Client Horror Stories: The Nut Job

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We all say people are crazy, but this client has to win the award for the biggest nut job. I will be avoiding saying whether this was a male or female so be ready to read “the client” a lot. Why? Nut job still follows what I do and will know I am speaking about them in this post. By offering no distinguishable facts about the client I avoid problems.

I will say that all of this could have been avoided if I had cared less about what the client and my friend thought and been more focused on the respect that I deserved.

Lesson #1 – Do NO Favors

I was a noob, no doubt about it. I had done a lot of side work nationally and decided I wanted to focus on more local work. I was doing some work for a guy I considered a friend and he said he had some friends that had a good business in my town. He asked if I could just do them a favor and give them a deal. (Always say no to this; if you are good there should be no deals. People pay for your knowledge and experience).

I thought that this business could open some doors for me and introduce me to some other influential businesses in the area. So I went to the meeting, met with the nut job, reviewed their options and gave them the cheapest deal on the planet. Why? Because I am stupid and I was hungry to grow my business.

Lesson #2 – If they have had problems with multiple Web people in the past this is a major warning sign!

This person explained that they had horrible fights with multiple web designers and marketers in the past. I thought this person must have gotten a raw deal. I was wrong. This person was nuts.

Since this experience I have learned that some people you just don’t want to work with period. They will be nothing but a problem and trash you no matter how great of a job you do. The money isn’t worth the stress. At this point I can tell by reading a first email from a potential client or listening to their first phone message whether or not I will work with them.

Nice Turned to Crazy Real Quick

I worked with the client and was attentive. We planned on a WordPress template design (because they didn’t want to spend money on a new site), created a plan to optimize their product and moved forward. The client instantly started reading everything about SEO and WordPress and questioned me on everything. The client then hired an additional person to set up hosting for them without speaking to me. The client asked this person for all kinds of things, gave them a hard time, required tons of work and demanded the money back.

Stalker Behavior

The client then became like a stalker. This person called me constantly (daily, multiple times) with questions, emailed all the time and called me nightly on their long ride home from the gym. Another disturbing development, remember the friend that asked me to do a favor by working with this client? Well the client started talking trash about them. They told me all kinds of family secrets and information about the family’s income and siblings. WHY??? Holy crap!

There were always compliments on how smart I was and how amazed they were that I knew everything that I knew. I felt stuck. I was trying to do this for a friend. I should have walked away, but felt I couldn’t get away so I told myself to hurry and finish the job. I worked hard, site was up and pages were ranking fantastically for all the products.

I informed the client that I was leaving for a conference in a few weeks (Thank God).

Client says “I want to learn SEO like you” and buys a ticket to the conference. I am not lying. This freak followed me to the conference! The conference people had a networking system set-up for people to network before the conference. The client was all over it and introduced themselves to everyone I knew or was connected with.

At the conference I tried hard to avoid the client and I hung out with people I knew. This person would come up all the time, “I met so and so, have you???”. It was awful.

The funniest/scariest thing was Kim Kraus-Burg and Kate Morris were on a panel and Kim actually called me up and shook my hand. The client let out a real angry sound and slammed down their conference book and walked out. When did this turn into a competition? This nut job knew nothing at all and there was absolutely no reason for anyone to know who this person was.

I did begin to distance myself at this point and didn’t have to feel bad because there was obvious tension.

Client’s “Knowledge” Destroyed the Site

So this client is playing with all kinds of things. Changing content, meta-tags and playing with redirection plugins. After creating pages that ranked both locally and regionally (which was their target market) for each of their products the client then hires someone to create an automated system for the products that the search engines couldn’t read. WTF?

Rankings are dropping and then one day the site broke because client was playing with the redirection plugin. What the client didn’t know is we had a tracking plugin going and could see what they had been playing with, but couldn’t tell exactly what the client had done. I asked the client to tell me so I could fix it quick and not spend hours going one by one through things. Nut-job client has a fit, “You are accusing me of doing this?”

Um, no. I am telling you that you did it and I can see it so please tell me what you changed so I can fix it.” At this point I was totally done and didn’t care if we ever worked together or spoke again. Well, the client then lost their mind. Called me everything in the book, emailed the entire planet trashing me while including me in the email and all the while trying to explain how completely intelligent they were.

Note to nut jobs, people that are really intelligent have no reason to try and explain it to people. Knowing is enough.

Oh and remember how I said the client was telling me all kinds of secrets about my friend? The client emailed the friend and told the friend that I had told the client all the things the client told me about him (I hope that makes sense). Friendship basically over.

The Aftermath

So Nut Job tried to trash me in my local area, but takes it way farther. Nut job contacts Rae Hoffman-Dolan and tells her that I ripped the crazy person off and didn’t know what I was doing etc. Nut job acted like such a nut job that Rae had to get tough to get them to go away. The ultimate nut job then contacted several other people in the SEO industry and lied, lied and lied.

The Nut Job also contacted iThemes, the actual developer of the theme we used and trashed not only me, but also the person that set up the automated system (who was going crazy with this client, the client’s crazy behavior and the client’s insults as well). I had to contact the crazy client (& their company) and threaten to sue before some of it died down, but it didn’t for a while.

Then the extreme nut job went to Bruce Clay for SEO training and now advertises themselves as an SEO and social media expert.  So the extremely mental nut job really knows nothing at all and it is painfully obvious with their “SEO” and “social media” efforts. I am sure the nut job didn’t listen at Bruce Clay’s training at all and just sat their believing they knew more.

Lessons Learned?

Well there are many and I hope that the hell I lived through can help you avoid a similar hell in the future. Lessons learned:

Never do a favor for a friend – You need to be on equal footing with every client and be comfortable saying no and walking away.

If a potential client can’t work well with others they won’t work well with you either – If there are a good number of people in your industry (or really any industry) that have had problems dealing with the client you need to walk away. I would even suggest calling previous companies they worked with if you even feel slightly uneasy and ask how the work relationship functioned. People will be shockingly honest and helpful.

Any excessive communications / stalking means the business relationship needs to end, immediately – Clients that have to make a “friend” out of people that work with/for them have issues. If you are their only friend there is a reason why.

No amount of money or boost in business recognition is worth high levels of stress – This person caused me so much stress it was crazy. It wasn’t worth it and not one positive thing came out of the relationship. I lost major money on the deal when you consider time spent dealing with the whack job.

Crazy is crazy and crazy shouldn’t be messed with – You see the news, right? God only knows just how crazy people can be. I think this person has the potential to do horrible things. I should have run at the first sign of whackadoodleness.

Clients that want to understand things are fine, those that feel they have to know more than you are not – I major warning sign is someone that questions you in a condescending manner and/or the ones that feel they have to learn every possible thing because they want to be on equal footing with you. You don’t need to justify everything, so just walk away.

Anony Mous
This writer is Anonymous....Anonymous could be many writers, Who knows?
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  • Charlene

    I would never have believed it, but your nut job out kookoos my nut job client. Not by much, but definitely out kookoos. Mine believed that my developer was on a narcissistic rage and intentionally trying to sabotage her website. Never mind that evidence showed other people had entered the site and REMOVED code. Nope, it was my developer. She stalked me daily. But never tried to say she knew more than I, or my team, did. Although I would get emails from her – forwarded emails from MarketingProfs, SearchEngineLand, etc. I did ask her one time if she thought I needed additional education – considering that I’d been online since 1995, love SEO, owned an agency that has a team that includes SEO, designer, developers, etc. She stopped sending the emails.

    I agree wholeheartedly – DO NOT DO FAVORS! I just did it in the hopes of being introduced to two local businesses interested in website and online marketing work. Oh I got introduced – to three start ups with no money.

    Good gosh I feel for you – mine left my agency because she couldn’t afford us anymore (her business is dying because she was put in charge when husband left her). And I didn’t have to clean up my reputation because of her. I’m sorry you have to do that.

    • Anony Mous

      Thanks Charlene, I will say this Rae Hoffman and I have laughed over this situation so I feel good about that. No matter who this client contacted I have to believe they eventually noticed how crazy the nut job was. How could they not see it?

  • Nick Stamoulis

    I have to agree with you about no amount of money being worth the stress. At some point, you have to be willing to walk away from a bad business relationship. Is your mental health worth that one client? Probably not.

    • Anony Mous

      Thanks Nick. You are so right.

  • Christopher Noble

    I’ve had my fair share of not so normal clients over the years, but it does teach you quickly to weed out the ones that you KNOW will give you problems early on in the ‘getting to know you’ process.

    You are so right about not doing favors or doing things cheap. If the client respects you and your work, they won’t ask for a cheap price. And if you do do something ‘cheap’ it will almost certainly cost you more in the long run, as those are the clients that seem to expect far more than anyone else, and for a lot less.

    • Anony Mous

      ” And if you do do something ‘cheap’ it will almost certainly cost you more in the long run, as those are the clients that seem to expect far more than anyone else…”

      Outstanding and a very true statement.

      • SEOPRO4U

        Always true. I have not developed a sixth sense regarding this and just avoid people that act like this from the beginning.

  • Andy Nattan

    “I will be avoiding saying whether this was a male or female so be ready to read “the client” a lot.”

    Psst. You left in a few gender-specific pronouns towards the bottom. Hopefully it won’t give you away. 😉

    • Anony Mous

      Thank you Andy! I fixed it.

  • Cindy

    Yep, the nutjobs are definitely out there. I was doing a favor for a local non-profit organization who were not paying me ANYTHING. Not hosting fees, domain fees, NOTHING. Emails would come in on on a Friday afternoon requesting various changes to the website.

    On Saturday, further emails berating me for not getting the work done on time. Holy cow. I couldn’t get rid of them fast enough.

    • Anony Mous

      Cindy, have had similar experiences and I am shocked that people have the nerve.

  • Daniel

    I’m sure you mention the nut job as she a couple of times.

  • George

    BTW, please keep advocating this. I have been there too! Totally sucks, and that doesn’t begin to cover it. When you do favors for friends, family, or friends of friends you somehow become their biz-nitch in their eyes.

    Love the part about how they are an SEO an social media expert now. I work at an agency, everyone tells me I know more then everyone, but the more I learn, the more I realize how much I have to learn. I don’t think a real expert will ever say they are THE expert. In a field like this you can never stop learning or you get left behind.

    Anywayz, great post, thanks!

    • Melissa Fach

      George, I loved two points of yours:

      – “the more I learn, the more I realize how much I have to learn” and
      – “I don’t think a real expert will ever say they are THE expert”

      Great comment!

    • Anony Mous

      George, you are so right about the friends thing. I also agree with Melissa on the other two comments that were absolutely correct.

    • SEOPRO4U

      George, you’re a wise man. Anytime anyone asks me if I’m an SEO expert, I reply, no. There’s always more to know and learn, especially in such a dynamic field. I think I know a lot and I’ve delivered great results for clients, but I know that I don’t know everything and that things could change tomorrow. I’d be wary of the person who claims to know everything.

  • Thomas

    Sounds like this nut job has lots of money if they can follow you around all over the country. Send them my way! My specialty is nut job SEO…..hey that’s a good domain name.

    • Anony Mous

      Trust me when I say it isn’t worth it. Money, yes, did they want to part with it? No.

  • LP

    This is scary… I’d like more details/clues as to who this nutjob is so that we can avoid them!

  • David

    Another red flag communication from a prospect, in any industry, is “I can refer / get you more business” – this comes in various forms such as “I’ll get the many other divisions to hire you” to “I’m vert influential” to “when you do a great job for me I’ll intro you to all my contacts” and many other iterations.

    I’ve worked in other industries besides search marketing, and human behavior is the same. Don’t be influenced in any way by someone verbalizing to you how they’ll get you more business, connect you to others, etc. It’s all talk – and it’s just talk – meant to put stars in your eyes so you jump through hoops for them.

    They never come through with the additional business, the promised contacts, etc. They’re users. Don’t get used. To paraphrase Mr. Bush – “use me once shame on you, use me twice, well, the point is we don’t get used again!” 😉

    • Melissa Fach

      Great point David

  • Jenise Uehara Henrikson

    Laugh, cringe, facepalm. Thank you Anony Mous (and nut job) for a great story. I vote for a regular industry “blind item” feature on SEJ.

  • carlton

    always separate your friends from your business unless you want to leave in constant stress

  • shankar

    Separate Friends & Business. It is the starting point to mess up the relationships

    My Nut shell client was unknown to SEO who wanted all in one with cheaper price of nuts which i had avoided him after much explanations the SEO work can’t be carried at price of nuts.

    I have been in this industry since 8 years i feel that i have to learn more which i usually miss at advanced & international levels

  • Barry Doyle

    The metric I use for firing clients like that is blood pressure. If I feel my blood pressure going up when I see their number on caller ID or an e-mail from them, it;s time for them to go.

    You never feel quite so good as you do the day you fire a jackass as a client.


  • Anonumus

    I can’t believe you would go so low as posting this about me… You’ll be hearing from my lawyer.

  • Anonumus

    Just kidding by the way… Great story.

  • Lena

    New to the business of gathering new clients, although I have some hand picked by another colleague, (who is not crazy) I would dearly love to avoid having to deal with. I am increasingly sensitive to ‘friends’ who try to ask me for favors or advice, or who are looking for a deal, the latter smacks of inability to recognize value and/or be totally unwilling to pay for it. Glad SEJ has an option for us to learn from other’s experiences, thank you for writing!