48:4 Toxic clients & mental health - Lee Matthew Jackson
48:4 Toxic clients & mental health - Lee Matthew Jackson

48:4 Toxic clients & mental health

Lee Matthew Jackson
Lee Matthew Jackson

Ever felt swamped, stressed, or on edge due to tough clients? In this honest and unplanned episode, our host Lee gets real about how his mental health has been impacted by tricky client relationships. Tune in to hear his personal story, insights, and advice on dealing with toxic clients and safeguarding your well-being.

Lee explores the highs and lows he's faced professionally, tackling clients with unrealistic expectations and toxic behaviours. He underlines the need to recognize the toll such clients can take on our mental health and highlights a survey that sparked this discussion.

Lee also emphasizes the value of mutual support and open chats about mental health in the industry.

In this raw episode, we are reminded that we don't have to suffer in silence when dealing with toxic clients. As a community, we can rally together, swap experiences, and foster a healthier work atmosphere for everyone. Don't miss this opportunity to gain useful insights and resources to help safeguard your mental health and regain control over your professional life.

Remember, you're worth working with clients who respect and value your expertise.

Key takeaways

  • Toxic clients can seriously affect your mental health and well-being.
  • Identifying when a client relationship is harming you is key to regaining control and making changes.
  • Open conversations about mental health in the digital industry are essential.
  • You're not alone – sharing stories and seeking help can guide you through challenging client interactions.


  • The Survey:
    Share your client experiences and their impact on your mental health.
    Click here
  • Big Orange Heart:
    A foundation centred on mental health for remote workers.
    Click here

Take action

If you're dealing with a difficult client relationship or just want to stay proactive about your mental health, take a moment today to assess your current relationships. Spot any warning signs that might be affecting your well-being and think about whether it's time to make some changes.

Let's talk

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode and your personal experiences with client-related stress and anxiety. Drop a comment below.

By sharing together, we can create a more supportive and empathetic community.


Welcome to the Trailblazer FM podcast. This is your host Lee, and on today's show, I just wanna kind of shoot the breeze with you and have a conversation about mental health.

So over the last few years, I've been pretty much all over the place. Sometimes I'm in a great mood, I can focus, I can get loads of work done. I'm happy to work with clients, I'm productive. Clients are happy with me, I'm happy with clients. I'm happy at home. 

But more often than not, that's just not the case. I'm overwhelmed, I'm stressed, I'm avoiding clients. I'm, I am tired and overwhelmed. That seeps into my home life as well, and I just don't have the energy to do things.

I don't have the energy to go hang out with people and or even do things with the family. It's, it's, it's a horrible rollercoaster and I just thought it would be worth just kind of sharing some of my own personal experiences, not to make anyone feel sorry for me, cuz actually I'm doing really well right now, and it's been great for like nearly a year, which is amazing. 

Uh, but mainly just to open up the conversation a little bit. I was reminded, uh, when Martin Huntbatch got in touch with me just the other day about a survey he's doing. They're looking at how clients can really affect people's overall mental health, both within the business and at home. And it really got me to thinking, holy moly, you know, clients have really screwed me up, over time. Partially that's my fault, but equally, I've had some nasty clients. 

So before we go any further, I have put a link to the survey that Martin shared with me in the show notes. So go ahead and check that out over on trailblazer.fm.

But it also got me to thinking that it's worth having this conversation, especially in our industry. We're designers and developers, and what we do is, is to be honest, very complicated and something that clients just don't understand. I've got so many memories of, uh, clients saying, um, can you not just make it do this? If I'm dealing with a website I've built and they suddenly want to throw a new feature at me. 

In their head, it's like, can't you just copy and paste? Can't you just do this? Isn't it a quick job? Same with design. Can you not just redesign the logo again? Can you not just add all of this? Can you not just resize the text and add this extra paragraph, which is actually just gonna throw everything out of whack?

Just these sorts of examples are where clients unfortunately put unreasonable expectations upon us when we just, you know, they don't even realize. They don't realize they're putting on those unreasonable expectations. It seems to be the way the cookie crumbles. We do something that's complicated and a lot of our clients don't understand how complicated it is. 

They put those unreasonable expectations upon us, and we don't really educate them back saying; "Hey, well that's not really how it works". Instead, we take on all of this stress and, we just push and push and push and try and get everything done as quickly as possible without thinking to just push back a little bit and educate them on how these things work. I'm not saying everyone does that, but it's certainly been what I've done over the years. 

Equally, it's not just an education gap, is it? Within our industry, there are also just some really nasty ass clients, and I've had my fair share of them and and be sure to join us in the comments. Click on the link in the show notes and join us in the comments section. Just to share some of your own experiences. Please don't name names. It's, that's not what this is about at all. But it would be great to, uh, have other experiences and you know, what the impact of your own experiences with those clients was, and also how you kind of moved on beyond that, you know, what were the lessons that you learned from that?

I sent out an email, uh, earlier today and I'm recording this podcast like three weeks in advance of when it's due to come out. It'll come out in April. And in the email I share an experience without go into details of a client that would essentially give me panic attacks. They were really, really horrible to work with. Whenever I would see an email come in from them, I would get this sense of utter overwhelming dread. Um, they were constantly stressed out with us. That's not just me, but also with my teammates. And it had such a negative impact on the entire company. Whenever it was that client that would message. People would want to palm them off on me or I'd be trying to palm them off on other people within our organization. 

It was just, it wasn't nice. It wasn't nice at all. And eventually we actually let that client go, which is the best thing that we ever did. They used to give us an awful lot of money, but the stress that they gave us, the, the horrible emails, the unreasonable expectations, all of that, that they would pile upon us was just, toxic and stressful and hurtful, and I'd carry that over personally at home.

I'd be worrying about it at night. I'd be talking to my wife about it. I'd be thinking about it at weekends. I'd log onto social media and I would see that client's Facebook page pop up in my feed or that particular client share something on social media, and it would just trigger all those feelings all over again.

So definitely if you've had those experiences, certainly worth you going ahead, checking out that, uh, link in the show notes and sharing your own experiences as well in the survey that I sent curlies.

If you think about it, I was in a horrible situation. I needed the money. I needed that client to be paying me money so that I could continue to pay staff. But it got to a point where it just was not worth it. Was it worth my mental health? Was it worth the anxiety and toxicity that was being created within the team? Was it really worth it? And the the answer was no.

Their money was great because it meant I could pay the bills. But actually the moment we cut ties with that client, we all jumped to finding replacement income. We knew we were gonna get rid of that client, and we knew we had a mission to replace that income in some way. 

We were all motivated to do so, and funnily enough, it only took a couple of weeks before we had brand new clients that we were onboarding that were absolutely lovely, and we could apply all the lessons that we learned about expectation setting and beyond with those new clients to create some long-lasting relationships, some of which we still have to this day.

But taking that kind of leap for us was ridiculously scary. This was a high paying client who knew they had us by the quote, unquote, "short and curlies". They knew that they could boss us around, and they knew that we would be at their beck and call. So, you know, not, not, not the best sort of balanced relationship that you should have.

So moving beyond that story, why do we as business owners continue to take this sort of treatment from our clients? Why do we let things go on for so long? Is it fear? Fear of losing money, fear of failing as a business? Is it pride? Pride that we should be able to deal with this and that we, uh, you know, should. Be strong in the face of, uh, a bad client, et cetera, that we can handle this, that we are business people. We, we got this. Is it pride? There's the hustle culture isn't there and there's the shut up and do the work culture online through social media. Is it that sort of thing that's affecting us? I dunno.

It's a great question. I have no answers here. I'm pretty much just sharing an experience. And hoping that you can take a look at some of your own experiences, maybe learn from them, and if you are actually stuck in one of these experiences as well, I would really love for you to reach out in the comments or just reach out personally, lee@trailblazer.fm if you just wanna have a conversation cuz, you know, I, I know how horrible this is, how lonely it can be. 

Trailblazer FM, remember, is not here to make loads of money off people and to shove courses down people's throats. I'm just kind of here rocking and rolling with you for the last eight years, having these sorts of conversations so that we can just, we can support each other, get to know each other. Trailblazer FM is as much for me as it is for anybody else. Ah, dear. Anyway, I just thought I'd get that one outta the way. 

But yeah, you can tell I think from my voice that, you know, this kind of makes me sad. It makes me sad that, um, people are still struggling with this. People still have those sorts of clients. People are still taking this sort of stress and this sort of anxiety home. People still feel completely trapped. They feel like they can't move their business forward. They feel like they can't get rid of these toxic clients. They feel like they can't stand up to those sorts of people, and it really does affect their mental health.

Long story short for me was that my mental health was absolutely eroded to the point where I was experiencing panic attacks. I was experiencing loads of self-doubt, and I was experiencing some ridiculously dark thoughts over the years. It made me fall out of love with things like social media, anything beyond my business that was remotely stressful, I would try and avoid because I was getting so much stress with this one client.

That was then, affecting my ability to cope with any sort of stress. Couldn't read the news. I couldn't be on social media. I couldn't be doing anything. And you may have noticed I've been offline for a long time. I've not been on social media that much. I've deactivated and even deleted some of my accounts for, for a long period of time, and that really does stem from those years ago with, you know, that client that was completely wrecking me at a personal level. 

It still affects me to this day. I still struggle to cope with stressful situations. I still struggle to cope where I think there's going to be some form of, uh, confrontation, et cetera. I still struggle with it all cause I'm just, I let myself be so affected and be so sucked in by that relationship and I don't want people to continue in those relationships. If, uh, if they can get out, if they can just muster up a little bit of energy and, and get out, even take a little bit of, uh, a bit of inspiration maybe for what I'm sharing or some inspiration from what other people's journeys have been. It is just really sad that there are humans out there that will make other humans feel like shit.

And I'm sorry to swear. I hate swearing. I just so sad by it. And strong. I feel strongly about it that you know, this is definitely something that we should all be talking about more. We should be talking about how we feel, we should be talking about how others make us feel, how we can control those feelings, how we can change those situations.

We often work from home or in our office. I'm currently in an office, a single office, in a shared workspace. I'm sat on my own chatting to you here on this podcast. So we often work alone. We do get to connect with people via social media, you know, which is great. Maybe our team are spread around the world, which is great, and we have a few conversations, but very often, as mainly the business owners . It just feels lonely, doesn't it? Cuz you can't share a lot of this with your team. They're gonna be a little bit worried. "Well, what's going on with my boss? My boss is having a bit of a breakdown here. Is my job safe? Is the business safe?"

I feel like you can't really share it. Can't do, don't you? You feel like you just gotta take it, take it all on. So I just hope that we, we can all, and I'm sorry this is rambling. It's not my normal, not my normal style. I get it. 

I just hope that we can all start having these conversations. I'm really glad that Martin, uh, and Lindsay sent out this survey and just got me to thinking, holy smokes, uh, we need to talk more.

There is Big Orange Heart isn't there as well. The foundation that focuses on mental health for remote workers, et cetera, that's a great place to, to go and share as well. I'll put a link in the show notes for that as well if you are, uh, someone you know like me who has been struggling alone and really should be having some conversations with other people.

Anyway, I dunno what the general point of this episode has been other than to share that, you know, bad experiences with clients can affect our mental health. They can affect our businesses, and they can have horrible, lasting consequences mentally for many years to come, as I've just shared. 

And they are things that we should not struggle with alone. We should share our experiences, we should tell others and we should take action. If we do feel we are trapped in some horrible, toxic relationships with clients, with suppliers, with colleagues, whatever it is. Let's talk about that. Let us know in the comments. You can go ahead and jump in the show notes.

Again, thanks for bearing with me in this little ramble of a really unformatted non-planned episode, just inspired by a mate who shared a survey. You're all awesome. Uh, please do comment. If we don't see you in the comments though, why don't we just see you in the next episode? Love you lots.


PodcastSeason 48

Lee Matthew Jackson

Content creator, speaker & event organiser. #MyLifesAMusical #EventProfs