How to Spot Difficult Coaching Clients


Five minutes into the call I knew this client was going to make my life miserable. The problem was, I already said “Yes.” If you have been in this situation, you probably wish you could have seen the signs of a difficult coaching client early on.

In this video, I’ll help you recognize the coaching clients to avoid before they become a thorn in your side. We’ll delve into the red flags that should make you pause and reconsider. By the end, you will learn:

  • The common traits that define a difficult coaching client.
  • The crucial importance of understanding what “difficult” means to you personally.
  • How to recognize early warning signs (red flags) that indicate a potential difficult client.
  • The one strategy that helps guide your decision to say “yes” or “no”.
  • Steps to screen prospects effectively and filter out nightmare clients.


Signs of a Difficult Coaching Client and How to Avoid Them

Into every professional practice falls a little rain, or better said…walks in a nightmare client. You start losing sleep by a couple of hours every night, you keep thinking about their project during your lunch time, and you feel like your life has been taken over by this client.

What a nightmare! Didn’t we go into the business for ourselves to enjoy it? Do we not have the choice of who to work with? Of course, we do! The challenge is in recognizing a difficult client early enough to say “No.”

So how do you recognize someone who’ll end up being a difficult client for you?


What does a difficult client mean to you?

First, determine what “difficult” means to you. It may mean different things to different people.

For example, while some professionals will be happy to take a phone call from a client between 9 and 5, others may have a special time set aside for phone calls.

While some business owners love getting detailed specifications for a project, others may feel trapped and limited in their creativity.

So understanding what “difficult” means to you personally is crucial to identifying the signs of a difficult coaching client.


Most common traits of difficult clients

To help you decide what things may be important to you, here are some of the most common traits of difficult clients:

  • They do not respect your time
  • They tell you how to do your work
  • They always check up on you
  • They constantly change their mind about a project
  • They knit pick over every detail
  • They try to intimidate you into doing things you haven’t agreed to
  • They treat you as if they’re the boss and you are the employee
  • They have little respect for your expertise
  • They call you at a non-scheduled time
  • They frequently email you with questions, requiring long replies
  • They ask you to throw in a few extras without offering to pay extra
  • They keep reminding you how high your fees are
  • They are frequently disappointed with your work
  • They won’t pay on time, but ask you to continue working with them
  • They frequently cancel or reschedule your meetings
  • They believe they’re your only client, & demand your full attention

You can add to this list a few other traits that you find challenging or unacceptable to you.


Red flags: Early warning signs of a difficult coaching client

Once you know what’s important to you, how do you look for signs that this may be a difficult client? First of all, listen to your intuition. It’s easy to ignore the red flags, especially if you’re hungry for business.

My coach once told me, “Your gut is never wrong. Whenever I’ve ended up with a nightmare client, it’s because I didn’t listen to my instinct and I went for the zeroes.”

Listen to your instinct. I personally tend to avoid clients that feel like they’re always in a rush. I know I’ll find them really frustrating to work with.

Create a profile of your ideal client so you know exactly what to avoid in the future. It might feel like a lot of work, but usually, you will spend more time on a difficult client (time that you could spend prospecting, working with other clients, or simply taking a break).

Your mood and personal life may become affected by this project, and you may even end up not being paid at all!


How do you screen your prospects?

Ask potential clients to complete an assessment or an application form before you take them on.

The questions you ask should include the things that are important to you as a business owner, and as a person.

You may ask them about:

  • how they worked with professionals in the past
  • what their style of communication is
  • how much time they plan to devote to this project
  • what their deadline is
  • how committed they are to completing it

Refer to your ideal client profile when putting together a list of questions.

The fact that they’re willing to spend time answering an extensive list of questions already shows that this is a serious prospect, and helps you weed out as many “time-wasters” as possible.

The ability to recognize the signs of a difficult coaching client can be your greatest asset.

By making informed decisions about whom you choose to work with, you pave the way for a coaching journey that is not just smoother but ultimately more fulfilling.

It’s time to confidently say “No” to those nightmare clients, and with arms wide open, welcome the ideal ones into your coaching practice. Here’s to ideal clients and a stress-free business!


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