Top 10 bad reasons to fire a client

We’ve all had bad clients. Some are just annoying and some are abusive and deserve to be fired. Here’s a list that may help you tell the difference.

1) They’re plain stupid. If they don’t get it or don’t understand what you’re trying to explain to them maybe it’s your fault. Take a step back and try and educate them. Or maybe it’s you that’s not listening.

2) They have really inane requests that hold everything up. I used to have a client that did this all the time. Keep it in perspective. If they pay for this extra work and frustration it’s their prerogative to hold things up. Make it clear to your vendors and employees that this is the way this particular client is. They can either have the work or not but be sure to pat them on the back for managing the tough to manage.

3) The work sucks. For those of us in the creative fields this can be a tough one to swallow. It’s your reputation taking a hit every time someone else sees what you’ve produced for the client. But if they’re not buying good work there’s a reason. They’re not educated enough or they don’t have the taste too recognize good work. So you better not let them see anything substandard. One of my old bosses said, “it’s not being able to do one good campaign that makes a great creative, it’s being able to make the 12th campaign that they finally buy as great as that first one.” Will bad work get made for a bad client. Yes. But sometimes great work gets made too by really great creatives.

4) They make your job harder. It’s your job, it’s not supposed to be easy. Seriously, bone up on your client management skills and learn how to do a better job of managing and not being managed.

5) Poor communication. We talk a lot about client relationships. The best clients are “partners” or even friends. But it’s not always necessary to love someone to have a business relationship with them. Poor communication is really only something you should really only complain to your significant other about. If they’re not communicating with you, your only real choice is to over communicate to them.

6) Billing. Some clients are slow payers. Some clients always want to feel like they’re getting a deal. Once you figure this out, you need to factor it into how you approach a project. Now if they don’t pay, that’s another story. For example, a past slow-paying client of will have to pay a premium if they would like to work with me again. Otherwise it doesn’t make financial sense to float their debt. But I certainly wouldn’t fire them when it can mean future work for me and my team.

7) They’re too time consuming. I’ve heard this one a lot. “They’re sucking up all my time.” Well, perhaps you’re not staffed properly or are under billing them.

8) They expect too many favors or freebies. I get asked for freebie videos all the time. This usually results in me giving a little economics lesson, “creating the type of videos I do is way too labor intensive to do for free.” But sometimes it just a matter of them not feeling loved. For example, I’ll offer that I can do something else at a reduced cost or offer to meet with them and discuss what else I can do to ad value to the relationship.

9) Client is hurting themselves or standing in the way of their own success. This is as frustrating as “the work sucks” problem. But often stepping back can add some perspective. Are they having a net negative effect on your business? How? Do any of these problems relate to the above issues? Have you not made any progress over the years or is progress just so slow it’s hard to see in the day to day?

10) I don’t find working on their business fulfilling. So go read “What Color is My Parachute?” and quit working in business services. Seriously, not every project, client or person you work with will enrich your life. Or maybe it will take some time to gain any perspective on it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have fired clients before. Ones that didn’t pay all they owed. And ones that were abusive assholes. Those folks don’t get to work with me because it’s just bad business. But all problem clients don’t deserve to get fired. Sometimes they just need a little more love.

Posted on: December 4, 2013, by :