By Renée Biery

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Add-on’s, renovations, and new construction homes can seem intimidating to take on. How do you even get started? How do you find and manage contractors? What surprises should you anticipate coming up? How long do these things take?

In this podcast, you will learn all that and so much more!

Handling Toxic Clients: Recognizing Red Flags and Finding Solutions





Whenever you have what you might consider a toxic client, it is ultimately always your decision on how to handle that client and whether or not you sever ties with them. 

It can be really nerve-wracking to stand inside someone else’s living room and stand your ground.

But ultimately, it is your decision to make. And I’m sure several of you are thinking, well, there’s money to make. And I will get into that…..

But it does come down to you as to whether you stay with a toxic client or project. And I hope knowing that empowers you in and of itself! 

Toxic client behaviors

Client behaviors to watch for:

  1. When a client is ghosting you. 

There can be lots of seemingly good excuses, but ultimately, they’re just that, excuses

The key in that situation is proactive communication.

So, if you have set regular check-in meetings and deadlines for the decisions you need, those are things that you can lean on. 

Ofcourse, there can be legitimate reasons a client will ghost you. Such as when their child becomes sick or there’s an emergency, accident, or death in the family. All the things that cannot be predicted. But you MUST have the conversation in advance, ‘If then, then what?’

By the way, emergencies come up for us as well. Create that dialogue in the beginning so that you can be a part of the healing process. 

  1. When a client goes rogue

This can be when a client wants to go around you and talk with your suppliers. You need to explain, in the beginning, what your protocols are with your client. And you can explain why to your clients. It’s not for secrecy or deals, or at least it better not be. The reality is, it’s for clear communications so no mistakes get made. It allows a project to stay coherent and a timeline to be met. 

  1. When a client refuses or questions your bills

Clients want to understand what they’re paying for. But when a client gets to where they’re balking at every charge and questioning every line item, that’s when you need to pull back and set clear expectations by having a detailed discussion with the client. Ideally, this should happen at the very beginning of your contract. 

It should provide detailed information about how you will be invoicing, when you will be invoicing, and what is included in those fees. Transparency is key. 

  1. Verbal aggression

I have a red line for this. Hard stop, no, I don’t allow it. That doesn’t mean I haven’t heard it. 

It’s important to lay the groundwork for the behavior you will and, more importantly, will not allow. 

I have had one client become verbally aggressive and this can be very intimidating because, remember, we are the only girl on the job site. And so when a man in particular is being verbally aggressive, it can be intimidating. When this happened, I professionally put a stop to it right away, and thankfully, I had my team around me, and we were able to successfully complete the project.

You may not think the behaviors discussed in today’s episode could become toxic or are toxic.

However, these types of behaviors disrupt more than just the project. They may impact your mental health. They may impact the team dynamics. They may undermine your self-esteem. Your value. You may start questioning what you have done wrong at the moment, or surrounding moments, or months after even. It can be not just challenging but extremely draining. 

There may be other toxic behaviors that you experience, and honestly, that is a definition that you create. Because if you find something toxic or inappropriate, then it is.

How do you find a resolution if you decide to stay on these projects?

  1. Set clear boundaries in the beginning

It’s all about being firm but fair. 

Setting boundaries isn’t just good for you. It’s good for clients and projects, too. Everyone works better when they know what to expect. 

  1. Communication

Open, honest communication is key.

For example, when a client’s vision may go way off course, significantly from what we had agreed upon in the beginning.

Clients may get insecure or lose faith, so go back and review the scope of work. Changes aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but how they affect the timeline and budget is important for clients to understand. Sometimes, just creating a space for an open dialogue can clear up misunderstandings and some insecurities that your client may be feeling at some point over the project. 

  1. A Solid Contract

A solid contract is your best friend in this business. 

I learned a lot from having a lousy contract, and I now have a very clearly outlined contract that reviews the scope of work and the process of scope changes. It includes fee structures, timing, and deliverables. It really is comprehensive. It also includes how I can get out of a project. 

  1. Another resolution solution I have used a component of is if you need to seek out mediation.

There will be times when an impartial third party is needed to solve disputes. This can be an attorney. It can be a mediator. In my case, I used the contractor. While a contractor is not impartial, they are one degree away but still have the knowledge needed to have this level of discussion.

When to know if things have gotten too bad

  • Continuous disrespect
  • Constant scope creep
  • Failure to pay

Trust your instincts. Your gut is right. If a client relationship consistently leaves you feeling undervalued or stressed, it is time to seriously reconsider staying with the project.

If you are going to walk away, speak to your attorney first and understand your legal rights as well as your clients.

Another thing to consider before walking away is your professional reputation. 

This is about finding the balance between standing up for yourself and maintaining professionalism. 

There are red lines that you need to draw, and be comfortable knowing what you will do if that red line is crossed. It is not always easy, but prioritizing your mental health and well-being – yours and the teams’- is always paramount to any project of any size

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