3 Toxic Clients Small Business Owners Should Fire

Owning a small business is hard enough; you have to do the jobs of three or four people by yourself. Even hiring means you need to manage your staff to complete projects that are up to your standards.

On the off chance that you add the wrong kinds of clients, too, well, you’ll soon feel like you’re swimming in quicksand.

Typically, small business owners come to a point where they recognize that they need to “Let go” of several clients in order to make room for the type of business they really want to attract. And yes, this attrition is natural, especially if you raise your prices.

When the going gets tough, and you have too much business to handle, these are three toxic clients you must cut out:

Time to Fire Your Client

The Time Micromanager

How long does it take you to do that? What will you bill me for it? Did you really spend two hours on this project? When you start to feel like you’re working under a microscope, it’s time to take back your inner-self.

Life inside a petri dish is not the best way to produce a quality product for a client. This is especially true of creative professionals, like designers, copywriters and artists. You need to feel good about what you earn for a job, and the client has to feel good about what they’re being charged. Period.

The truth of the matter is, time micromanagers are mostly concerned with their budget and their bottom line. They may not be able to afford you just yet – even if they say you’re hired. Don’t let their financial stress become your problem.

Before you jump ship: Try to reach a resolution by switching to a project-based scale. For service based professionals, look at how long a project takes you and set a flat rate so the client knows what they’re spending (i.e. 2hrs x $25/hour + .5hrs of edits = $72.50, etc.)

Coaches, go ahead and set a timer when the client calls. Preschedule with them for just one hour and that’s it. Being nice with a time micro-manager will just make you feel used – these clients rarely convert into bigger sales since they are too obsessed with their bottom line. 

The Chasing Required Rookie

I’ll do it tomorrow is a phrase that means nothing ever gets done. If someone is always busy, or just doesn’t make the time to complete the things you need to do their work (i.e. sending you pictures, providing feedback, etc.) you’ll burn yourself out following them in circles.

Tail chasing is also toxic in other ways; some rookies are simply lazy. They have paid you to do their dirty work for them. They want results but have no idea what your work for them entails.

They are so hands-off that your job becomes spoon feeding them exactly what you need just to be able to do their job for them. This can even be as simple as a coaching client who doesn’t complete their assigned self-help worksheets. How do you feel when you need to ask them 10 times to return the documents to you?

Before you jump ship: Try treating this client the way you would an employee. Give them specific tasks in small increments and see if they can accomplish little things for you such as, “Please send me three pictures you want used in your events page.”

Breaking down your needs allows you to follow up on one thing at a time, “Hi. I didn’t get the pictures yet. Would you please send them?” so your work can keep flowing behind the scenes.

The Uncertain Snake

There it is; you have everything you agreed to done. The blog looks beautiful, the design has a cherry on top, you reviewed and assessed three obstacles that could be holding them back  via a long email, when…boom…the client decides they don’t like the title you previously agreed to for a program.

Are you going to go into six different software programs and spend two hours changing it?

Don’t let an uncertain snake suck away your time with their indecision. Communicate clearly and effectively in very simple terms:

  • I will use blue #3468 and your red dress head shot
  • We will speak for one hour via Google Hangouts or Skype
  • I will email you three questions a month

This way, if you’ve taken all the actions that are necessary on your part, the details will be left to your client. Additionally, if the issue was your mistake, you free yourself up to correct it without feeling like you’re getting taken advantage of. Time is money, after all.

Before you jump ship: Let your client know that you will be billing for everything you do on their behalf. If they don’t like something, go ahead and change it, while billing a fair hourly rate. 

Indecision is expensive. Clients who start to recognize this will also quickly come to the conclusion that they best make up their minds – and stick to their guns – or they’ll cost themselves big  by teetering on the edge.