I have written and spoken on the importance of avoiding bad clients. Broadly, I am a big believer in simply surrounding myself with good people. Life is far better, far easier, and far more advantageous when one actively chooses to devote his time to the decent and moral individuals over disreputable ones. This must be done even in the face of financial benefit, when making money in the short term can often distract us from long term success.

Therefore, I decided a long time ago to only work with good, solid people. It was an active choice that forced me to reevaluate many of the relationships that I had made up until that point. I had to make some difficult decisions which threatened my monthly income. I actively worked to wrap up projects, slow down emails, and remove bad clients from my workflow. As my obligations to their projects were met, I would then explain to that client that my schedule did not afford me time to continue working with them in the future. I attempted to end each relationship professionally and, if possible, cordially. Before long, I reviewed my clientele and was pleased with the quality that remained.

From this wonderful development came a new lesson: beware of ‘new’ bad clients. In the complacency of more tranquil waters, it was a easy to begin working with new clients and once again make small trade-offs. One new client might continually rush a project with unreasonable time frames. Another new client might begin asking for more work that was agreed upon, pushing the limits of my flexible nature. And yet another new client might be difficult to receive payment from. The little details added up and before long I was surrounded by bad clients again. And yet again, I had to take conscious steps to remove them from my daily work.

The lesson from all of this is vigilance. A designer can make the difficult decisions required to remove bad clients from his life, but he must also be constantly aware of the intrusion of new ones. They do not always rear their heads in an obvious manner. Rather, they can nudge their way into a project and reveal their difficult nature gradually. Therefore, it is important to recognize the behavior of a bad client at all times, lest one wake up on a random Tuesday with far more stress in his life than is warranted.