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I'm sure that many of you have encountered a bad client. I'm also sure you took some measures to prevent such encounters in the future. What is the most influential characteristic of a client that warns you to walk away?

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Questions on Programmers.SE need to have some at least tangential relation to programming; this question is better served on a hiring/job site. –  user8 Sep 23 '10 at 22:59
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Disagree. It makes perfect sense to ask this question specifically for programmers. The answers would be different for any other profession. –  Timwi Sep 23 '10 at 23:08
    
Then it should be included in the title (eg. before you program for them) and in the question; as the current question doesn't tell people that answer it that it's intended for programmers. –  Tom Wijsman Sep 25 '10 at 17:22
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The whole site is for programmers. I'm not interested in walking their dog. –  JeffO Sep 27 '10 at 20:33
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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Some time ago I read 6 Warning Signs of a Problem Client and found it a good 'bad client smell' list.

Have you ever had a project that turned out to cause way more stress that it was worth? Of course you have. We all have. Most of the time you’re left saying “Why didn’t I see this coming?”

Here are some early warning signs of a problem project and some tips for upgrading them from hopeless to profitable.

1. “I tried doing it myself, but…”

2. There’s No Real Deadline

3. “Somebody Told Me I Should…”

4. Multiple Points Of Contact

5. “Trust Me, This Is Going To Be Huge!”

6. Repeated Meeting Cancellations

...

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Thanks klez! I found my "bad" client to have 4 out of 6 :) –  Josko Sep 23 '10 at 23:56
    
Great list! I would add one... "They balk when you propose progress payments." Payment is huge, of course, and the client who doesn't pay or pays late, in my opinion, is the worst. One way to test this is not to get too far into it without seeing cash. –  codeyoung Sep 24 '10 at 1:17
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My list would include:

  • Doesn't have time to create real requirements. Trust me if they won't create the requirements anything you deliver will not be as expected and you will be expected to "fix" it for free.
  • They balk at progress payments for a large project or balk at having a formal contract.
  • They keep refering to how Google does things. If they aren't going to pay for Google's servers and infrastructure, you will never make them happy.
  • Project details as specified and timeframe for expected delivery bear no relationship to each other. The guy who wants a complex system in a week is to be avoided at all costs.
  • Everything they say makes you feel like they want this done "on the cheap". Software development ain't cheap and a client who thinks it should be will never be happy.
  • The person is unpleasant to deal with and/or treats his staff poorly in your presence. If he treats them badly, he will treat you badly.
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+1 for "treats staff poorly". This is true of life in general; people who treat others like crap because they can get away with it are to be avoided if at all possible, in all contexts. –  BlairHippo Oct 19 '10 at 20:25
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