Four Clients You Should Fire Immediately

As a business owner you probably deal with clients on a daily basis. They are the reason that you are in business and the reason that you are making money. You need them to stay in business. However, there are some clients you should fire immediately because they are simply NOT WORTH KEEPING.

Now is the time to fire bad clients

Here’s a list of 4 clients you should fire immediately:

  • Clients who do not pay in a timely fashion. You will spend more time chasing them to get paid then it is worth it. You will quickly learn that losing a little bit of money will not be worth the extra hours that it will take to actually get the money into your hands.
  • Clients who can’t make up their mind.   Though people are allowed to change their mind, clients who are constantly changing the direction of what they need from you will cause you a lot of frustration. No frustration is worth the money, especially if they change their mind at the last minute and cause you a lot of extra work.
  • Clients who are unreachable. Though everyone is busy and not able to answer their phones and e-mails, you should not have to wait days for a reply. You should expect a reply within a reasonable amount of time so that you are able to continue work whenever you have a question.
  • Clients who always wait until the last minute. These can be some of the most frustrating clients to have. They want something and they need it now, no matter what else you have to do. They do not care if they inconvenience you or cause you to lose sleep, as long as you get the work done on time.

Though you need clients to get paid, there are some clients who are not worth keeping. They might be more work than they are worth. Sometimes, it is just easier to cut ties and move on. You will find yourself much happier with the right clients!

Contact us for more information to help you grow your business.

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This article is published by Will Sherwood | The Sherwood Group |Website Design | Graphic Design | Marketing Communications: The Sherwood Group has over 30 years of experience working with all sorts of companies, small and large. Our clients range from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 firms, in nearly every business sector, from across the street to around the world (and yes, even Europe, China, and South America). Our goal is to create advertising,  graphic design, website design, and marketing communication that still looks fresh and relevant 10-15 years later. Our mission is to stir your imagination and leave your competition shaken and wondering,  Now what do we do?”  We are located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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Please comment. We’d like to know if you found this article informative or helpful?



  • By Matches Malone 19 Dec 2014

    You should add, clients who think they know more than you, or think they’re the boss of YOUR company.

  • By Tom Markham 21 Dec 2014

    Add the people who are always on a fault-finding tour.

  • By 22 Dec 2014

    Thankfully, I have only had three such experiences, and all occurred very early on in business.

    To avoid having to fire a client, I spend a lot of time vetting them. Tips to live by: Before doing anything, put everything in writing; a legally binding document. Request a retainer. Set a start and end date. Work on a short-term basis (no more than 90 days). If all is copacetic during the trial period, then proceed with caution. Why?

    Engaging with clients is like any adult relationship: dating, marriage, family, friends, colleagues, and managers/leaders. You can always tell exactly where the relationship/partnership will go by how it begins! You can also always tell when the “honeymoon” is over, when it’s time to “rekindle love,” or let what you love go and see if it comes back to you… In short, save yourself time, talent, resources, and heartache: Do business with people who you like and you trust and set boundaries early. Filtering first, in this manner, is equivalent to that pound of cure everyone would do well to avoid.

  • By Michael MidKnight 08 Jan 2015

    I actually just had to walk away from a marketing internship for the very same reason. The client company didn’t know what they want, yet wanted to be a strong believable Marketing presence. There was another college intern who just put “pretty things together”, and then there was me, building and pitching an iconic brand, much as I’ve had in the recent years. They didn’t like the “simple designs”, and when compared to that of the iconic FedEx logo, which this logo also included a hidden arrow concept as well.. one of the company members actually said the following: “Well no one ever mentions or sees that in the logo (for FedEx), and I don’t think really anybody even knows about it.”

    I had to sit back for a second to actually try to process what was just said… to which I had to professionally respond. “Well.. that logo and arrow concept that you are referring to with FedEx actually won quite a few awards for the way it was designed, and yet its purpose was so clever and so simple.”

    Once I sat down with the CEO and they honest said we want to start offering logos for $50 and you can’t take more than an hour to work on them otherwise we cannot offer you a position here.. is when I just knew they weren’t serious about their brand and were only about profit.

    Moral of the story: Never feel bad about walking away from a nightmare client and/or project.
    Just make sure that if you did sign anything contractually that you are covered and thats that.

  • By Brian R. King, LCSW 08 Jan 2015

    Turning my cell phone off has been a small but powerful tactic. Having ADHD, any distraction breaks my concentration to the point that it can be difficult to get back. But without the random phone call being able to pull me off my target, I get a lot more done.

  • By deepak dogra 08 Jan 2015

    Well i won’t use word firing a client, off course may stop business with customer if customer is evolving in to misfit in capabilities or major deviation in technology is foreseen.

  • By Kimberly Palm 08 Jan 2015

    Because I have a lot of self respect and my time is valuable, I do not have a problem firing a client if they are wasting my time or making me miserable. I always give them warning and say, “If you do ______ I cannot work with you any longer.” Here are some of the many reasons I would fire a client:
    1. If a client is being difficult and no matter how hard I try to make them happy or keep the peace, they continue to be difficult.
    2. If a client is rude or disrespectful in any way to me.
    3. If a client is calling me continuously or harassing me. (I am a coach, so clients can call me and email me for support, but once in a while they will overstep the lines with too many calls)
    4. Paying their bills extremely late on a regular basis or not paying and wanting more service.

  • By Grant Bergman 08 Jan 2015

    If you’re on the services end of things, some of the bad habits listed in the article come with the territory. I’m not saying they should be tolerated or encouraged, and certainly there are limits. But I think most of us in the various marketing services and consulting industries have clients we value but who are also “high maintenance.” I think it’s often part of my job, in fact, to help an indecisive client to find closure on key decisions through the strategy, research and analytical insights I offer.

    On theother hand, I also worked on the client side of one pretty obnoxious company when it came to how we treated our agencies. The ad agency did actually fire the company, just a few months after I left it. The agency threw a party and invited me.

  • By Albert Gornals 09 Jan 2015

    Being able to reject customers is a luxury not everyone can assume. Even though I think is important in order to grow to focus the effort on adquiring good costumers. Good article

  • By oliver gwynne 09 Jan 2015

    Although I don’t disagree that these things are annoying, I think we also have a responsibility to try and educate clients as to good practice. Its up to us to make a framework that covers when decisions need to be signed off, when payment needs to be made etc. I would recommend trello.

  • By Bina Naik 09 Jan 2015

    B2B relationship must be treated like Marriage where there is a maturity and understanding. Instead of firing, there are different ways to tackle with them.
    Sometimes, you need to lye low with the customers in B2B. But at the same time, don’t let the customers take your advantage, as Mr. Murray says, ‘dump them fast’.
    Your work speaks more than words. If you are giving exactly what the customers wants than customers will have no reasons to trouble you for anything and this way you would not even have any reasons to fire them.

  • By John Murray 09 Jan 2015

    I have fired a number of high maintenance, low value clients over the years and I wouldn’t be afraid to do it again. The two main reasons are persistent unjustified complaints to try to get freebies and/or persistent late payment for no good reason. I can make more profitable use of my time on high value good quality clients, so it’s not worth it, dump them fast.

  • By Randall W Montalbano 09 Jan 2015

    I have, and will continue to end any relationship with a client when they do not comply with the conditions of our agreement. Our agreements are comprehensive, outlining every component and aspect for which we (and they), are responsible We work very hard to uphold our end, and we will make every effort at resolving each issue before taking this action. If we cannot resolve the issues, the relationship will regretfully end.

  • By L.R. Cote 09 Jan 2015

    I’ve fired clients who wanted more than they asked for, but didn’t want to pay more. I had one client, Charlie, who said he didn’t like the copy “his guy” wrote, so I asked if I could hire a copywriter, who would bill him separately. He hedged and said he’d get back to me. I called three days later, then a week later and left messages, but he didn’t call me back. The next time we spoke Charlie screamed at me in his office because I didn’t hire the copywriter. I told him that he never ok’d it, and he flipped out. I thanked him for his time, dropped a bill on his desk for the work I had done (and never saw a dime of it), and walked out.

    Then there was Jim for whom I designed a logo, he ok’d it, and I made the deadly mistake of mailing a disk with the file on it with my invoice. I called two weeks later looking for payment. He told me he didn’t like the logo (even tho’ I had his approval in writing), and wasn’t going to pay for it. I told him that I needed the disk back if he wasn’t going to pay for the work. He had already given me 50% of my estimate. I never saw the disk or the money. Six months later I got a call from a newspaper. Jim had placed an ad and told them to call me for the logo. I politely told the ad rep that I’ll send them the logo when I get the check for the work. She thanked me profusely, and I never heard from Jim again.

    To be a woman in a competitive area, it felt very good to fire clients who don’t get it. I’ve worked in many different industries – automotive, banking, funeral home, consumer products, medical products – but the small business owners like me are always the difficult ones. We’re all watching the pennies, but cheap is cheap.

  • By Scott Tate 24 Jan 2015

    At the end of the day, a customer’s value = the revenue they provide divided by the angst/disruption to other account activity/buried costs they inflict. If you’re finding difficulty justifying your continued relationship with a customer on this basis, you have four choices: 1) Do nothing, 2) Get them to agree to work more effectively with you, 3) raise your price to a point that makes the ratio justifiable, or 4) a combination of 2 & 3. Which move is the right move depends on your relative position of strength or weakness in the business relationship. For example, you can push more if you have a patented solution that offers unparalleled value, and you’re confident that your customer is well aware of this. You can push less (at least for now, until you broaden your customer base) if the difficult client can turn out your lights in the event they take their business elsewhere. Of course, shame on you if you’re complacent enough to let this happen.

  • By Guillermo(memo) Carretero 24 Jan 2015

    I really try to not fire clients, it doesn’t matter if they are big or not. I do my best for conciliete, arrive to acords. But… sometimes if the cient does one of this things, 1 do not respect my employees,2 dosn’t pay bills without not reason 3 He came into ideological field like xenofobic, discimination or propouse bussines out of the honor law. I really explode quirurgically , thats means the worst dream he would have in his life . Some years ago I had a charming , beautiful, seller but naif And a very good($) client try to put his hand on her.totally out of order. She call me crying, I said dont worry we will take you in the 15 minutes. 4 hours after this I personally went to his company at 6 o´clock pm when i Knew that his wife was with him. Thinking in breaking him his arm or something better. So a good cigarrete and i enter and saw face tob face the two client and wife togheter. And I tell him My company wont sell you anymore and personally i will make your life a hell, you try to be smart with one of my employees , looking at his wife … the pretty brazilian one. And I dont admit this . For me and my collegues you are death …so my friend I live you with the worst punishment, your wife….And what I knew herds more a hungry wife than a broken arm. maybe I am becaming old in my young years I direct didnt think a second , but as the sensei says the inteligent person dont make innecesary efforts……

  • By Sophia Prinz, Ph.D. 25 Jan 2015

    Nobody ever fired me, however during my 32 years of experience, I fired a few. Most of my marketing people were great, but I can tell you a nightmare story. The company I am about to fire has very high Google rating.
    I need to find the best company for my website.

  • By Geoffrey Barraclough 26 Jan 2015

    In B2B, you should not fire clients. Instead, you should increase your prices until they leave. You may be surprised how long they they will hang around (paying extra) until they finally decide to part company.

    Working in telecoms, we had an old platform that was expensive to maintain and had a single customer. We thought about closing the platform and telling the client to make alternative arrangements. Instead, we opted to increase the prices significantly. The client decided that it was cheaper to stay despite the higher costs.

  • By Mike C. 26 Jan 2015

    At times, (beginning career, business) it may not be wise to fire a client except if they don’t pay on time. It is nice to have a list like this, but when you are starting out, it falls to the wayside as cashflow is king. Yes, over time you can and should “fire” your clients for most of these reasons, but it’s not so easy for start ups. Just my 2 cents.

  • By Janel 27 Jan 2015

    First and foremost, the word “fire” is a harsh one and the use of it typically means that the proverbial bridge was burned during a separation. In my opinion there are only two reasons to part ways: nonpayment and personality conflicts. A company that can’t pay, won’t pay and it won’t do you any good to beat up your day-to-day contacts about it. Count your losses and move on. And don’t kid yourself, you did not “fire” the client that didn’t pay. Personality conflicts are another story. My advice here is to fall on a sword, blame yourself and send them on their way nicely. The faster you acknowledge this issue, the better. It never fixes itself.

  • By Ana Zivick 03 Feb 2015

    As a freelancer, there are simple ways of detecting red flags and avoiding to work with those tipe of clients from hell. An introductory conversation, followed by a solid contract, keeps these guys away and leaves more time for working with those who are worth our time. However, I’m finding out that as a company employing a team of designers, those rules seem to no longer apply. Companies seem to be willing to give royal treatment to just about any customer (no matter how obnoxious), to the point where the gamble becomes between loosing the (fed up) designer or loosing the client. It seems that once you start reaching a revenue of seven figures a year, spending a good chunk in salaries, infrastructure and reinvesting most of it in growth, your employee’s well being becomes less and less of a concern. As a business owner with a team of designers on the payroll, you decide that just about any customer counts, because your company now needs constant growth to sustain itself. This is when those great ethics of a beginning freelancer begin to dissipate, and you find yourself treating nasty clients better that you treat your employees. You loose a couple of great graphic designers, but you can hire new ones. Perhaps young blood, with no previous employed work experience in the field, so that you can train them like puppies into believing that your screwed-up work environment is a normal thing. I always believed that as a business owner with a group of designers on your payroll, you have the obligation to treat your employees as well as you are willing to treat your customers. But that seems to be hard to find. I’m looking forward to reading an article that addresses this problem and talks about keeping clients from hell out, while keeping their designers happily in.