How to Approach Firing A Client

by Kelly Sullivan

As a business professional, a good majority of your clients will be awesome. They are polite, flexible, pay you on time, and have minimal complaints – some may even become lifelong friends or business partners.

You might be able to recall landing your first ever client, and how exciting that felt. You also might remember your first bad client – we all know the type. The ones whose calls you don’t even want to answer. The ones who are impossible to please, believe in yelling at people over the phone, and cost you more grief and time than could possibly be covered in their invoice.

Now, everyone is going to have their fair share of clients that they don’t prefer working with. But at a certain point, spending too much time on a particularly bad apple is costing you money. While you spend extra unpaid hours bending over backwards to meet demands, you are also losing out on opportunities to serve your dream clients.

What are some valid reasons to fire a client, and how do you go about doing it politely? Today’s blog brings you tips for letting bad clients go, and tricks for sharpening your radar to catch these unfortunate customers before they land in your sales net.

Reasons for firing a client will vary widely from industry to industry, but more often than not you will reach a tipping point where the only obvious next step is to end the professional relationship. Here are some common scenarios in which you’ll have to “let a client go”.

The “Wants More For Less”

As a business owner, you have set your prices specifically so that you don’t lose money. You have a little flexibility to determine whether or not you want to add in additional services at no cost for good clients, but that is certainly a gesture of goodwill and not a requirement.

You may have potential customers who question your prices from the first time they interact with you. These types are usually the ones who are going to nitpick you on every single item on their invoice, continue to add work that they haven’t paid for, or haggle you on your prices. Do yourself a favor, and don’t ignore those initial red flags. Weed these clients out, and avoid working with them when you can.

The “Disrespectful and Demanding”

This one speaks for itself. Any reasonable person can let a negative comment slide here and there for the sake of their professionalism, but we all have our limits when it comes to flat out disrespect.

Respect takes many forms, and that includes respect for you, your work, your prices, and even your time. If you are reaching a breaking point, it’s time to let them go. No client is worth the massive stress headache or feeling undermined.

The “Never Pays on Time”

This type of client affects not only your emotional well-being, but the well-being of your company as well. Receiving late payments messes with your entire business, and can sometimes trickle down and affect your employees. 

If you are constantly having to remind disorganized, spacey clients to pay you for your hard work, ask yourself if it’s worth the hassle. It is not your job to stay on top of people and bother them incessantly to pay you on time. If they are negatively affecting your business, it might be time to cut them loose.

So, how do you politely let these clients go?

Be Clear and Concise

If you are letting a client go, make sure to make it abundantly clear that you will no longer be working with them. You don’t want confusion down the road that will lead to more awkward conversations or situations.

The end goal here is not to tell your client off – it’s to get rid of them with as little backlash as possible. Don’t give them a mouthful of lies, but leave the negativity and anger at home. Just be very clear that you are not going to take them back.

Finish Your Contract

If you are able, finish the contract with the client to avoid burning a bridge. Do your best not to leave them with a reason to demand their deposit by breaking the contract (if applicable) and put yourself in a good position to end things smoothly with no loose ends.

Of course, if the client is the worst you’ve ever seen and you can no longer handle their chaos and negativity, it’s okay to walk away.

Give a Referral

Make the firing a little easier by providing your client with a referral for an alternative product or service. Keep things friendly, and acknowledge that they may still need to have their needs met with a similar service.

More likely than not, they are going to be upset about you letting them go, and will be vocal about it wherever they can. Protect your brand by being professional and providing them with a follow-up plan instead of leaving them in the dust.

No client is ever worth your mental health, emotional well-being, time, or money. Know when to let go, and don’t feel guilty about doing so if it’s going to be the right choice for you and your business in the long run. That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship – it’s YOUR decision!


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