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How to Handle High Maintenance Horror

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Trust me, I’ve been there. A few weeks into dealing with a new client you realize you have (gasp!) a high maintenance horror on your hands. They nag and whine. Your phone or social media is blowing up constantly questions and complaints. They ask for extras but want them for free… and the list goes on. 

You know hindsight is 20/20 – the best strategy is (of course) to avoid these clients altogether. However, by the time you start to recognize the signs, it’s usually too late! So, what’s a small business owner to do?  

I know how frustrating it can be trying to navigate these scenarios. So, today we’re going to walk through some strategies to help you learn how to handle a high maintenance horror. It all begins by mastering the art of effective communication.     

Take a Step Back (Analyze High Maintenance Horror)

When faced with the challenge of a high maintenance horror, often taking a step back provides a better perspective. In the thick of things, it can be difficult to see the bigger picture. Start by asking yourself a few questions: 

  • Is there something I am doing to encourage the behavior?  
  • Am I failing to meet their expectations?  
  • Can I improve communication to make things easier for them? 

Keep in mind that if it feels like a client is “chasing” you, it probably means you are not fully managing their expectations (reasonable or not). And if you become more proactive in your communication, you can reassure them you are delivering on your promises.  

For example, send a quick communication once a week (or daily if necessary) with a status report. Include the timing for your deliverables and an update on the next steps. Doing so will help ensure you are managing the relationship effectively. How to handle high-maintenance horror clients.

Establish Healthy Boundaries (Manage High Maintenance Horror) 

Establishing healthy boundaries helps new clients adjust to YOUR style instead of expecting you to adjust to theirs. Although this might not sound client-friendly, it really is. You are telling them up front how you work, which manages expectations.  

It helps you both! You stop sacrificing time to meet unreasonable demands, so you maintain your value. And they understand what you do and do not do from the very beginning. 

Remember, a high maintenance horror costs you money. If a potentially troublesome client makes the decision not to work with you based on your boundaries, it’s not the end of the world! It lets you avoid conflict and a possible bad review. And it allows you to remain professional.  

Develop Strategic Statements (Avoid High Maintenance Horror)

When you establish boundaries, it becomes easier to run your business on your terms. Developing strategic statements helps keep clients satisfied while reminding them of your boundaries.  

What statements can you rely on to effectively continue to set boundaries? Here’s an example! If your client is constantly looking for ways to whittle away at your prices, some strategic statements might include: 

     ✔️  I don’t negotiate my rates. 

     ✔️  My business policy doesn’t allow me to give discounts. 

     ✔️  My business policy is that my maximum discount is 10% for friends & family. 

Strategic statements allow you to offer the same level of service to each client. As a result, you are not constantly making decisions on an individual basis. Instead, you eliminate the need to handle special requests on a case-by-case basis and maintain your established boundaries. Plus, it helps you to avoid a future high maintenance horror.


The bottom line: healthy boundaries help you handle a high maintenance horror. It all hinges on the way you communicate with clients from day one. When you improve communication, you manage expectations while keeping high maintenance clients in check. 

For some insight into better ways to communicate with your high maintenance clients, check out my free download Don’t Say That… Say This! And for even more great advice, grab a copy of my book, Respond with Confidence: The Business Owner’s Blueprint for Handling Difficult Situations here 

You can also set up a business strategy session with me or hop into my private FB group, the Interior Design Business Forum for industry learning, daily inspirations, and lessons. 

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