Your phone rings. You check the caller ID and cringe. Oh, no…not THAT client again! Things will only get worse if you let it go to voicemail, so you pick up on the 4th ring.
“Hello?” you ask tentatively. On the other end of the line, your impossible-to-please client starts laying into you about the crisis of the moment. Here we go again.
Crappy clients…everyone’s got one, right?
What we should do with crappy clients is tell them to put a cork in it and wave buh-bye. What we actually do? Now that’s another story.
I’m certainly no stranger to crappy client syndrome. I had a client about a year ago, let’s call her Susan. She was my biggest client at the time and she was very visible in an industry that I was working hard to break into.
The consulting that I was contracted to do for her was exciting and her company was making a big difference in the lives of people who really needed it. It seemed like a pretty great gig at first – and in many ways it was.
It didn’t take long, however, for Susan to start running me ragged. She alternated between calling me at 11:30 at night and 4:30 in the morning. She demanded instant results, but rarely provided resources for the project at the same speed or with the same intensity.
So, one Sunday evening after having spent all weekend putting out fires for Susan, I decided to make a little pro/con list to see if it was really worth it to hang on to her as a client. Here’s what I discovered:
- She paid well. Gotta love that, right?
- Being able to say I worked with Susan would potentially help me get in front of other clients.
- The work was exciting and professionally challenging.
- The project made difference in the lives of other people.
- Payments never arrived on time. I had to spend time and energy tracking her down every single month.
- She agreed to write a recommendation for my work, but kept putting it off, saying that she didn’t want to lose me to a competitor. This made it difficult to show other potential clients that I was working with her on this high profile project.
- I couldn’t really take on any new clients even if I wanted to because my days (and nights…and weekends) were filled with Susan!
Does any of this sound familiar? If you’ve got a crappy client like Susan, ask yourself this question – if money didn’t matter, would you continue to work with this person?
As small business owners, the tough part for us is that money does matter. It matters a lot actually. So if you’ve got crappy clients and you want to say goodbye to them without going bankrupt, you’ve got to ease into it.
You don’t have to 86 all of your bad clients all at once. Create a pro/con list on each of your clients and then choose just one of them to remove from your roster.
The clients that make your life hell are rarely the kind that take you to the next level. In fact, they may hold you back so you don’t leave them when you figure out that there are so many other better opportunities and people out there or they may hesitate to refer you to others because they don’t want you to get snatched away.
Your top clients are easy to work with, you are able to provide them with tremendous value, and you get top dollar for your efforts. They refer you to others and make your life pleasant.
When it comes to firing your first client, start with the biggest offender — the most severe drain on your time and energy. It might just feel so good that you want to repeat it with a few others.
Eventually, I worked up the nerve to fire Susan. When I finally made the move it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. My only regret is that I didn’t make the decision sooner.
Have you ever fired a client? If so, how did you do it? If you haven’t fired a client yet but know you need to, what’s holding you back? Share your experience in the comments!
Jules Taggart, founder of amp&pivot, shows entrepreneurs how to say goodbye to boring branding and tell a more meaningful story. Connect on Twitter: @ampandpivot