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4 Times You Need to Say Goodbye to a Client Nobody likes a break up, but sometimes it's the best thing to do for your business.

By Deborah Mitchell Edited by Dan Bova

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Nobody likes a break up, whether it is personal or in business. When you are an entrepreneur, it is inevitable that some business relationships may not work out. Perhaps there are one too many late payments, a clash in business style or there is never a meeting of the minds. Whatever the situation, either a business owner will have to end the relationship or, as it was in my case, the client walks away.

A few months into a recent business relationship, I could see that it was going to be challenging for a variety of reasons, but our team was determined to make it work. In the end, the strain and stress of trying to work together proved to be too much for everybody. When I recently received this note from the client, I was initially disappointed, but not surprised and very relieved. The client beat me to the punch.

Related: 7 Telltale Signs It's Time to Fire a Client

"I know that it has been a long process and frustrating on all sides and appreciate greatly the work that has been done. I think our calls and the back and forth that we have had have shown clearly that we are not a great match, both in communications as well as outcomes. I think at this time it would be best to finish the work together."

In hindsight, it may have been better to end the relationship months earlier, and as difficult as it is to sever a business relationship, there are a few sure fire signs when it is time to say goodbye in a business relationship.

1. The client is not fully invested in the project.

When you are trying to deliver the goods in an efficient, timely and professional manner, all parties involved need to be present and prepared -- especially the client. It's difficult to make progress when a client is absent or unable to fit you into their busy calendar. Since time is money, set the ground rules as to what you expect. It is wise to include a calendar of deadlines and an exit strategy for the project if it is delayed over a specific period of time.

2. The project changes over time.

While it is important for a client to have a vision of what they want at the start of a job, it is easy for someone to get caught up in the creative process and expect you to deliver all their many "new" creative ideas. If a project starts off in one direction and eventually starts to morph into something completely different, then it might be time to stop and re-evaluate. If the project is still in your wheelhouse and doable, then you may have to negotiate your fees and guidelines moving forward. If the client expects more for less, then it's time to go your separate ways.

Related: When to Fire That, Er, Abusive or Disruptive Customer

3. Money is an issue.

"If a client consistently nitpicks over every bill without acknowledging the caliber of the work, pays late, lies about making a payment, or a combination of all three, it's probably time to split," according to New York-based professional bookkeeper Justine Lackey of Goodcentsbookkeeping.com. "Quality work is expensive, and some misunderstandings around billing or invoicing are bound to happen. Even so, if someone is derogatory, constantly argues over invoices or questions if the work was actually done, it's a strong indication that the client relationship isn't healthy."

4. There is a breach of contract.

Hopefully, you have put the terms of your business dealings in writing. Situations such as mine illustrate why it's important that you do. If the client fails to uphold their end of the bargain, you can't do the job you've been hired to do. This affects you personally and professionally. A client who goes against the agreed-upon terms is not a client you want to have.

As a business owner, your ideal goal is to always please your customer. Your clients deserve the best, and if you can't give them 100 percent, break it off. If possible, make some suggestions about who might be a better fit to do the job.

Remember, you want to keep your reputation intact, so business relationships should be ended with grace and professionalism. By the way, the above client who ended work on their recent project wants to revisit our professional relationship in the near future, this time working on something completely different.

Have you ever had to end a business relationship with a client? How did you know the relationship was over, and how did you end it? Let us know in the comments section below.

Related: Breaking Up With a Client: What to Say

Deborah Mitchell

CEO & Founder, Deborah Mitchell Media Associates

Emmy-nominated network television producer Deborah Mitchell is a veteran of ABC and CBS News, a member of the Producers Guild of America, and a board member of the James Beard Broadcast and Media Awards Committee. Through Deborah Mitchell Media Associates she will create your online personality with a customized website, book you on the right television show, manage your social media profiles and finally connect you with the best and brightest digital influencers. Mitchell is author of So You Want To Be On TV

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