Worker holding phone near pool and cleaning equipment

You know the customer is always right. But what about when they aren’t?

Sometimes a client’s business isn’t worth the trouble they’re causing you. Instead, they drain your time, your morale, even your finances—all resources you’d rather use to serve the loyal and positive customers who support your business.

But how do you know when firing a client is your best move? And how do you do it in a way that doesn’t harm your business’s reputation?

There are several situations that indicate it’s time to part ways, and we have recommendations to help you do it.

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Why should you fire a client?

Difficult clients drain your business’s resources and morale.

You might notice you’re spending more time with one client than anyone else—without getting enough profit to balance out the investment.

And when you’re at their home, you or your employees spend the entire time feeling stressed and frustrated.

Having this person as a client isn’t helping you, your team, or your bottom line. The longer you work with them, the longer you’ll have problems—and the more those problems will affect your business.

“If you do not fire the bad apple customer, all the issues you have with them will cost you more.”

—Judith Virag, Clean Club Calgary

By firing a client who doesn’t benefit you, you’re freeing up time in your schedule for another client who does.

LEARN MORE: Watch our Coffee Break with Mitchell Gordy on firing clients

How do you know it’s time to fire a client?

1. They abuse, assault, or harass you

Abuse takes many forms. In a business relationship, it often looks like a client yelling at you, swearing, sending a string of angry texts, or any other bullying or harassing behavior.

Everybody has bad days, and it might be one of those cases where the client is just being difficult. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you’ll accept an apology.

If the client isn’t sorry and doesn’t show any signs of changing, though, it may be best to fire them.

And if somebody assaults you, threatens you, or uses hateful language? That’s definitely an instant firing. At this point you may want to bring in a lawyer, too.

“If people are rude to me or my staff, we part ways very quickly.”

—Bertie Lynn, Premier Lawns

2. They’re never satisfied

You know you do good work, but this client would never say it. They’re trash-talking you, leaving bad reviews, or constantly calling you back to fix things that don’t need fixing.

You’ve tried everything to make them happy and nothing is working. Sometimes you need to realize that you can’t please everyone, especially if they’re determined to find problems with your work.

If the client is taking your time, attention, and resources away from other clients who are actually happy with your work, let them go. They might have better luck with another service provider.

“[If] the customer has higher expectations than they are willing to pay for, it’s time to part ways. We won’t ever be able to make them happy, and it’s exhausting trying to deal with it.”

—Kyla Rae, Genuine Earthworks

3. Their payment is late or missing

You might have a client who hasn’t paid an overdue invoice or is regularly late sending payment.

Many times, they’ll say it’s coming or avoid the subject when you remind them. But they’re still expecting regular service, and that just isn’t reasonable.

If it’s been a few months since your service, you’ve sent reminders, and they still haven’t paid the invoice, it’s time to part ways and focus on more profitable paying clients.

At this point, you should send the bill to collections, too.

GET PAID FASTER: Send invoices through Jobber and get paid online

“If someone is persistently slow in paying, [it] will usually lead to them not being a client.”

—Bertie Lynn, Premier Lawns

4. They make it hard to do your job

Maybe you’re a cleaning business and the client always leaves clutter everywhere. Or maybe you’re a lawn care business, and the gate is always locked so you can’t access the property. Or you sent appointment reminders before your visit, but the client still forgot you were coming.

With this type of client, communication is poor, and it makes it hard to do your job. This sets you back and affects your schedule for the rest of the day—which affects your other clients, too.

If you’ve talked to the client about it, you’ve reminded them what they need to do, and they still aren’t doing it, it might be time to end the business relationship.

“If they constantly leave debris or trash or obstacles out in the turf areas where we need to work, it’s a constant irritation for us. It’s something I don’t want to deal with.”

—Mitchell Gordy, Mitchell Landscaping LLC

5. They have unreasonable demands

Some clients want to be sure they’re always getting the best deal or want to know what other services you offer, which is perfectly fine.

But a few of those people regularly want extra services for free or ask for tasks that are outside of what you do. They might even ask you to do something that’s illegal or unethical.

This behaviour shows they don’t understand your business and the value you offer. Often, it also means they don’t respect you as a person.

If these clients won’t take no for an answer or keep questioning your prices, it could be time to say goodbye and focus on the clients who see your value.

“I have had to fire a customer or two. One reason is if a customer constantly asks my staff to do extra work they know they should be charged for and get belligerent when questioned about it.”

—Bobi Beverly, Your Helping Hands Cleaners

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What’s the best method of firing a client?

You may be able to work through your problems with a difficult client, especially if you know them well and this behaviour is out of character.

It’s possible they might be going through something personal, and they’ll be sorry for how they treated you after the fact.

But if there’s every indication they’re going to keep treating you this way—or if you’ve gone down this road before with no change—it could be time to part ways for good.

There are a few ways to do this.

1. Raise your prices

Some business owners have a policy of raising their rates for a frustrating client. This is often a way for clients to fire themselves.

Usually, raising your rates leads to one of two things. Either the client goes elsewhere for cheaper services, or you’re paid well enough that you’re willing to keep dealing with them.

If you just want to be done with the client, that’s okay, too. No amount of money is worth your sanity!

2. Meet in person

You might want to talk through the situation with the client and leave the door open for a possible resolution.

Plan for a shorter talk where you say your piece and leave, but if they’re open to discussion, you can make it a longer conversation.

Try one of these scripts for firing a customer in person:

  • “I don’t believe we’re the best option to meet your needs right now. This particular company might be a better fit—here’s their contact information.”
  • “There have been issues with our business relationship for some time now, and I think it’s best to go our separate ways. I’m happy to help you find another service provider that would be the right fit for your needs.”
  • “The company is moving in a new direction. As a result, we’re wrapping up some of our contracts, including yours. We’ll complete your project, but after that point you’ll need to work with a different service provider.”

3. Send a letter

Other business owners prefer to send a letter to end the working relationship.

Write this letter professionally on company letterhead and make a copy so you have a record in writing of everything you said.

Get your client firing letter

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“Listen to the customer’s concerns and provide a professional, fair and equitable solution. If the customer rejects your efforts, they will fire themselves.”

—Jeff DiGiuseppe, Blue Water Pool Service

Try to end on a good note

However you choose to end the relationship, do your best to keep it positive. Try these tips to help you do that:

  • Either finish any remaining work or refer the client to another company so they can move forward.
  • Be professional. It’s tempting to tell the client exactly what you think of them, but just stick to the facts of why you’re ending the relationship.
  • Keep emotion out of it. The last thing you want is an argument that the client will tell their friends about. Remember, the goal is to keep your business’s reputation intact.

Firing a customer can be one of the most difficult parts of running a business. But sometimes ending a client relationship can actually be good for your business and for you.

Saying no to unprofitable projects, unreasonable requests, or toxic clients can open the door for much better opportunities—and save you and your team’s sanity.

Fire a problem client and enjoy the results

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