Seven Indications That It is Time to Terminate a Client

It is a problem that business owners all over the world face: having to let go of, or “fire,” a client. When I started my business, this was not a situation I anticipated, as I was willing to work for almost anyone who approached me. However, as my client-scrutinizing skills improved, I realized that not every client is a perfect fit for me. Indeed, more than half of the people I speak with are not a good fit for various reasons. As Donald Trump did in “The Apprentice,” there are times when you simply have to say, “You are fired!”

What happens to your business when you retain clients who are a PITA (I will leave that acronym to you to decipher)? Your time and energy are consumed by serving these clients, you lose any enthusiasm for your business, and you lack the time or desire to market yourself and continue to fill your client roster. You become enraged and resentful of the clients who are dragging you down, and you begin to doubt why you began a business in the first place.

Disengaging from a poor client selection can be painful and frequently difficult. However, given the alternative, it is prudent to let go of that client. I discovered an excellent quote on the subject of “”Letting go is one of the most difficult challenges human beings ever face,” author Benjamin Shield writes in his book, Handbook for the Soul. I have always thought of letting go as a process of transformation from a closed fist to an open hand. By approaching life with an open-handed attitude, we can avoid the self-created impediments that litter our path. This process necessitates a willingness to shed our persona—those unauthentic trappings we cling to in the name of identity but no longer serve us. Allowing ourselves to let go enables us to follow the path to our soul.”

I can completely relate to this quote — emancipating yourself from a bad client choice does pave the way for your soul to follow. Finding the ideal clients with whom you resonate will reintroduce joy into your life and business, reconnecting you with your business and life vision and your soul. Working with PITA clients is a waste of time.

Contrast your client roster with these seven indicators — is it time to shake up your client roster?

1. You dread each client phone call.

If you are constantly avoiding someone is call because speaking with them is painful or exhausting, or the conversation invariably ends in anger or resentment, it is time to take action to rectify the situation. How much more enjoyable would your daily client interactions be if you anticipated taking your clients’ calls?

2. The client nitpicks every expense and insists that tasks should take the same amount of time for anyone else to complete.

I have had clients who “knew” I was undercharging them and insisted that the work I was performing for them would not take as long for others in my field to complete and that I should adjust my bill accordingly. I have discovered that this lack of trust is the client’s fault, not mine, and that I am more than capable and skilled at what I do. Allow no “nitpicker” to cast doubt on your abilities — there are other client fish in the sea.

3. Your client will only make emergency requests of you.

Nobody enjoys being pressed for time, and attempting to accomplish something quickly and thoroughly stifles all creativity and thoroughness. Certain individuals are addicted to adrenaline and prefer to remain constantly in the state of emergency. However, living the urgent is a high-stress way of life, and it takes a significant toll on the body and spirit. A more suitable client is someone who plans and prepares his time well in advance, so that emergencies are rare.

4. A lack of client follow-up stymies any progress.

Do you spend the majority of your time with a client reviewing plans and determining what needs to be done, but never reach the point of completion necessary to proceed to the next stage? Nothing is more aggravating than a client who expresses a desire to achieve a specific outcome but appears immobile during the planning stage. As a result, you spend the majority of your time with the client reviewing rather than acting. Perhaps you can put on your “coaching” hat and assist the client in identifying the roadblocks she is encountering. However, if she is unwilling to discuss what is preventing her from taking action and your frustration with her inaction grows, it is probably time to cut her loose and let her go.

5. Your client is an expert at micromanagement.

Typically, when a client hires me, they have a problem to solve and I offer the ideal solution. However, I have encountered clients who refuse to allow me to solve their problem in the manner in which I believe is best. They are adamant about having to approve every step and being involved in every detail. They are frequently accustomed to having employees and believe incorrectly that good management entails micromanaging every action taken by an employee. A great client is someone who hires you to solve a problem and is unconcerned about how you solve it; they are willing to give you the space and latitude to bring your experience to bear and assist them in resolving their issue.

6. Delegation is an entirely foreign concept to your client.

The majority of business owners understand that in order to be successful, they cannot do everything alone. A successful business owner has an excellent team to whom she consistently delegates tasks that she lacks the time to complete while out looking for new business opportunities. If your client is unwilling to let go of anything and insists on performing the tasks for which you were hired, your client does not understand the concept of “lost opportunity costs.” Oftentimes, it is simply more convenient for a business owner to work “in” the business rather than “on” the business, as the latter requires you to be in marketing and sales mode, which many business owners despise. A fantastic client focuses on her strengths and delegates the rest.

7. Your client is plagued by financial difficulties.

Are your clients truly able to afford your services? Occasionally, they are in the start-up phase, or are simply experiencing a cash flow crunch. They are constantly harping on your fee in every conversation and are notorious for being slow to pay your invoices. Time and energy spent pursuing their payment is extremely draining. A more suitable client is one who is aware of your payment requirements and is capable of affording and paying your fee.

I understand that it takes time and a trip to the “school of hard knocks” to fine-tune your ability to select clients who are a perfect fit for you. Examine your business’s operating standards — you may find that you need to raise them in order to make better client selections. And the first standard to establish is that you will not work with clients you dislike. Allow those clients who are causing you discomfort to go, and new clients who are a better fit will automatically appear in their place — guaranteed!

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