Bad Client Syndrome

I have done work for many clients in the past, both as part of agencies, as well as in freelancing. While most clients are great and we build a great relationship, there are always one or two which shows the classic symptoms of the Bad Client Syndrome.

Unfortunately, close contact with people who carries this syndrome can lead to:

  1. Uncontrollable Rage
  2. Speaking in tongues
  3. --censored--
  4. A strong drive to write rants about Bad Client Syndrome

Designers and Developers are most at risk be being infected. If you see a potential client with the symptoms below, it's probably best to run away. Really far away.

Fortunately, this syndrome is completely curable, but first, let's look at the telling signs.


Tightness in buttocks

You're a tightass that wants to negociate on the price to the point of frustration for the designer/developer.

What You May Say
  • "Oh, that's too much"
  • "That's way above my budget"
  1. You're mean with money
  2. You want the best deal in the world
  3. You can't afford to pay

They quoted you that price because that's what they believe to be the value of their time. If you have no intention of coming close, just walk away; don't waste and disrespect their time. You're basically saying "Yes, I believe in your skills and experience, but I don't believe you with my wallet"

Negotiation is expected, but if it's too far off your mark, just find someone else.

If you can't afford to pay anyone to do the work, then maybe change your business idea into something smaller.

Scope Creep

You expect developers to do free work for you.

What You May Say
  • "Can you just add in this small feature? It's not much, I am sure it doesn't take you much time!"
  1. You are mean with money

The First Law of Thermodynamics states:

In all cases in which work is produced by the agency of heat, a quantity of heat is consumed which is proportional to the work done; and conversely, by the expenditure of an equal quantity of work an equal quantity of heat is produced.

It should be clear to you, now, if it wasn't before, that work cannot be produced from nothing. Developers do not want to be responsible for breaking such an important law of nature.

You're a tight with money, we get it. In business, you need to make sure every investment you put out gives a bigger return.

Then appreciate the fact that it works the other way around too - if you want something done that's not in the scope, pay up. Experienced developers won't give you things for free, unless they like you, which being a scope creep will definitely not help.

Supermarket Obsession

You want to pay only after the work is done.

What You May Say
  • "Trust me, I'll pay you after, I just don't have the money with me right now."
  • "I will pay you after the work is done."
  • "This will lead to paid work."
  1. You want to make sure the work that's done is good enough before you pay for it

The problem with this is that developers need provide themselves with caffeine, caffeine, shelter, water, caffeine, food and other daily necessities. Do so requires money.

After the developer has completed the tasks, what is to stop you from refusing to pay, or barter with them for a lower rate, because it's not "as good as you thought"?

This is not a supermarket, where you pick up ready-made products. This is us, developers, custom-tailoring everything to you.

For smaller projects, an upfront payment is common. For medium-to-large scale projects, a deposit is common; better still, ask your developer to break the project into phases, and only pay, upfront, by installments, as specified in a schedule.

At the end of the day, a contract or any other legally-binding documents can only say so much. You can't say "the quality of the code must be above 90%" - there are things you can't quantify. So to make a technology truly successful, you need to be trust between the parties involved.

The policy you should take up is this: trust them until they give you reasons not to. This way, you don't scare the good developers away, who would rather be dealing with better clients.

Also - Fuck you. Pay me.


The First Law of Software Development states:

Time, Costs, Quality. Pick Two.

You think you are above the Law of Software Development.

What You May Say
  • "Can we add this feature? Oh, and that feature, too! But the price have to go down."
  1. You undervalue the work that the developers do
  2. Fairness is not important to you
  3. Narcissistic Personality Disorder

You need to care only about these three things:

  1. Costs
  2. Speed
  3. Quality

If costs is your key factor, then don't expect it to be done at the speed of light and be 100% bug-free.

If speed is your key factor, then don't expect people to set aside everyone else's work to do yours, unless you pay them enough to do it. Also don't expect too much testing, because those things takes time.

If quality is your key factor, then put the money and time in to make it a good. Look at their previous work, look at code written by them if they let you (or better still, if it's open-source) - that way you can gauge their code quality.

If all three factors are important to you, then you need to put in more, or compromise. Developers are very logical creatures which are unlikely to accept such impossible compromises.

Inability to Commit

You says you're happy with everything they showed you, but you just won't put pen to paper.

What You May Say
  • "I am happy with this arrangement, but there are just some things that I need to go over, give me a few more days!" × 10
  • "..."
  1. You are actively looking for other developer or agency to compare with, probably trying to find someone cheaper who can do the work better and faster. However, you are soon likely to realize that "cheaper, better and faster" is an impossible combination.
  2. They don't trust you or your skills and maybe looking for people more experienced to confirm what you told them.

It's true that you might not get the best deal, and that's fine. Just find someone/some place you are comfortable with, and just go with it. If you manage to come close to an agreement, don't drag it on - you're not being a good sport and you may potentiall be wasting someone's time.

Also, instead of trying to squeeze every last penny and every drop of life out of your developer and make them sad, treat them well and happier developers gives happier code!


You don't know what you want, but you expect others to. (Not, I am not describing my girlfriend)

What You May Say
  • "Just be creative!"
  1. You have no bloody clue what you want

Maybe you should sit yourself down and think about what you want so that others have something to build on. Anyways, why are you spending your money when you have no idea what you want to build? (Unless you are a big corporate firm which must dispose utilize their marketing budget before the end of the year, then please contact me)


Also known as micromanagement. This is the polar opposite to cluenessness, where you want absolute control over everything. You view developers as nothing more than foot soldiers which must obey your every command, even when it's "Drive this ship into land"

People who is becoming control-freaks also show signs of having trust issues.

What You May Say
  • "I love the design, but the colour scheme needs to change, and the layout, and the design."
  • "Can you move this button 2 pixels to the right?'s try 1 pixel...Hmm...half a pixel?"
  1. Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Give the designers and developers freedom to do what you pay them to do. They're good at what they do. That's why they're the designers, and you are not.

If you think you can do a better job than them then you should have hired yourself to do the job.

Designing and software development requires a lot of creativity. Creativity needs freedom to develop and time to grow, looking over their shoulders all the time will not give you a better design or code quality.

Other Symptoms

  • Committee Member - Everything your developers or designers do have to first be approved by a committee. This is bad because then there'd be too many cooks, and too many people means no work gets done. To resolve this, appoint a single person to be the liason between your developers and your "committee".

  • Piriformis Syndrome - just don't be a pain in the arse. Please.

Useful Resources

The first step to getting better is to admit you have a problem. The next step is to get help.

Take a look at things from the designers' and developers' perspective. Be empathetic. Maybe then, the world stands a chance of people not killing each other.