Corner Office

Corner Office - Available Now

San Francisco
(Financial District), CA

100 Pine Street Suite 1250
San Francisco, CA 94111

by Townes Haas
8/30/2016 10:43:04 AM

Do You Know When to Fire a Problem Client?


As a consultant or freelancer, it may seem like a bad idea to willingly let go of any business. But, it’s not always a bad idea.

Some clients could be unresponsive to all of your emails. Others might not pay well enough or on time. And these are just two examples — here are 6 of the top signs that you should fire a client.

1. The client doesn’t pay on time

Do you have a client who is perpetually paying their invoices late? Do you spend a substantial amount of time and energy trying to track down payments?

If this sounds like one of your own clients, it’s time to find their replacement. Worrying about whether your invoices will get paid takes away precious time and energy from your other, more timely clients.

2. They’ve become your lowest paying client

It’s an exciting scenario: your business is growing and your rates are rising. As this happens, some of your existing clients could remain ‘stuck’ under your old rates.

In this case, you have some options. You could make the case for a newer, higher rate, and the client might be thrilled to accept because they know you deliver quality work. You can also choose to fire the client to focus on higher paying clients.

3. The client doesn’t respect you, and it’s obvious

If your client constantly demeans you and your work, speaks down to you, or otherwise makes you feel disrespected, it’s time to let them go. If a client is downright mean, you need to drop them.

To avoid this problem in the future it’s important to carefully assess the demeanor of potential clients. How do they treat their employees and what is their staff turnover, for example? How they treat others is a useful indicator of how they’ll treat you.

4. They don't respect your boundaries

Similar to a lack of personal respect, some problem clients also refuse to respect certain boundaries.

For example, let’s assume you’ve told a client that you’ll respond to emails and answer calls during normal business hours Monday through Friday. If this client regularly calls, texts, and emails at 11pm on a Friday night, with the expectation of a quick response, they clearly don’t respect your boundaries.

It’s up to you to dictate these boundaries, though. A client might think a late-night phone call is perfectly reasonable, so it’s up to you to manage expectations from the beginning.

5. They don’t respond to your calls and emails

When you need feedback on a project or deliverable, can you count on your client to respond in a reasonable amount of time? Have you repeatedly explained that the lack of communication is making it very difficult to finish the project?

Clients like this make your job much harder than it needs to be. Communication is important, especially when a business is working with a contracted service provider like a consultant or freelancer. Consider trying to replace them with a client who understands that their input is (at least occasionally) a vital part of your process.

6. Just hearing their name stresses you out

Sometimes, this last reason might be all the proof you need that it’s time to fire a problem client.

If simply thinking about this client causes you stress or sends you into a rage spiral, you should consider firing them. It might sound like a terrifying prospect at first, but you’ll feel so much better once you’ve tackled the problem head on.

Firing a client can be tricky, but there are resources available that can help you learn how to fire a client so that you can keep building your business.  

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