7 Red Flags that Warn it’s Time to Axe a Client

The lifespan of every business will see it encounter clients that may not be a good match. Particularly when you’re starting up, it can be hard to turn down work, but you’ll find that these clients sap your time and monopolise your energy, and can often lead to stressful situations that test your patience, and at times can lead you to question why you’re in the business you’re in.This article intends to be a shake up for you and your mind-set! Start to consider that in many instances, once you have moved beyond ‘survival mode,’ it may be time to ‘set free’ those clients that aren’t right for you, allowing yourself the time to focus on getting in the ones that are, and having them benefit from the best you have to offer! Go through your client list and look for these 7 red flags that are an indicator that it’s time to bring out the axe!

Like most separations, the process of ‘letting go’ can sometimes be painful, and is often a really tough one, but is definitely one worth seriously considering in order to improve your focus, approach your business and its goals in a more positive way, better serve your other clients, and look out for your personal and professional well-being.

1. Every time you receive an email or phone call you feel the onset of anxiety, and speaking to/about them makes you upset or angry, and leaves you feeling drained.

2. No matter how hard you try, the client is never happy, complains, tries to get you to lower your prices constantly, (NOT because they can’t afford your normal rates), and doesn’t appreciate your efforts to go above and beyond the call of duty.

3. Urgent requests are the only ones that seem to come from these clients. A little work pressure can be a good thing, but even if you are one of those people who work well under pressure, it’s important to recognise that if this is sustained it can stifle creativity and lead to stress-levels that impact on your health and productivity. It’s important to work with clients with whom you can agree timelines, and where emergencies really are unexpected.

4. Repeated delays in client feedback or endless reviewing, and lack of follow-through from the client prevents progress from being made, causessignificant delays in your delivery timeline, and impacts on other work that you have, as well as your spare time. In addition to this, when the client does respond, they expect you to ‘drop everything’ and get the next stage of their project done ‘yesterday’ without any acknowledgement that their delay has a knock on effect.

5. The client micro-manages, and is unwilling to accept advice or insight.

6. The client prefers to work ‘in’ the business rather than ‘on’ the business, refuses to let others work on things, thinks that they know best, and feels that they could do a better job than you’re doing. If this is the case, don’t take it personally… but recognise that it’s best to leave them to it!

7. Financial concerns constantly plague your client, they may not be able to afford your services, and they obsess about your fees in every conversation. They are slow to pay invoices, and all this when you’re not in a position, or of the inclination to reduce your fee. You spend way more time than you should following up on invoices and trying to get paid.

It may not be possible to know when entering into a contract whether or not a client will turn into one that is definitely not a good fit, so it might be useful to take some of the key points from the red flags, and include them as part of your contract. This could very well serve to deter unwanted behaviour and approaches on the part of your client, and should you need to, it provides you with a contractual basis to terminate work with them, and move on to clients who are the right fit! 

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