7 Telltale Signs It's Time to Fire a Client

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Not them again. You know the client I’m talking about. They hire you for your expertise but by the time they’re done critiquing, the final product isn’t something you want to put your name on. They exceed their timelines and you repeat work catering to their demands. If this sounds familiar, but you’re hesitant to pull the trigger, this list can help you decide if it’s time to cut and run.

1. They micromanage you into work you aren't proud of.

Your high standards for your work are part of what has made you successful. Micromanaging customers often stifle creativity and force you to compromise your standards. Remember that if they didn’t need help, they wouldn’t have hired you in the first place. If necessary, remind them that you are the expert and you have the track record to prove it. If they are not willing to listen to your expertise, you can’t guarantee the satisfactory results you advertised initially.

Related: Why You Should Fire Some Clients

2. Your skin crawls when you hear their name.

This is your business and you are the captain. When a customer makes you want to abandon your own ship, it’s time to let them go. You started this business with a clear vision of how it would make your life better. Set clear boundaries that you will only tolerate those customers who support your vision for your business. You wouldn’t waste time with a romantic partner who didn’t support your dreams and you shouldn’t do it for a client either.

3. They never ask your opinion.

This point is worth repeating. If your client didn’t need your help, they wouldn’t have hired you. Nevertheless, there will be some who are convinced they are smarter and better than you, which makes for a horrible working relationship. Perhaps they hired you to justify their own ideas, but as a professional, it’s your responsibility to voice your concerns and offer your expertise. If they rarely ask for your opinion and have no faith in your suggestions, it’s likely that neither they nor you will be happy with the result.

4. They don’t respect you.

If the 30-minute client call you have scheduled weekly is postponed, canceled or ignored all the time, it’s a telltale sign that your client does not respect you. “The first step is to begin billing for any canceled appointments if you aren’t doing so already,” wrote small business expert and CorpNet.com CEO, Nellie Akalp. “After all, you need to send the message that your time is valuable.” If a customer doesn’t value your time, they are also less likely to value the work you produce.

Related: Don't Let Your Business Be Held Hostage by a Nightmare Client

5. They always try to justify cost.

The best strategy here is to do really great work. If you are, and the client is still saying, “I’m not seeing the value,” let them go. It’s likely that they will never be satisfied, leaving you feeling constantly stressed and overworked. If your work is properly documented, breaking down your bill for them should be simple and straightforward. If their issue is with your rates, explain that you bill based on your experience and someone with cheaper rates may offer substandard work. Either way, your price was negotiated upfront and you deserve to be paid.

6. They don’t respond to you.

Despite your client’s initial lecture on deadlines and budget, whenever you need any sort of feedback, this same client is nowhere to be found. If you are in public relations or dabble in influencer relations, you know the value of "being available" and the need for quick turnarounds. While their lack of responsiveness may simply mean they are overworked rather than unhappy with your services, their unpredictability still impacts your ability to schedule future work. Do your best to find another contact who can get the answers you need and be very clear that these setbacks will threaten their deadline. (Keeping a paper trail of all correspondence is key!) The last resort, according to Akalp, is to “send an invoice for the balance due and ask them to check back in once they’re ready to re-engage.”

7. You no longer believe In their product/service.

It’s really tough to sell something you don’t believe in. Sometimes, breaking up with a client has nothing to do with them. It’s the classic "it’s not you, it’s me" scenario, but nevertheless the truth always surfaces. If it comes to the point that you can no longer see the benefit of what they offer and have lost all creative power to do great work for them, it’s time to reconsider your agreement.

Clients have a number of reasons for being difficult. Some are insecure and simply can’t relinquish control, while others believe they have to be combative to get the best deal. But understanding clients’ neuroses does not translate to having to tolerate them. Be patient but firm. In the end, if you realize that no amount of compensation will make this relationship palatable, it’s time to move on.

Related: Get Rid of Bad Clients