You Need to Let Go

...of deadbeat clients, that is. Here's how to know when to cut a client loose.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the May 2001 issue of . Subscribe »

You know the type. The client who harasses you in off hours on a regular basis. The one who talks your ear off every time she gets you on the phone. The one who's consistently late in paying his bill. "You shouldn't be banging your head against the wall. It should never get to the point where you're just fed up with the client and you've got to come up with a reason to ditch them," says Marcia Layton Turner, author of The Unofficial Guide to Starting a Small Business.

After all, do you really want to spend all your time and energy on clients you don't enjoy? The decision to cut a client loose can be a tough one, but Layton Turner says all you need to do is ask yourself one simple question: "Is this company worth my time?"

Layton Turner, who also owns Layton & Co., a homebased marketing consulting firm in Rochester, New York, says it's a question worth asking frequently: "If you're [regularly] monitoring who your best clients are and who you like working with, then [the process] of cutting loose the ones that no longer fit the business [is easier]," she says. Layton Turner offers these three steps for letting a client go:

1. Tell the client either over the phone or in person that you can no longer work with him or her. You can say, "I'm making a shift in the business" or "I'm taking on a larger project, and I won't be able to give you the attention you need." Keep the focus on you and your company, not the client.

2. Thank the client so he or she knows you've appreciated the relationship-after all, that client did provide you with some business.

3. Finally, it's always helpful if you can offer two or three potential suppliers so your client isn't left high and dry. You never want to say, "Good luck-hope you can find someone to help you out."

Lisa Scholin, president of bluefly PR, a homebased public relations and marketing firm in Portland, Oregon, says the key to letting a client go is to be upfront. "Some people have a tendency to stop communicating when they feel like something's not right," she says. "But when you tell each other exactly why something is happening, there won't be any discrepancies [or] ill feelings."

And there won't be any regrets, either. "The more I've done it, the more satisfied I've felt about my business, and the more money I've made because I've cleared out dead wood," says Layton Turner. "By clearing them out, you're making room to bring in bigger and better clients."

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