10 Signs It's Time to Fire a Client

Save time and grief when client relationships go bad!

Save time and grief! Fire difficult clients!. Tetra Images | Getty Images

When you first start your home based service business, you’re happy to take any and all clients, even the difficult ones. But at some point, difficult clients take time and make your work miserable to the point that they’re not worth keeping. Imagine all the time and energy you could dedicate to your happy clients if you weren’t spending so much time bending over backwards for clients that won’t ever be happy.

Here’s how to know when it’s time to fire a client.

Fire a client who:

1.  Makes unreasonable demands. Yes, providing great, above and beyond service is important, but you’re not your client’s personal assistant. If your client is asking for things beyond the scope of the contract, especially if he isn’t willing to compensate financially for it, then it’s time to say goodbye. You have to decide what is unreasonable, and if necessary stick it in the contract. For example, if you’re absolutely not available on weekends, let your clients know upfront.

2. Wants to get more but pay less. There’s nothing wrong with giving loyal customers some perks such as a lower price, but that should be dictated by you. Clients who want to pay less but don’t compensate on the job (i.e. reduce the amount of service) are just trying to take advantage of you.

3. Is rude or abusive. No one needs to put up with being called names or disparaged.

4. Undervalues you. Certainly some clients can do the job they’re asking you to do, but because they don’t have the time or desire they’re outsourcing. But they shouldn’t act like your service is no big deal nor should they try to negotiate a reduced price after the job is done based on their idea that they didn’t it should cost so much.

This is another important reason to have contracts and agreements ahead of time. It won’t stop clients from trying to pick away at the invoice, but you at least having something in writing that the client agreed to.

5. Is never happy. If the client complains about every little thing, every time, it’s time to part ways.

6. Doesn’t pay on time. I’ve always found it interesting how clients want the work done yesterday, but feel okay about paying 60 days after they were billed. Have a process for invoicing and following up. Don’t be afraid to add a penalty for late payments. And if non- or late payment  a regular issue, it’s time to let the client go.

7. Doesn’t follow through. If your service involves the client submitting examples, work or doing a task based on your advice, but doesn’t do it, it’s time to fire the client.

8. Lies or ask you do something unethical. Entering into a business agreement requires a basic level of trust. If you’re client lies to you or anyone else, that suggests he’s not trustworthy. If you catch your client in one, it’s time to fire him. Further, if a client asks you do something against the law or would hurt someone, you need to let him go. Examples include asking for information on your other clients who he might be in competition with or telling you to use copyrighted material without permission.

9. Tells you upfront they’re difficult to work with or they’ve had many other service providers. Thank them for sharing and send them on their way.

10.  Has a personality clashes with yours. Sometimes clients aren’t difficult, rude or deceptive, but you still don’t get along. If you find yourself trying to avoid a client, that’s a sign that perhaps he’s not a good fit for your business.

All this assumes that you’re a quality service provider. Working arrangements go both ways, which means a client can fire you. Make sure you keep your client happy by providing great service, being clear with the work and terms, and staying in-touch.