do a much smaller scope (project-
based fee) of work for them, to give them an idea of the immediate value and results you are
capable of bringing to the table.
The client is happy because they are mitigating their risk by knowing what they are investing in.
You are happy because your professional status remains intact, and you are getting paid what
you are worth.
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Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter

Psychology of Success
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Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Psychology of Success
You are positioned as a professional who values their work, time and client results
above all else.

Business owners simply cant argue with the logic that working for free is a bad
business decision. It equates to loss of time and money. No professional would
agree to that.
Potential clients will see that asking you to work for free takes you away from your
other paid projects, and your integrity will be self evident. Anyone you work with can
expect you to be honest and transparent with him or her, and that you make their
paid projects your highest priority.

This creates buy-in from the client. If they pay you instead of asking you to work for
free, they will be much more engaged with both the quality of work you deliver and
the outcome thats produced. This will lead to future engagements with this client
as they now trust you are worth every penny.

You are a professional and just

as valuable, as anyone else.
Working for free devalues you.

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Key Action Takeaways
Be open and honest about your policy of never working for free. You dont do it because its unethical to existing
clients, and will lead to less buy-in and sub-par results.
To alleviate some of their worry, you should consider presenting them with the following:
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An intro sheet on you and your business. This is generally a 1-pager (front and back)
that includes what you do, what type of framework you use to achieve results and
your ranges of pricing.

Portfolio of work and the results achieved. This could be a highlight reel, a
spreadsheet showing tangible metrics you have achieved, etc. The point is to show
ROI contrasted against your fee. If youre not comfortable sharing your previous
compensation, you can also share it as a percentage of the ROI in $ terms you
provided for a previous client.

Testimonials & Case Studies You can provide an in-depth look into not only results
you can achieve, but also your methodology for the entire engagement. This can
build trust and persuade the client that it is in their best interest to work with you.

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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Problem Client #3:
They Commoditize You
There is nothing wrong with a client performing due diligence and price shopping. In fact,
we encourage our clients to do this from the outset! However, any industry can become a
commodity. And, at certain levels, it invariably does.
Its natural for a prospective client to do research into the market on how much services
cost. However, its vital that they also understand how to compare apples to apples. The
problem is, with so many levels of engagement and service, industries like digital marketing
and creative services can become a commodity - without the proper education of the client
from your end.
Simply put, they must know what they are looking for and how to tell quality amongst the
oferings out there. This is your opportunity to shine and diferentiate yourself from the pack.
There is often a true, larger problem behind what they say at
the outset. Thats why were usually hired. Part of what makes
a great consultant so valuable is their ability to educate and
direct the client. Not just on the current problem they are
facing, but about industry trends and potential challenges and
opportunities they might have in their blind spots.
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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Below are examples of how diverse digital service providers can occur. While each
level contains some form of consultants in Social Media, Web Development, Graphic
Design, Digital Marketing (SEO), Product Marketing, Branding, Copywriters and so
forth, we wanted to break them down for you.
Level 1: The Novice
(The Beginner)
Level 2: The Apprentice
(The Student)
Level 3: Competent
(The Capable & Learned)
They probably have a personal blog, but write just about anything. Not too
much focus or content optimization here.
They may have good personal social media, but they post anything.
They dont use more of the expensive tools and software to produce
quality web design, documents, visuals, etc.
They dont know how to develop a strategy that thinks through business
processes, customer segmentation analysis, branding, go-to-market,
metrics, KPIs (probably dont know what KPIs are), etc.
Not All Service Providers
Are Created Equal

They are starting to gain more knowledge and experience.

They have probably assisted an experienced professional with marketing
campaigns that have boosted page views (to reach the 1st page of Google),
the user experience, conversion rates and overall impressions of the digital
presence for previous clients.

They have discovered which tools and software to use, often engaging
with them to produce results. (Adobe Suite Products, Ad Platforms, Social
Media Platforms, Heatmapping, Project Management Tools, etc.)
Their work is pretty clean but it is missing the WOW factor. (rock solid,
aesthetic deliverables)
They are able to meet deadlines and have access to 1 or 2 people who
help them, but are still working out some of the work fows and client
communication eforts.

Level 4: The Expert
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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The Best, The Experienced,
The Creme de la Creme
These guys have 2-3 resources in every category of digital (i.e. Design,
Development, Branding, UI/UX, paid media, PR, and more)
They have big results, substantial experience and a portfolio to boot.
They have helped companies streamline their processes, delivered winning
strategies and executed to market, often gaining the organization higher
conversion rates and more closed sales (Revenue, Gross / Net Proft, etc.)
Their contracts, deadlines, deliverables and communication are on point,
professional, awesomeness, etc.

Yeah, Weve Seen It
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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Yeah Weve Seen It
Case Study Time:
Most recently, one of us was approached by a startup that appeared to be
well-funded and was looking to scale its current user base in order to get
their next round of funding.
They had a pretty decent-sized budget, but they did not like the rates we
were quoting them. Additionally, they were comparing us to another company
who hasnt had the same track record or results as us, nor all the components
required/necessary to complete the project.
In essence, they were comparing apples to oranges. Hence, we were quoting
them a deal for the complete process they needed, while remaining fair to the
fact that they were a startup.
We did not budge, they went with the other company, and in the end they
did not complete their project to the point where they were efective or
Yep, that happens a lot!

How to Overcome
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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How To Overcome
Your job is to teach your potential client a little bit about the existing market for your services,
as well as what separates the premium providers from the commodity options and exactly
how they get what they pay for.
Heres exactly how you do it:
Depending on your industry or focus area of services, show them the
breakdown of what options are currently on the market. Similar to the above
options, but maybe a little less shrewd (unless thats what youre going for).
Use your experience to determine what happens at each level.
Create a document for this breakdown but keep it fairly visual. 2.
Ask them to choose what it is they are most concerned with getting for their
project. Often, they want the expert-level results, but are concerned about
price. Remind them of what can happen if they dont do it right the frst time.
Create another document that explains your process, methodology and
the way you ultimately produce results (Be careful not to tell them too
much. Dont give away your secret sauce here, just the facts). This educates
them on why your services are needed, and how they can become
knowledgeable when shopping the market.

Psychology of Success
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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Potential clients will leave the meeting with a clear sense of your worth - AND how this will
translate to a successful outcome for their business goals.
If the client already feels that you have their best interest in mind, and are willing to help
educate them not only about their market, but ALSO your potential competition, you have
overcome a strong barrier to building trust.
When the time comes to make a decision, assuming you have made a strong case for your
value, they will remember that you helped them become more knowledgeable - so they
could make the best decision. At the end of the day, great salespeople know that the best
way to close any deal is via educating the customer, and asking great questions.
Do this well, and youll easily set yourself apart from the majority of your competition!!!
Psychology of Success
Anything less will produce undesirable results. If they pay for less, they will get less, and
ultimately end up coming back to see you. Trust us!! Theyll be back if they go somewhere
else. Then, its up to you if you want to take them on as a client. (PS well discuss this later
as you will often fnd people who already spent money to solve their problems and are now
coming to you, or back to you, and expecting for you to discount.)

The amount of information that needs to be weighed and considered can potentially
overwhelm your prospective client. This is excellent. Your job is to ensure that youll take
care of all of that; not them. You now have the potential to be their hero.
You Become a Benchmark
For Talent

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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Key Action Takeaways
Make sure you are being fairly compared. The bottom line is that there are a lot of people out there that say they can
do what you do. You must position yourself according to your skill level.
You should consider presenting them with the following:
A price sheet (where applicable) / How you charge? Keep it visual and straightforward.

Show them the framework you use. Be sure it doesnt spell out how you do it, just
what you outcomes and benefts they can expect.

Ask them what they value more: Quality or cheap results? They should never
say cheap results. If they do, then walk away. If they say quality, ask them if they
understand that they have to pay for quality.

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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Problem Client #4:
They Use can be a great resource for some one-of digital jobs, such as a short voice over
or tiny tweak to an existing graphic you might have. But, if a company is looking to move the
needle, these freelancers just dont have the fnancial incentive to bother getting to know
what makes the business and its challenges unique. They simply cant aford to.
They have commoditized themselves and their services on purpose. They are looking for
the quick fxes to get quick cash. This does not equate to a clients bottom line. A client that
wants to compare and use is a client that is still focused on price over delivered
While the client should avoid quick fxes, a service like Fiverr.
com is great for Consultants. Its defnitely worth having as a
go-to-resource for quick jobs that youre already managing
efciently. Thats where we see being a real asset.

How to Overcome
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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How To Overcome
Heres how to get the most out of this situation:
Ask them where they want to be in a year, and if their $5 service provider
understands that and how they ft into that picture.
Ask them if using solves an initial need within the scope of their
already constructed strategy?
Ex: The client has a strategy they are currently executing which includes
some initial changes to their website. A graphic is not optimized for mobile
viewing and they need a quick designer to fx it while their head designer is
working on other items. Then might be a good option. They are
simply looking for a quick fx thats conducive with keeping them on track for
executing their current strategy.
This leads to another clarifying question: What is their primary motivation
right now? Is it to initiate quick fxes or are they trying to pivot to enhance
their customers experiences and maximize their proft? If its the former,
they dont need you. If its the latter, theyll likely be doomed and in trouble
without you.

Psychology of Success
However, if they dont have a strategy,
they need to rethink as a

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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Within minutes youll have established both authority and credibility. Youre
now positioned as a trustworthy individual that has diagnosed their most
immediate needs and what it would take to solve them. You either give them
advice and qualify them to move forward without using for quick
fxes or quickly establish them as the wrong ft. Nothing more. Be helpful,
communicate your focus on premium value and get out of the way. Always
qualify them as a client. Its a win-win.
Psychology of Success

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Page 26
Key Action Takeaways
Lets just keep this VERY straight forward: is for quick fxes.

If you dont have a strategy frst, $5 tactics from wont do the trick.

You must ask, Where in the project are we? This will help guide you on guiding your

Some Things Are Just That

Simple to Understand
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 27
Problem Client #5:
Discount Seekers & Tire Kickers
This client archetype can set a negative tone right
out of the gate.
Business people that recognize valued results,
and their long-term impact, wont bat an eyelash
at paying for it. They know that the return on
investment could easily be 10x or more than what
they paid - if they do due diligence on value, and
what you can bring to the table. Always keep an
eye on educating them as you lead them through
the process of value discovery, and how youre
uniquely positioned to get them where they want
to be.

Heres the deal - Most likely this type of person is
not your client if you are currently trying to raise the
value of your brand, as well as what you charge.
However, its possible that these people can be
teachable. If thats the case, then you can and
should demonstrate how pricing should be viewed
as an investment and what theyll get in return for
that investment. Not to mention, how their business
beneft will from this investment-minded approach.
Be warned - this can be a tough sell, but if youre
up to the challenge, it can be great for fne-tuning
your negotiation skills.
Most likely this type of person is not
your client if you are currently trying to
raise the value of your brand, as well as
what you charge.

Yeah, Weve Seen It
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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Yeah Weve Seen It
Case Study Time:
One of us encountered a fairly seasoned entrepreneur who was teamed up
with a highly popular doctor. Essentially, this entrepreneur had never ventured
into web, technology product marketing or product branding, and was looking
for the resources to efectively go-to-market with a novel, yet validated
He was not aware of what it would take to create all the necessary
components, and time was of the essence. Because this was an important,
direct referral, we tried to make the numbers work the best we could. In the
end, he still had unrealistic expectations and was not willing to spend the
money, even at a great bid, to execute the project.
No matter what the case, if you try to discount, youre shooting yourself in
the foot, right out of the gate. You can give a fantastic rate, but still have to be
smart about your time, quality, output and deliverables. What we were going to
create for him would have possibly made a return within a few months. Not too
long ago that same result wouldve taken 3-5 years.
Think about it!
Nothing personal, just business.

How to Overcome
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 29
How To Overcome
Explain to them the exponential value of time.
Heres a SCRIPT that will help solidify your authority status:
Consultant (Speaking): Mr. or Ms. Client, if you constantly look for the discounted prices,
you will fnd it harder to execute anything.
Additionally, each time you have someone implement something at a discounted rate,
youll most likely be missing important components (i.e. strategy, metrics, tools, design,
features, automation, CRM, tracking, etc. etc. etc.) that would be conducive to making
your money back. Have you thought about that? You do want to make your money back,
Now youve spent some money and have seen no return, so you go back to the drawing
board and look for more discounted services. These individuals take your money and
produce the same outcome. (Remember, Albert Einstein said, Doing the same thing
over and over again and expecting a diferent outcome is the defnition of insanity.)
Weve seen this a lot, and clients typically repeat this pattern two more times.
At this point, you, the client, will have started to spend closer to the type of budget you
should have allocated in the frst place - by paying for quality. Only now youre missing
the right components and have too many diferent directions you can take with your
product or service. How will you know what to do next, or how to integrate this whole
Finally, in order to fx everything that you, the client, created, you now have to pay an
expert, i.e. me, to clean everything up. Of course, for the amount of money you shouldve
spent in the frst place.
So, I ask you, which route would you prefer?

Psychology of Success

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 30
Psychology of Success
Youve just successfully tore apart
the entire situation and delivered the
absolute, most honest truth.
If this doesnt get the individuals
attention and respect, move on!

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 31
Key Action Takeaways
Remember, these potential clients are lucky if they have you. That means either youre doing them a favor or you
successfully convinced them of the true value of your services.
Most of the takeaways are self-evident, but here is a quick summary:
Discount seekers can be trouble because they seldom understand the lasting value of
quality. If they did, they wouldnt constantly ask for discounts.

If you are going to try and convert these types of people, stick to the above script.

If you do convert one, please let us know immediately so we can praise you for
your eforts. You are, in fact, a master negotiator once you do this.

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 32
Problem Client #6:
The Control Freaks
These people typically come in the form of Micromanagers, Control Freaks, Large Egotists,
Drama Queens & the Manipulative.
Look, these guys are in trouble and they hide it by leading with fear. They dont know what
they dont know, so they tend to have control issues developed by their egos, overactive
imaginations and the inability to let go and be innovative. If they understood the changing
landscape of work environments and the role technology plays, they likely wouldnt behave
like this.
If the client youre dealing with is such an expert on what they need and how to solve their
problem, why do they need to hire you? These ego monsters are their own worst enemies
and they dont even realize it. If they were really smart, they would tell you all of their
problems, let you handle it for them, then take all the credit for getting it done. They were
smart enough to hire someone to get the job done, which in turn makes them look good. Of
course, this theory implies that they think. Since they dont, this section is dedicated to how
you grab the bull by the horns.

These individuals inability to admit they dont know everything,
means they are not giving you the role of the expert. While this
section is dedicated on how to be successful when dealing
with these types of individuals, you may fnd yourself getting up
from the table early on and passing on these types of people.
The ability to know when to hold em and know when to fold
em can save you a ton of wasted time.

Yeah, Weve Seen It
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 33
Yeah Weve Seen It
Case Study Time:
In one instance, while one of us was contracted to a red-fag client (big
company), one of the decision-making executives actually hired an additional
consultant to counteract our decisions as a consultant further complicating
the situation.
Talk about stubbornness. As mentioned earlier, these particular executives
tend to lead with so much fear, manipulation and distrust that they become
destructive to the very project they want to execute. Whats worse, they
typically do this all while maintaining their innocence. They can be very crafty.
Just remember, its your job to do what they hired you to do to produce
results. You have to complete the job as outlined, push back when necessary,
record and document everything and create an appropriate exit strategy for
yourself. If youre as good as we know you are, the project wont do as well
without you.
For us, the aforementioned project was moving at warp speed and has
since fallen fat once gone from the job. In the world of technology and web
platforms, more engagement = more proft. They havent seen either since we
were of the project. Now theyre just spending on something thats not even
* NDAs say that we cant talk about who the clients are and we wouldnt
want to. However, the specifc client is not as important as the lessons we
learned and are sharing with you.

How to Overcome
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Page 34
How To Overcome
You must learn how to deal with these types of client personalities, because sadly they are all
too common. Plus, if you want to become a better consultant at the top of your game, youve
got to put in the reps.
Heres what you should do in this situation:
For starters, read How to Win Friends and Infuence People by Dale Carnegie. Carnegie
was prolifc and on the money. He understood fundamental truths about human
behavior and trigger points. While the whole book is necessary to read, please pay
attention to the following:

Three fundamental techniques in handling people

Six Ways to Make People Like You

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

Nine Ways to Change People Without Giving Ofense or Arousing Resentment

You can fnd quick notes on these subjects here:
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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How To Overcome
For purposes of handling red fag clients, lets just focus on the 3 Fundamental Techniques 2.

Continued . . .
Dont criticize, condemn or complain - The best thing you can do with these types of
individuals is to fnd out who they are, give them a platform to speak and understand
their overall feelings. DO NOT criticize them in any way or they might lose it.
Simply say, I understand what you are telling me and I will be sure to see how I can
help you. Of course, throughout the interaction, always check in by saying, I was able
to do X, Y, and Z according to you telling me thats what you want. Here you go. (deliver
it to them each time youre complete.)

Give honest and sincere appreciation - The key word here is honest. Find something
they have done correct or should be complimented for, and then lean on it. That is,
praise them for those things and use that as a focal point when things get out of hand.
As Carnegie says, if you are not honest, it will just look like insincere fattery and they
wont trust you.

Arouse the other person with an eager want - Straight up ask them what they want.
What are they trying to do here? What makes them comfortable? Just like anything else,
when you ask for feedback, theyll give it to you. Its your job to use that information and
fnd a way to constantly give that to them.

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How To Overcome
REPEAT ALERT: In the initial scope, include a document on communication which covers: 3.

Psychology of Success
Continued . . .
How communication will take place and between whom.

What platform you will use to keep open, transparent dialogue - We Recommend:
Basecamp, Asana, Trello and/or TeamworkPM

How often communication is expected.

A checklist that shows exactly what equates with client delight and satisfaction. In short,
the specifc outcomes will make them happy.

Get everything in writing and have them sign of on it. Remember to include any metrics.
Metrics build transparency, trust and put the odds in your favor. Keep referring to this
document throughout the project.
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 37
You will have penetrated the evil monsters to win their trust and confdence in you. This
means you will have control the rest of the way so long as you continue to lead in such a
manner. Never forget to lead with authority.
Psychology of Success
There are only 2 possible outcomes here.
Life is full of choices. Choose
Outcome #1:
They are more trouble than they are worth and you get up from the table and professionally
say no, thank you.
Heres the best part: Youre dealing with an ego maniac. Telling them that you dont want
to work with them, or the project, gives you all the power because their ego (or vanity) will
be hurt and they may suddenly scramble to appease you. Remember - its up to you if
you still want to work with them, and you should be prepared with a strict process for the
engagement. They can become problematic quickly.
Outcome #2:
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 38
Key Action Takeaways
If clear expectations, defnition of scope / deliverables AND timelines were made rock solid and clear before work
began, these micromanagers, control freaks, egotistical, and drama queens shouldnt be an issue.
Remember - Get it ALL in writing and initialed of on.
The Disorganized Drama Kings/Queens:
I need the project yesterday! (Expecting to pay the same rate, or even a discount).
The answer is NO. Tell them that Express and urgent delivery comes with an urgent premium price tag.

The Im Not Taking Your Initial Advice or Recommendations

Why did they hire you? This is akin to the person in a bad relationship that constantly asks for support,
advice, or a shoulder to cry on - and then keeps making bad decisions. In this case, past actions and
behavior tend to predict future trends. This is a perfect opportunity to push back, as the expert, as to
why they didnt implement what you created and ofered. If there is a valid reason they can support with
results- great! You have learned something. If it is unclear, you are dealing with a large ego. Time to have
a conversation about what you ofer, your unique value and whether or not things are a good ft.
Dont be afraid of pushing back - 90% of independent consultants dont have the guts to do this. The
right clients will respect the hell out of you for doing this. Especially, if they are surrounded by mostly yes

The Non-Communicative
This is the client that disappears for weeks at a time, doesnt respond to emails, misses scheduled calls,
etc. Yet, when a crisis/emergency pops up, they demand you drop everything and come running to put
out their fres and hold their hand.
This immediately signals a NO. Build communication styles, methods and frequency into the initial
agreement. Make sure to also build in an emergency / urgent matter service clause which will
command a premium price.

BONUS: Red Flag Client Archetypes to Watch Out For

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Problem Client #7:
They See You As Their Employee
Did you quit your soul sucking job in corporate to
start your own business, only to be absorbed as
an employee into someone elses? Do you want
to take orders from them, while remaining at their
beck and call?

Yeah, Weve Seen It
Page 39
You better be answering HELL NO

Most of us quit working for someone else for

similar reasons. We craved more autonomy, more
creative control over the projects we work on
and the ability to dictate how best to spend our
precious time.
When you cross paths with a client that starts to treat you as an employee, pay very close attention.
This could mean several things:
One, they might be out for a deal, and you seem like the best chance for them to
not only haggle on prices, but skip out on the headaches of employee insurance
and taxes, had they chosen to hire someone full time.

Two, they are still trying to control the situation not taking into consideration that you
are an independent, third-party, consultant with an unbiased set of eyes.

Three, they are afraid youll do too good of a job - making them look bad. They have
not fgured out yet that hiring more talented people to get the job done is a good
thing. It means the person hiring knows how to spot talent and get things done.

REMEMBER: Ultimately, a client falling into this category might be part of the reason their organization
is struggling with the problems you are there to solve.
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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Yeah Weve Seen It

How to Overcome
Case Study Time: You get the idea that weve been through some things
Another client needed an entire brand refresh and global web platform for all of their
subsidiaries. While their budget was decent in size (6-fgures), it was not nearly the amount it
would normally take to develop something of this magnitude (roughly 3-5 times this budget).
However, they hired us to take care of it from a third party perspective given that they had
failed in-house 3 previous times with this initaitive, and when you have amazing and efcient
resources, anything is possible.
Now, being that the resources were in a diferent location than client HQ, it was necessary
to spend as much time as possible in the city where the work was produced, while making
occasional trips to the client site. After all, were consultants, not employees. We must
be wherever we need to be to get the job done. And while we were very efective in this
approach, not being physically present caused a bit of a stir with one or two individuals.
Essentially, work was getting done faster than they were used to, that they caused a few
unwarranted emergencies that really stalled time and efciency. Everyone was to stop
what they were doing, in order to focus 100% on this individuals unrelated and non-valuable
emergencies. I dont know about you, but were not their employees. We were contracted
to do a job, a great job.
This is simply unacceptable when youre coordinating nearly 20 people on a project.
Mr or Ms. Client, you want to delay the project and take on something completely diferent?
Fine, its going to cost you for the delay and an additional premium to put out your
unwarranted fres? I ask you, Are your perceived emergencies still worth it?

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 41
The number one thing you can do here is to re-iterate your status as a relative expert, within
your specialty focus. Sure, they can fnd an employee to handle day to day administrative tasks
that dont require training and a focus on specialization, but thats not what theyre after.
Simply put, most full-time employees are spread too thin and afected by tricky internal politics
to efectively execute a clearly defned project. They came to you for a reason, and that is
because you can solve their problem, the bigger picture whatever that may be.
Heres how you should break it down to the client:
It is in his or her best interest to see you as a partner in the process, someone
that is invested in the successful outcome of the project. You will have gained
their attention and trust.

Show them how you prefer to interact with them (the primary points of contact)
and ask them for any input on that process so you can make changes early on
in the process. Once you come to a communications understanding, thats how
you will dictate the relationship moving forward.
You are not their employee.
You are a hired, 3rd party
professional to:
How To Overcome
Have them sign of on a document that states how you work with them (the
key stakeholders and decision makers) throughout the process.

Psychology of Success
Page 42
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Psychology of Success
The sooner and stronger you can reinforce your position as a relative expert with the
appropriate documents in place, the smoother the whole engagement tends to go.

Remind them of what it is costing them in time, energy and lost market opportunity
by not solving their problem and demonstrate yourself as a consummate profes-
The sooner you do this, the sooner theyll see YOU as the answer theyve been
searching for.

What Makes You An Expert?

The fact that you can produce
in 10 hours of work what an
employee can do in 40
Consultants and freelancers that project an air of confdence and arent afraid to
push back when the client crosses a boundary, command the most respect, as well
as premium rates.

Adopt this mindset and your client communications will become much easier.

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Key Action Takeaways
Page 43
In order to position yourself as the relative expert and increase your value, have the following
documents in place:

Dont be afraid to push back if your expertise or advice is called into question.

If they insist on maintaining an employer/employee dynamic, it might be in your best interest to

part ways. This will most likely not improve over time. Of course, thats up to you.

Communications Workfow Sheet describing key interaction touch

points, responsibilities and weekly check-ins. Get this signed.

A clearly defned Independent Contractors agreement.

A client expectations document with clearly defned goals and

expected timelines. As each one is completed, all parties should
sign of.

If the client fails to see the diference between what you bring to the table, vs. a full time
employee, this spells trouble. If, after you have clearly defned your value proposition and how
your specialized skills can move the needle for their business, they still want to box you into a
pseudo-employee role, it is time to cut your losses. Further explanations will most likely fall on
deaf ears.

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Problem Client #8:
The Scope Creeper
This one is on you, the consultant.
Did you set crystal clear expectations at the beginning of what would be delivered vs. what would
Scope creep is an easily preventable disease, but requires you laying the groundwork and remaining
confdent, pushing back when boundaries are encroached.

Yeah, Weve Seen It
Page 44
Do you remember the last time a client project went sideways?
Ambiguity about timelines, clear expectations and tangible deliverables can ruin a potentially lucrative
client relationship. Unfortunately, you have to realize that most people will treat you only in the
manner that you have trained them to be acceptable.

Additionally, if you let them walk all over you during negotiations and defnition of the scope of the
project, you can expect more of this throughout the relationship.
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 45
Yeah Weve Seen It

How to Overcome
Case Study Time: And they just keep on coming . . .
Who hasnt seen this?
One client was given a specifc 6-fgure budget from their board of directors.
They were instructed to stay very close to its cap. All of the digital resources
(branders, web designers, developers/coders, UI/UX, digital marketing and
more) agreed it could be done and stayed within tight deadlines to achieve it.
However, one of the executives who was not actively participating in the
project until 6 months in, decided to interject his opinions and make general
assumptions on direction that were not based on our primary research and
collected data.
These general assumptions altered part of the direction, caused a 2-month
delay and resulted in the project going nearly $150K over budget.
Insidious scope creepers must be held to their contracts, period. Their actions
can be detrimental to their own organization. Remember that when you need
to push back and keep them within scope.
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 46
Weve already mentioned having a clear scope up front in the previous sections.
When you patiently and politely insist on a crystal clear scope of work document prior to
beginning the engagement, you can mitigate nearly all of this type of behavior.
An added bonus is that you can build in room for you to raise or renegotiate your fee for each
added service the client may request.
Youre the Expert. You usually
know exactly whats going to
happen. Do a clear, upfront
scope of work document and
build in what you anticipate.
Thats what makes you an
How To Overcome

Psychology of Success
Page 47
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Psychology of Success
Not only will you be protecting yourself and your valuable time, you will have frm-
ly established yourself as consummate professional that is focused exclusively on
delivering extraordinary results.

Clients are constantly looking for reassurance that they have hired the right person
for the job. The way to communicate this powerfully and efectively is to behave like
said professional from the frst conversation.
Take a Break.

By not only establishing clear expectations for the project outcome, but also
strong professional boundaries, you will put the clients mind at ease and your
professionalism will precede you.

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 48
Key Action Takeaways
Explain to the client how having a clear, unambiguous defnition of scope is in everyones
best interest for success.

Deliver the scope, including project timelines, expected deliverables and communication
methods/frequency prior to beginning the engagement.

Once the document is complete, get the client to sign of on it. This will set you, the client
and the project of on the right foot.

Set frequency of updates in the document so the client is fully aware of whats been
achieved, whats fallen behind and how necessary changes have been made to
accommodate those items that have fallen behind. An updated client will appreciate
your honesty and most likely act as your ambassador to the rest of the organization when
there are potential hiccups along the way. They will serve as your PR rep to the rest of
the organization, praising your true value to the success of the project.

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Problem Client #9:
The Confused / Disorganized Business Owner
These individuals have found themselves at a point where they dont
understand their own business model or true needs of their clients and
customers. How long have they been in business? Do they know what their key
diferentiation is?

Yeah, Weve Seen It
Page 49
Will you be flling a knowledge gap or an inefciency gap?
The inefciency gap is the preferred
scenario. Why? The client already
understands the tangible value you can
provide. They simply dont have the
time, focus or skills to do it themselves.
Now you are positioned strongly as the
expert; the hired gun that can make
their life easier.
The knowledge gap is a tougher nut to
crack. You might become responsible
for solving many problems beyond
your scope of work or capabilities for
that matter. Youll fnd that when you
need something from one of the other
integrated departments, it may not be
there and then youll have to create it
in order to do your job as well. This can
be very tiring and inefcient. Above all,
these unsophisticated clients might
have their current problems due to a
resistance of change. Your job is not to
educate them on their business, but
add value and growth to it. If there is
a knowledge gap, most likely you will
need to get up and walk.
Unsophisticated clients often resist change,
and are harder to educate and sell on value.
Do they have a fxed mindset, or a growth
mindset? Go for growth mindset. Always.

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 50
Yeah Weve Seen It

How to Overcome
Case Study Time: Theres always something to learn from each project.
Another client who not only needed help with their technology, had been
operating with fragmented processes across their entire organization. While
they were positive cash fow, there was a lot of waste and high costs due to
lack of having the right people in the right places doing the right things.
This became a problem, as they needed to understand how the marketing
value chain, distribution of capital and budgets, and roles and responsibilities all
fed into this new technology project.
Now, instead of us solely implementing new technology, we were being
approached by individual staf members to implement systems for each
department in order to function properly. While this would normally cause
delays in a project, it really just caused a lack of sleep. Take our word for it, this
is truly unhealthy and highly stressful if youre trying to restructure an entire
organization when youre really only supposed to do the contracted tasks.
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 51
You need to do an initial company (situation) audit and heres some of what the audit should
How To Overcome

Psychology of Success
Does the client understand his or her own business, inside and out?
Are they conscious of their company, as well as any industry trends that might be a threat to
the successful execution of this project?
Who is their customer? What can they tell you about their customer segments they target and
do they have any data on them?
Who is their direct competition? Who is their indirect competition and / or alternatives to the
What marketing have they done to date and why?
Are they operating efciently? Are there any gaps?
Who will be the primary points of contact on the project and which departments will be
Do they have a set budget in place? What is it?
(We will hammer this point home until you absorb its importance. We are talking about
money. Money invested to produce specifc results. That is the crux of business. If they
cant or are unwilling to talk about money, then you cant talk business.)
NOTE: These are important questions to ask your client
and get answers to, as a project can only be successful
when the partnership has transparency and a mutual
investment from both parties. This will further solidify
your position as an expert in their eyes, and they will be
very wary of losing you, for this project and lucrative
future work.

Page 52
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Psychology of Success
If your potential client is smart, they will recognize the value of you inquiring into
their business. Additionally, this will open up the wounds of whats wrong and get
to the heart of what will be expected of you right away. This brings you to a higher
level of trust with the potential client.
Youve turned the interview
process around.
Youve turned the interview process around. Instead of them interviewing you for the
project, youre interviewing them for ft. Are they a client you want to take on? Will you
be successful given the variables you now know? Do they have a budget for hiring
you? Are they committed to their results? See what happens when you treat a CEO, VP
or Director as a true business professional, on an equal playing feld.
A technologist friend of ours who, at just 26 years old, successfully reversed
the interview process of a Venture Capitalist in his 40s, and in turn was able to
demonstrate why his company was a great ft for VC money. He was not only able to
answer every question, but reverse the situation and demonstrate leadership in his
product and feld. Authority and infuence go hand-in-hand when you know what youre
talking about.
Successful business owners recognize the expertise of others, and are willing to pay
for it. Why? They would rather put their attention on the high-level activities that move
their business and brand forward.
Additionally, you will position yourself as the authority that can not only provide
tangible results, but also teach the client something valuable in the process.
This is the biggest secret to retaining the most loyal (and lucrative) clients. Focus on

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Page 53
Key Action Takeaways
Strongly position yourself as both an expert and educator by asking the right questions
up front.

Ask probing questions to get to the root of the clients pain. This can often be done with
an initial company audit questionnaire.

We cant say this enough, so, were repeating it. If you constantly need to educate your
client on industry trends that can afect their business, it might be time to take a pause
and re-evaluate if this is a client youd like to have in your roster.

If the client is unclear of their business model, industry trends and what the competition
is doing, they will have a hard time understanding why your expertise can have an impact
on their goals. This may become more work than you will want to take on. Unless they
are willing to pay you an exorbitant amount of money, this might be a red fag to walk
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Problem Client #10:
They Refuse To Pay Upfront % Fee

Yeah, Weve Seen It
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This goes back into wanting you to do a free trial
run at the outset.
And, as always, this should be a

You are welcome to do a PAID, smaller trial

run - to ofset the $$ risk to them, but you are a
professional and your time, services and expertise
are in demand. As such, they will be allocated to
where they are compensated.
There is also an innate danger here. What happens if you use
your own time and money to start a project and then a month
in, your client decides to do something else. He will have cost
you dearly and at no risk to him or her. Clients have to pay to play,
period. If theyve invested their own time and money, now theyre
more likely to see things through to the end.
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Yeah Weve Seen It

How to Overcome
Case Study Time: Practice makes perfect, right?
One client of ours had the audacity to say, Since this is our frst time working
together, I cannot agree to paying you the 30% down payment. Okay, Mr.
Client, then all of us experts who will be working for you the next 6 months
wont get started until you do so. In the services arena (i.e. Digital, Legal,
Construction, whatever) theres always a down payment to get started. This is
called a retainer fee.
This retainer can cover a multitude of items that the client hasnt even thought
of. Lucky for us, we got up from the table and walked. He didnt understand
why we werent interested, but more importantly, the people who referred him
to us felt so bad that they sent an even better client the next time. When you
operate with the notion of being honest with yourself, good things prevail!
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How To Overcome

Psychology of Success
Heres a small script you can use if you get stuck:
Consultant (Speaking): Mr. or Ms. Client, are you aware that in order for valuable
projects to get started, such as building a home, clearing the land, building your
mobile app or website, etc., that money must be paid up front, correct?
Of course, I have my own money I can use, but this is your investment. What
happens if I get started using my own money and 1 to 2 months in you decide to
go in a diferent direction? Sure, you say you wont. However, dont you think that
if you invested your money into a project, youll be more apt to follow it all the
way through?
Furthermore, even if it doesnt require much money of my own up front, Im
usually paid (insert a larger number here because you are now charging your
clients more) $175/hour and if you pull out of this job, you will have cost me at
minimum $7,000 ($175 X 40 hours). I could have put those hours to use on other
While I understand this is a big step for you, just as it would be to build a new
home, I need you to have faith in the process and respect my time accordingly.
In order to make you feel more at ease about this whole process, I will be laying
out the entire scope of work, inclusive of action items, due dates, deliverables,
scheduled weekly meetings, etc. This way you will be engaged with the project
the entire time.
What time this week should I send over the contract to be signed? (Just go for
the close.)

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Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Psychology of Success
Plain and simple, you are demonstrating to the potential client that you are
confdent, process oriented and a true professional. You expect to be treated
honestly and fairly because that is how you are treating them. Anything less and you
get up from the table and walk away. We cant guarantee youll immediately get
another referral or client, but youll feel good about yourself, which is crucial while
youre out there trying to get more projects. In our case, we did just that, and we
gained an even better client.
Value yourself. Have strong
morals and ethics and leave the
rest to the powers that be.

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Key Action Takeaways
If someone is expecting you to work without an upfront retainer, ask them why he or she
expects that. Have they been burned before? If you know where they are coming from,
you can better infuence them.

Regardless of their answer, be sure to explain the importance of being paid a portion
upfront. (i.e. To get some of the resources started or because you only accept payment
3 times throughout the project or to block out the time youll be dedicating to the project
for the next specifed time period.)

Make sure you say NO if they refuse to pay an upfront fee. No fee, no service, period.
Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Problem Client #11:
They Want To Pay In Referrals or Future Work

Yeah, Weve Seen It
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This can be a minefeld, so tread carefully. There
are a select few cases where this proverbial
carrot is somewhat of a decent idea. There was
one client that was paying good money, but by all
standards, 60% of what the project was actually
worth. His reasoning for paying less was because
this project would be exceptional exposure for us.
We did our due diligence, and it became clear that
he was actually right. The client had an incredible
brand name, and this great street cred would be
great for our future portfolio. Either way, this client
was already paying fairly, so the carrot was worth
it to us.
Remember, your mileage may vary, depending on
your goals. Always think strategically about what
you will get out of the project - money, exposure,
introductions and the like.
Most of the time, potential clients that dangle a carrot, do so without thinking
they are starting out on the wrong foot. Why?
They are trying to either get away with not paying or paying very little.

When they refer, what will they say to their network about what they paid? Red Flag! Be
careful not to let yourself become a commodity.

If they refer to their network, will their network behave the exact same way? Like
attracts like! Red Flag!

Youre not dealing with the right sphere (center) of infuence. Youe goal is to get access
to high level, infuential decision makers, then you deliver a fantastic outcome and client
experience. Doing so will then expose you to their network as they will refer you based
on your performance.
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Yeah Weve Seen It

How to Overcome
Case Study Time: With a little help from Joe
Joe had been a designer for 3 years and has put in the time and efort to truly
hone his craft. Now, he is hungry for recurring clients and work, and nearly
makes the mistake of agreeing to do a job on spec, for the promise of
future work or referrals. The problem is that the majority of these promises
simply never bear fruit. They are a manipulation tactic that less confdent and
professional freelancers fall victim to every day.
Slow down, Joe!
If you have ever behaved like Joe, take note:

When creative freelancers (web, design, writers) are just starting out, they will
often accept this as payment, as they have a strong desire to build credibility,
expertise and a portfolio. However, for the established consultant with a solid
track record, this is unacceptable.

Sure, referrals are a great thing, and without a doubt the lifeblood to any
creative consultant that has a thriving practice. However, future referrals do
not pay todays bills, and clients that expect you to work for future referrals
simply do not value you, your work, or, you havent efectively communicated
how your delivered work will create a favorable result for THEIR business.
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How To Overcome

Psychology of Success
Here are a few pointers from whats worked for us:
Quote your frm price, no wavering and no explanations.

Explain that your time and attention is reserved for those that pay for your services,
as you owe them your best this would be diluted by accepting unpaid work for the
promise of future gigs.

Investment of money creates buy-in, both strategic and emotional, from the client. Doing
so lays the groundwork and expectation for your highest quality work and stellar results.
You can still ofer satisfaction guarantees or X number of revisions, but payment of cash
at the beginning ensures a professional tone.

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Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
Psychology of Success
Human beings only value what we pay for. Its our nature.
We are awash in freebies and information, but once we actually part with money
for something, we are now more emotionally invested in the process and its
outcome (see this reiterated throughout the rest of this guide). Think about it, would
you ask a restaurant to let you eat for free, or even sample their latest dish by
promising to tell 5 of your friends to eat there? NO. That restaurant would be out of
business. You are also a business, and you must communicate your professionalism.
When theres buy-in theres

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Key Action Takeaways
Communicate efectively how investing money creates buy-in from both sides, and thats
in your clients best interest.

Re-communicate the (potential) ROI in monetary terms to the prospective client, and how
your fee is well under this. A win/win

If the client hems and haws, saying they dont have the budget or any other excuse, they
have shown their true colors as a tire kicker, and its time to move forward, politely and
professionally. Of course, youll still be happy to take their referrals.
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Red Flags happen all the time. This guide can help you eliminate them and spend your time on HIGH
VALUE tactics and activities instead:
To eliminate stress, clear the decks and boost your income, you should aim only to work with high-valued
clients that want to play at the highest level.
Think like a detective. Your primary goal is to get to the pain behind the problem. Often, youll have
to dig. If you can accurately diagnose, youll be able to persuade from a stronger, more clarifed

Refresher of Key Takeaways & Next Steps

What is your tangible value to a project? Think in terms of measurable metrics that your client
Present documentation / visuals of everything you can. Humans are visual.
Become well versed in the expert (value-focused) mentality vs. a commodity.

Build a strong portfolio / case studies of not just your skills, but tangible results produced. Go back
to previous clients if necessary to get these.

Like any negotiation, never be afraid to walk from a bad deal. With this guide, youll be able to
recognize and act on these much faster.

Never do free work.

See your role as that of a teacher. If you can teach your client something new about their business
or industry, you have achieved authority status.

Be honest and ethical to yourself and to others. This will ensure you dont take on clients simply
because you need money. Youd be surprised at how often better deals come along when you turn
down bad ones frst.

Be smart and diligent with your time, talent, resources and information. All of them come at a
premium because you have what others need.
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If something keeps happening to
you over and over in your business
that you dont like, theres one
common denominator - you.
You have the power to
change it!
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Thanks for reading the entire guide to Red Flag Clients!!
Were Mike Harrington and Matt Gottesman, two independent consultants in business and technology
whove seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Everything we just spoke about regarding red fag clients,
and client engagements as a whole, comes from a collective 20+ years of experience working with some
of the biggest projects and companies on the planet, to the greatest of local startups.
We learned many lessons along the way and are grateful for every opportunity. Regardless of the client,
every project had a purpose to help us grow and become more successful. This growth and experience
has helped us command higher rates as well.
We made this guide for you in hopes of imparting some of the lessons we learned in order to save you
time and worry that we endured. This guide serves as a starting point to raising your value, your brand
and your rates.
It is our primary goal to deliver any and all information on this topic, so if you have any questions, input or
desires for more information, please provide it here. RED FLAG CLIENT FEEDBACK FORM
Then please do us a favor and share it on Twitter
and Facebook. Your fellow creative consultants will
appreciate it too.
Heres a link to the page where they can download:

Red Flag Client Playbook: Charge What Youre Worth & Remove Clients That Dont Matter
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All rights reserved, copyright 2014 Mike Harrington & Matt Gottesman