Freelancers, Copywriters & Consultants: Decide Who You WON’T Sell To

You should not sell to everyone who is willing to buy from you. This is especially true for freelancers, copywriters, consultants, and solo professionals.


While this may sound crazy, especially if you are revenue-starved, give it a bit more thought and you’ll see that I’m right.

How to Lose the Complainers, Whiners, and Other High Maintenance Customers

Some customers are simply not worth the revenue they produce; because some customers are complainers, whiners, high maintenance, and end up costing you more in time, energy, and employee morale than they ever produce in revenue.

The truth is, most of us can identify these “problem children” customers a mile away. There’s just something about them that sets off the red flags early in the relationship, usually before any purchases have been made.

Learn to watch for these signals. Identify the kinds of questions, comments, and attitudes that you know are warning you that the person you’re talking to is a “problem child” customer.

Have a predetermined, polite, but firm routine in place for turning such customers away. You want to do it gracefully, because you don’t want to insult anyone or imply that they’re simply a “troublemaker” before you’ve even had a chance to get to know them.

But you and I both know that your biggest problem customers did not come as a surprise to you. Chances are, you knew in the first conversation you had with them, this person was going to be trouble.

Promise yourself that from now on you’re going to listen to your intuition, or your subconscious insight, or whatever you choose to call it… and you’re going to refuse to let those “problem children” inside your business.

You’ll be much better off without them messing up your employee morale, lowering your ROI, and costing you time and energy.

Spend the time you save on something much better – such as identifying, pursuing, and wooing your “perfect customers” instead.

The ones who are easy to work with, a joy to be around, most helped by your products and services, and produce the most profit for you in your business.

You’ll never be sorry you avoided a problem customer.

And every problem customer avoided makes room for a customer who is a delight.

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Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

    An about page is great place to turn people on or off to you.

    If you craft it right, maybe even make it a “sticky” page on your blog, you can address the issue of “problem children” right from the get go. You can give people a lay of the land of what they can expect when in your presence.

    What you stand for. What you believe in. What you will and will not tolerate.

    Tony Robbins does a marvelous job of setting up the fact that he’s gonna cuss during his seminars, at the very beginning. He manages expectations and gives you a reason why he’s gonna use what some people consider “shocking” language. You can stay or you can go after that point but you know up front what’s coming.

    Anytime you can do this, it’s going to serve you. Not everyone’s gonna like you and better early than later you send the people away who won’t be a good fit. Thanks Ray for reinforcing this concept in my mind as you can never be reminded to often of this!

    • Ray Edwards

      Thanks for stopping by Lewis!

  • carolfarbe

    I never thought I wouldn’t be selling to a potential client.  You bring up a good point. It’s hard to draw the perfect customer to your site or business. There is no such person. So, you need to have your red flags in place for those times that people stop by your site and start demanding or just plain insult you. Before you let out exactly what you are thinking, stop and take a breathe, count to 10, and calmly talk or respond to that unhappy person. With short answers, calmly but firmly respond and then quietly run the other way.

    • RayEdwards

       @carolfarbe All it takes is practice! :-)

  • Todd Liles

    That is great advice. Complainers suck so much energy!

  • Dennis Bauer

    I’ve been studying personal “boundaries” mainly because I’ve struggled with this most of my life. Your idea applies boundaries to business as well. OK, so now I’ve got more to work on! :)

    BTW, I just got my first negative review of my book on Amazon. I wrote what I hope was a gracious reply. He said I had been “deceptive” about what the book is about. He thought it was an aviation story, but it’s a self-improvement/inspiration book based on an incident I had when my airplane’s engine quit 5,000′ off the ground, and how the steps I took apply to anything in life that involves risk… which is just about everything. Thing is, he obviously had not paid attention to the preview, the back cover, or even the subtitle. He had fair notice of the book’s content, and he still didn’t pay attention.

    • Ray Edwards

      I make it a policy not to read the negative reviews.

  • Max Kazen

    I still struggle with this concept, but more and more I “get” that many people value more what they pay more for. Setting clear expectations, sticking to them…doing exactly what you say you will do, for fewer, but higher-paying clients limits the potential for “troublemakers.”

    • Ray Edwards

      That is a great summary, Max.

  • Alan

    Hi Ray…this is a great admonition to those of us that are just starting out as a freelancer. My first inclination is to accept any work that might come my way in order to build my portfolio. After reading your blog post, I can see that it would be wise to establish earlier, rather than later, my “red flags” and how best to handle the prospect when they arise. As you point out, both time and energy are limited resources.

    • Ray Edwards

      I can assure you that every time I’ve had a gut-level feeling about client being a potential problem child… That’s exactly what they turned out to be. Trust that “still, small voice”.

  • Marshall Bone

    Having been on the wrong side of this issue more than once, I couldn’t agree with you more. I would always rather run with one great client than have to drag 5 clients that I allowed to steal my peace.

  • Ray Eickhoff

    Loved this line in your post: Promise yourself that from now on you’re going to listen to your intuition, or your subconscious insight, or whatever you choose to call it… and you’re going to refuse to let those “problem children” inside your business. So appreciate you Ray and how you are making this eady to understand.

  • Ruth Chapman

    Yes, I think you are spot on with this! I’ve had a “customer” that I tried and tried to please, to no avail. I dreaded being around this person, who was very critical and demanding. It even started affecting my sleep. I am so glad I let this person out of my life! It was the best decision I could have made.

  • Stu McLaren

    Two words… Amen Brotha’

  • James Dalman


    Great post!

    “Chances are, you knew in the first conversation you had with them, this person was going to be trouble.” This couldn’t be more true, yet so many people ignore the red flags and warning signs – usually because of the need for income. You are better off without the money and having peace in your life instead!

  • Ilene

    Thank you for this wonderful wisdom…

    • Ray Edwards

      You are welcome. It will save you a lot of heartache.

  • Steve Perky

    Thanks, Ray, for the wise advice. Since I know they will come, I do need to have a planned response and “Have a predetermined, polite, but firm routine in place for turning such customers away.”