Business Featured Miscellaneous

11 Signs It’s Time to Fire a Client

Image courtesy of (photostock)/

How do you know when enough is enough?

As a business owner, it goes against all instincts to turn away business.

When things go sour, often our entrepreneurial instincts kick into high gear and we work harder at making the client happy, focus more on them to help turn things around, and then lose sleep over it anyway.

All of that expended energy results in complete frustration that nothing seems to work. You have lost other business because you couldn’t focus on other clients as much as they needed or have time to get new business with your ideal client.

When you focus on a negative situation, it keeps your business stuck in that negativity causing your business to have no opportunity for expansion.

When Should You Let a Client Go?

Has your once dream client turned into your worst nightmare? At first some clients might seem like “the bomb” but after working together on a closer basis you may notice some signs to make you think again about keeping them as a client.

Here’s 11 possible client types you might be encountering that should make you question if they are worth holding onto:

1. The Non-Pleasers. There are some super picky clients where no matter how hard you try to please them, they will never be happy. Often it’s because they don’t know what they want; sometimes they keep changing their mind; or maybe they have a colleague or assistant giving them ill-fitted advice. But, for whatever the reason, you end up putting forth a lot of extra effort to make them happy. And often at no charge, adversely affecting your bottom line.

2. The Blamers. When you offer a service, you can’t guarantee the success of the client. No matter what you’ve been asked to do, the role of the client is paramount to a successful outcome. You can’t work miracles if they are not following your instructions, thwarting your efforts with them second-guessing you (and themselves) or not doing their part to make the project successful. These people tend to jump from one resource to another, thinking their failures are always someone else’s fault instead of looking at what they are doing (or not doing) to create these situations. You’re in a no-win situation with this type of client.

3. The Slow-Payers. Everyone’s favorite client is the one who pays an invoice immediately upon receipt. But when a client is continually late in paying their invoices or worst yet, gets behind in payments, it’s hard to give them your best service. It’s much more satisfying to spend time working with clients who pay promptly. Keeping them on as a client is enabling their bad behaviors and telling them it’s OK not to pay you on time.

4. The Cost-Complainers. You know the kind, when they constantly complain about how much this is costing them, asking for discounts and feeling they deserve price breaks. ‘Frugal Fred’s are a pain in the butt to work for. They keep trying to get you to do everything for nothing. More keeps getting added to your plate with the assumption it should all be included in the original cost. Sometimes they try to make you feel guilty by sharing their ‘temporary’ financial problems with you and promise they’ll pay you once they get the big break that’s ‘just around the corner’. Don’t fall for their story. Greatness doesn’t go on sale. When a client doesn’t value the quality of service you provide, then you’re not being valued. Period. Your ideal client will gladly pay what you are worth without complaint.

5. The Panicked-Insisters. These types of clients want everything done quickly and at the last minute, causing you to set aside other, just as important work, so they can be made happy. Their lack of planning does not make an emergency on your part. If they insist on giving you projects with no notice, charge a hefty rush fee. If these quick turnaround demands continue, you may consider dropping them as a client. Ideal clients will respect the time needed and allow a deadline that let’s you do your best work for them.

6. The Non-Listeners. Nothing makes me more frustrated than when someone hires an expert, asks for what you think, pauses, and then says “I think we should do it this way instead.” Or they will get your opinion and then go ask their friends, assistants and others in related industries to see if your suggestion is what they should do or not. Everyone has an opinion and many times the other people asked are not at all qualified to provide expert advice. This second-guessing only wastes time and effort and is a sure-sign of the clients’ self-uncertainty on being able to make clear decisions. And of course, when you do what they ask and they don’t get results, they blame you (see No. 2 client type above.) If they want to hire an expert, they should be “coachable” and ready to implement your advice and strategies with confidence in your abilities. If that confidence is not there, they need to find someone else they can be confident with.

7. The Abusers. I had a client years ago who literally threatened me when his e-mail wasn’t working the way he thought it should. His misunderstanding of how e-mail works resulted in him blaming me for his frustrations, treating me with disrespect and bullying me terribly. I was truly afraid. Some clients are downright abusive. They talk down to you and push you around. When a client starts to be a bully, prepare to divorce them right away. No one deserves that kind of treatment.

8. The Stress-Causers. A prime indicator of this type of client is when you see they are calling on the phone and your heart sinks, anxiety kicks in and you don’t want to answer. We had a client once who was a husband/wife team. The husband was so personable, warm and pleasant. But when the wife called, she was demanding, abrupt, and even intimidating. It made it very difficult to answer the phone, knowing I was about to have a difficult conversation with her. Working with clients that cause you undue stress and anxiety while trying your best to make them happy are simply not worth the effort. Spend that energy on finding your ideal client instead.

9. The Personality-Clashers. Sometimes personalities don’t mesh. It happens. Respect yourself enough not to put up with clients that aren’t a JOY to serve.

10. The Energy-Vampires. Some clients are literally energy black holes. They are demanding and need all your time. They suck up all your joy and energy and you are literally exhausted after working with them. What’s worse is they are taking up space for a perfect client you could be working with. Don’t settle for clients that drain you. Choose clients that energize you.

11. The Unreasonable-Demanders. When clients want you to be an expert in something you’re not and demand you do the work anyway is setting you up for failure. If you succumb to them, you’ll wind up in a world of trouble spending hours trying to do something, making mistakes, and not getting the desired results. Just say ‘no’ to jobs that aren’t in your area of expertise. Instead, refer them to someone else who is much better equipped for that particular request.

After many years in the business, we’ve had all kinds of crazy situations that clearly taught me what we don’t want in a client.

The best advice I can give is to be very clear about who your ideal client is and how you want to be treated. Remind clients of boundaries as needed and be firm with maintaining them. Life is too short to just work for the dollar.

As business owners, we have a right to work with clients who bring us extreme joy and satisfaction. That way we can do our best work.

Here’s to finding high-end ideal clients who are ready to work with you, have the money to hire you, understand the value of your work.

Have you ever experienced any of these 11 client types? If so, how did you handle them?

About the author


Susan Friesen

As the founder, Susan Friesen brings a unique advantage to eVision Media clients by having earned a Bachelor in Business Administration degree with a concentration in Computer Information Systems through the Thompson River's University. Her experience in the Web development industry since 1999 has gained her much insight and knowledge in how to effectively brand a business and then translate that to a user-friendly, search-engine friendly, custom designed website. She is a graduate of the Vancouver Film School multi-media program and also earned several certificates in technology through the University of Victoria and Athabasca University. She won the 2003-2004 Governor General's Bronze Academic Award for achieving the highest academic standing in a diploma-level post secondary program.


Click here to post a comment
  • you give a 11 Signs It’s Time to Fire a Client that all are very nice. the 6th one, “The Non-Listeners,” i like most. this is fact and done mostly.

  • THANK YOU! It is exactly what I needed this morning as I begin my day. You have covered just about everything here I have gone through and I am sure almost everyone else has also. It is nice to know you are not alone.

  • I found the simplicity of this article borderline insulting. Anyone so naive not to be aware of these basic personality traits in a potential client really should not consider entering into any type of business. Not knowing how to turn down a project is the beginning of the collapse of any business. (No matter how well financed it may be.)

    • Personally Roger Owen I find your judgmental comments and self-righteous business savvy insulting. How anyone can fully assess a new client completely during a phone or even personal engagement — it is impossible. Obviously you can come to arrogant conclusions very simply, so no doubt you are an amazing people person to work with.

  • In my case most of them are #1 type. I never feel they are happy, always complaining.

  • Perfect timing. We had to sack a client this week that falls into categories 1, 2, 6 & 7.

    1 through 6 we can handle on most occasions, but we have zero tolerance on abusive behaviour. They had to go.

  • I fully agree with the author. this category of customers which is possible to give without regret to competitors, I think these types of people is this psychology that they may not otherwise conduct business may affect education, if we talk about psychology, parents in the us are laying behavior, and these people are so educated. Thanks for the amazing article.

  • Love your list! Don’t tell anyone, but I think every one of my clients can be placed in at least one of these groups.

  • Another one to look out for is the prospective client who calls and complains about the last company he was no doubt a nightmare for and how they ripped him off. Do not listen to their sob story about how a family member stole huge amounts of money from them and they are trying to get back on track. Do NOT fall for it and do not take this type on as a client.

    Do not think for a moment that you are going to try to help this miserable person. You cannot as they sabotage your work at every turn then call YOU to ask “What happened?”. You’re like, “What?” Then you look and see the damage they’ve done but blame YOU for it.

    You will only be signing on for pure, sheer and utter misery. Don’t do it. Respectfully tell this prospect that you can’t help them then send them on their merry little way to darken someone else’s door, thereby saving yourself boatloads of grief from the client from hell.

    Consider yourselves forewarned about this type of client. Remember, if they call you for services and complain incessantly about another company, hang up and run for your life.

  • I have experienced a few different types described here. I haven’t really dealt with them in the positive way that I should. Mostly because they have been friends as well as clients. It does zap the will to get work done for both them and others.

    The late payers are the worst. I have both clients that pay quickly and some that I have to remind a few times and then they want to pay via a system that costs me extra money (like a credit card) but I figure better to get the money than have to wait again.

    One type that you may have missed which is also specific to web sites where there is a CMS involved. The client will ask to do updates themselves but make a right mess. Where they could contact you, even just to consult, check or set things up, but either think they know better or are just plain too cheap and end up having to pay you to fix things, sometimes with a mountain of data already in the system.

    It’s always better to have a contract in place before any work is done. That way if the client needs to be fired then you paid, they may not get to use your work and you can always take them to court, or at least threaten them with it, if things go really badly.

  • Hello dear,
    Awesome article 99% have got this types of client from & Both are full of this client.

    Fire them now forever
    Sagar Ganatra

Sign Up for Our Newsletter