When Is It Time to “Fire” a Client?

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

Without clients, your business cannot succeed. Because you need paying customers to run a successful business, it can be tempting to keep as many clients on board as are willing to pay for your work. However, there comes a time in some of your client relationships when it is better for both parties if you part ways. Removing problem clients from your customer list frees up time and energy to focus on good clients who can help your business grow. Here are a few ways to determine when it is time to fire a client.

They Cost More Than They Make You

The simplest way to determine if it is time to let clients go is if the money they make you doesn’t justify the time and energy you spend on them.

For example, suppose you’re a freelancer who charges $30 per hour for your work but offers unlimited revisions if the client wants changes to the final product. You have a freelance job that takes 10 hours and makes you $300, but the client demands another 10 hours of revisions for which you don’t get paid, essentially cutting your hourly rate with this client to $15. Meanwhile, the 10 hours you spend revising the client’s work takes away from other freelance jobs for which you could be earning $30 per hour.

If you have a client who regularly forces you to work for free as much as you work for pay, then the smart financial decision is to let that client go.

They Think They Know More Than You

There is no right or wrong way on how to build customer relationships, but as a general rule, customers hire you because they need your expertise. In an ideal client relationship, you listen to the customers and ascertain their needs, and they reciprocate by listening to you and respecting your knowledge when you provide a solution. Some customers, unfortunately, aren’t really looking for your expertise, at least not if it contradicts their preconceived notions. They just want someone to validate the decisions they’ve already made. If your customer doesn’t listen to you and consistently undermines your knowledge and expertise, you’re probably better off without that customer.

Your Values Don’t Align With Theirs

When you do work for a client, you’re essentially putting your name on the finished product and validating the client’s work. At times, this process might require you to rubber stamp something that doesn’t align with the values of your business. For example, if wellness and healthy living are core values of your business, and one of your clients asks you to create a marketing campaign for a tobacco company, this is an obvious conflict of interest. Sticking to your values makes your business more successful in the long term. Consider firing any client who asks you to sacrifice your values for short-term financial gain.

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