While we are in the “customer is always right” school, we all know the reality is this: Some customers seem as if they were born to be a pain. We’ve all had clients who, in one way or another, seem to wake up every morning with a new idea of how to make our lives a little bit more miserable.  And, around the eighth time they change their minds on what they want–without being able to explain why they’ve changed their minds–they leave you wondering, “Is it even worth my time keeping these people around?”

And every morning, you wake up asking yourself: Should I fire my client? Sometimes, the answer is: Yes.

But before you resort to such drastic measures, first consider these questions:

  • Did you sign a contract with the client and did they fail to honor the terms, or breach them in some way?
  • Did they react negatively, or even abusively, when you mentioned the challenge you have with working with?
  • Has the client deceived you, or asked you to break the law/be unethical is the way you conduct business?
  • Due to unexpected success in a certain area of your company, has your business model changed? And now, you find yourself with clients whose business you no longer desire?
  • Is your client more work to deal with than the rest of your client list? They pay less and/or are way slower?

Not to sound like a cheap infomercial, or Jeff Foxworthy, but if you answered “Yes” to any of these, you might just need to fire resign from your client. Why? Because the bottom line is this: Problem clients can hurt your business on many levels. They can tire you out. They can keep you from helping good, well-paying clients. They can reduce morale by stressing out the rest of the office. They can ultimately damage your reputation—not what you want at all for your life’s work.

So do you fire a customer or client? Carefully.

Here are four steps you can take to ease the blow:

Set boundaries.

If you find you’re doing more than you should for a client, remind them of what you agreed to do in the contract, and stick to that. In the meanwhile, start finding replacement clients.

Give plenty of notice.

The amount of notice you give will depend upon your business relationship and type of market niche you are in, but let them know far enough in advance that they should seek a new vendor when your contract expires (or, sooner, if you both can agree).

Refer them to someone who will “better suit their needs.” 

Just not a friend. In fact, if the client is really awful, refer them your competition. (Okay, that was merely a joke, but still…)

Let them know you’ll be raising your prices. By a lot.

This should either cause them to take their business elsewhere, or pay a lot more. Which may make up for the amount of work they require.

Above all, remember to remain professional and humble. It might get ugly for a moment, but take the high road always.

Have you ever fired a customer or client? Share your advice in the comments below. 

The 150-Year History of the Term ‘Small Business’

Until the end of the 19th century, there were few big businesses so the history of the term “small business” is less than 150 years. Today, no other phrase comes close to describing companies up to 500 employees.