One of the unfortunate aspects of entrepreneurship is having to deal with terrible clients. Granted, they make up a small minority of overall clientele, and it takes a lot to be a truly bad client. It's unpleasant to think about and it's certainly a shame for everyone involved, yes, but there comes a time when these relationships need to be cut short. Below are four indicators it's time to fire your client.
1. The client demands too much.
It's a shame, but unfortunately, it's true--some clients have incredibly unrealistic expectations that simply can't be met. It's one thing for a client to ask a lot of you and readjust their expectations upon learning what you're capable of, and that's perfectly fine; it's a normal part of business, especially in the startup world. However, clients who consistently demand an unreasonable amount of work need to be cut, as their expectations are simply too much.
"Our team is trained to turn down orders from customers if they are being rude or negative or are trying to continually take advantage of us," explains Paul Serra, owner of CustomOnIt. "Luckily, these customers are in the minority and we could not ask for a better customer base." If they expect more, they should accept that it will take longer and that it will cost more, plain and simple.
2. The client expects instant results.
Often going hand in hand with our first sign listed above, a client who expects instant results might need to find someone else to hire. In simple terms, work takes time, and a client's inability to understand that shouldn't be your problem. In the entrepreneurial world, this rings particularly true, too. It's common knowledge that quality work can take a bit of time to produce, and if a client is willing to sacrifice quality for immediate results, his or her ethic is immediately called into question. Expecting instant results sets a dangerous precedent that can put far too much unnecessary strain on your relationship, and there comes time where you have to ask yourself, "Is this worth it?"
3. The client tries to take unfair advantage of you.
I see this all too often with startups, and I've had to deal with it myself--clients trying to take advantage of you. When a company is desperate for clients for any reason, whether it's because it is new to the market or because the economy is challenging (or any other number of reasons), some are willing to take advantage of that desperation and capitalize upon your struggle. After all, if you need the client, you need to do whatever is necessary to keep them, right? Wrong. If a business relationship is based on a client's ability to take advantage of your services, the remainder of the relationship will prove to be toxic and entirely unworthwhile.
4. The client is just too unpleasant to work with.
Perhaps the most frustrating client isn't the one expecting too much or the one who wants something immediately, but the one who's simply too unpleasant to deal with. It's an unfortunate truth, and while it seems a bit ethically problematic, no company benefits from clients who are rude, inconsiderate, or selfish. Defending your team as well as yourself is important too, as they are an extension of your abilities--when a client is unnecessarily unpleasant to you or to your team, everyone suffers. Cutting that relationship isn't fun, and yes, it involves the sacrifice of a short-term opportunity, but your time is much better spent with clients who are reasonable and respectful. You'll produce better work, your team will be more encouraged, and the client will continue to pay.