Watch out for these red flags!

In the past, I’ve equated interviewing potential clients like dating. Unfortunately, as graphic designers, we don’t have any Tinder apps for figuring out if we’re going to be a good fit based on a swipe of a screen.

As a result, we’re left with interviewing and meeting people or having a potential phone call with them, trying to figure out if we’re a good fit. I guess it’s a little bit like old school dating, if anybody even does that anymore.

In most cases, when you sit down and have that interview, you’ve filtered out bad people enough it should go fairly well. Unfortunately, we can’t always be 100% with any method of doing that.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few different things that haven’t worked for me in those meetings. There were times when I needed to shut things down and walk away from the potential client.

One of the biggest red flags that I’ve run into, is no interest in signing a contract. I know there used to be a time when a handshake deal and trust was all anybody needed. Unfortunately, in this day and age, that really doesn’t work as much anymore.

I found that some clients can be a bit of trouble if they have no interest in signing a contract. But where I get most troubled by this is when they double down on it. 

In a similar vein, there’s the ones that ask you to sign a non-compete agreement or a non-disclosure agreement.

The non-compete clause is another immediate red flag for me. 

One thing that I always want designers to consider, is if somebody comes to you with a non-compete clause, it often means that you’re losing money further down the road.

You can’t always prove that an idea you heard from the person you’re meeting with, who might not even be a client, might be someone else’s idea that came to you without any input of your own.

Unfortunately, this can open you up to a lot of trouble trying to prove this. Having a contract that says you were going to not compete with somebody or take an idea and run can complicate things and usually it doesn’t end well in your favor.

One of the other big issues that I’ve run into is missing scheduled calls or meetings. I had to learn this one the hard way. I had a potential client that I was interested in working with. Every time we get close to having an initial phone call something would happen where they forced to reschedule.

For the first or second time, I can understand that things happen. And I try not to take it too personally. But after the that, it’s a problem.

One of the best things about a relationship between a designer and a client is that you’re making time for each other and you’re making each other a priority. If someone isn’t willing to do that for you, it’s not likely that they’re going to be a good client to work with. It’s likely they’ll consistently be putting you off. They might be missing deadlines or simply not taking the project seriously in the first place.

Another thing that I run into is when clients or potential clients try to simplify what you do. This is the classic this will only take you five minutes speech.”

Sure there are some things that we can do in five minutes. But it brushes me the wrong way when I have somebody trying to tell me how long my job should take or how easy it should be. 

I get that this can sometimes be said in jest. So you have to listen carefully for this one. But I have run into potential clients in the past who may have watched too much CSI and they assumed that Photoshop is some sort of magical program, capable of more than it really is. If they are that kind of person, again, typically not a good one to work with.

Last but not least, if they don’t click with you, it’s a red flag. This is very much a gut feeling.

Five minutes isn’t long enough to dive into this, but it’s a valid feeling. If you don’t feel comfortable with client, project, or where things are headed, it’s okay. There’s no harm in stepping back and letting them know that you’re not a good fit for the project. You don’t always need a solid reason for this even if they push back.

At the end of the day, you run your own business, and you have to be the one comfortable with the work that you’re doing.

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