In a recent group coaching session, a client mentioned that she had been talking to a potential client who ‘had a lot of complaints about their previous teachers.’


Of course people can have bad experiences, maybe even more than once, but if you’re hearing a litany of complaints, beware.. it could be you they’re complaining about next.

Often we’re tempted to override our instincts because we need/want the client, or because we feel sorry for them, or simply because we’re too scared to turn them down. 

But I’m here to tell you, ignoring client red flags never ends well. 

Part of the reason for having your own business is so you can choose who to work with, so don’t let your fear of not having enough (otherwise known as scarcity mindset) blind you to the red flags waving away in the wind.

Some other client red flags to watch out for:

– Constantly tries to get more and more out of you for free, while dangling the possibility they they may eventually sign up.

Don’t fall into this trap. Help as much as you want to help, but if you do it, don’t do it with expectations. This kind of potential client will probably never sign up anyway, and if they do, that could be even worse, as they’re likely to be insanely demanding. 

– Tries to tell you that you’re charging too much, asks for discounts, argues about elements in your contract, mutters about how they’d better get a good ROI….

If you’re anything like me, this will trigger your desire to be perfect and to take responsibility for EVERYTHING big time.. which is not helpful. Avoid, avoid. 

– Has completely unrealistic expectations. Maybe they’re the kind of student who pronounces IELTS ‘eye-lets’, and yet they still expect that you’re going to get them to an 8.5 by the end of the month…

Don’t set yourself up for failure, and don’t let them dump the responsibility on you. 

How to avoid taking on these kinds of clients?

Maybe you’ve recognised some of these situations, but you’re still wondering HOW to avoid taking on these clients with red flags? 

If this is about needing the money, you need to make sure that your messaging is clear, and that you’re getting the word out there enough that you are no longer constantly worried about where the next client or job is coming from. 

If it’s about being too scared to tell them, then remember that, as Brene Brown says, ‘clear is kind’. But that doesn’t mean you have to explain exactly why the very thought of working them is giving you shivers…

Ideally just say something simple like,’ I really appreciate the offer but…./ It’s been good talking to you but on balance…. ‘I don’t think I’m the right person to help you.’ or ‘I don’t think we’d be a great fit.’ or ‘I don’t think this project is quite right for me.’ 

If that still feels too much, then write an email not long after speaking to them, and add ‘having given it some thought’ 

Finish with thanks, and wish them luck, and don’t get drawn into making excuses, or long explanations.

Trust me, you’ll be so glad you did this in the end. 


If you’re an ELT freelancer/business owner you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all the business advice out there…

Should you start a podcast or a YouTube channel, a mailing list, a membership? Is it a good idea to keep things as simple as possible, or should you be looking to diversify? What does scaling even mean, anyway?!

Would you like some clear step by step advice tailored to your stage of business? 

Look no further. Click the image to answer six simple questions and I’ll send you a detailed PDF game plan for your next steps.