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I’ve had to fire a handful of clients since I’ve been in business.  It is a very necessary, and potentially dangerous chore that most small biz owners ignore.

Part 1 of this blog will cover identifying when exactly a client can be safely categorized as: *bad*.

A client needs to be fired when at least one of the following conditions exist:

1) You F%^* Can’t Stand Them

Seems like a no-brainer but it isn’t.  If you dread getting a call from this client, or find yourself biting your tongue everytime you talk to them, or complain about them to anybody, you should probably fire them.

All of those *feelings* are likely tied to a real problem.  

If a client is an a**hole, could imagine ever getting  referral from them?
Or can you imagine the quality of client that would act on a referral from them??
Or can you imagine what they would say to one of your existing clients if they were in the same room???

Reputation cannot be bought, but easily lost – and there is no pricetag on sanity.  The whole beauty of owning your own small biz is independence and happiness (and money).  Why would you allow a ridiculous client to be the equivalent of a shitty boss?

I’ve had multiple negotiation suffer from serious derailment because my crappy mood ruined my usually good sales technique.  Humans are drawn to happy humans, and people buy from people that they like.

 

2) They Clearly Can’t F$%^& Stand You

Sometimes you find out after a few dates, that the girl/guy doesn’t think you are as amazing as you do.  This is a tougher one to spot, but it is do-able if you are *really* listening.

  • Are they talking behind your back?
  • Does their tone in conversation reek of annoyance or disdain?
  • Do they communicate dissatisfaction with you service regularly?

The toughest client I ever had to off-load was one of my highest paying clients at the time.  They always appeared to be frustrated with me, and would share stories of other companies they had worked with years ago and how awesome it used to be.  It came to a head, after a old-school chest-bumping showdown after a meeting with one of their partner.  At first I thought they were just idiots.  But after some humbling conversation with a peer, I realized that I was not their dream guy.  They wanted AND needed a red-carpet experience which is not my specialty. 

This line of thought inevitably leads to the question: Why did they hire me in the first place?  In my case, people hire me because they like or respect me or the referral source.  They rarely look at my client/project portfolio, call references, etc… because they are just eager to dig-in.    But there is clearly lots of stuff I’m NOT good at.  This fact led to my decision to forcibly break projects into smaller pieces – a cheap date.

 

3) They’re Costing you Real Money

If you have taken the time to add up how much money you *really* make from each of your clients, then you can easily spot this category.  These are clients that may:

  • Require a TON of hand-holding, translated: man-hours
  • Try to negotiate on every phase of a project requiring payment, translate: more man-hours
  • Pay you late and potentially putting you into a bad spot with your vendors or creditors
  • Constantly try to sneak in freebie work

As an young small biz owner, I used to just try to negotiate a rate increase with this flavor of client to make up for all of that extra shit.  However, I’ve learned after several successful rate increases, that these clients would just FIND a way to become an expensive client.  All of the extra time invested in 

The big lesson:  bad clients cost you time and happiness.  With more time and happiness, you’ll take better care of your awesome clients (leading to referrals), and  stay tuned for Part Two where I’ll go over the finer points of filing for small biz ‘divorce’ and recovering from the potential short-term loss of cash-flow.  

 

Read Part Two Here

photo credit: Tony Fischer Photography via photopin cc