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Tawnya Sutherland

Signs You Should Fire Your Client

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One of the hardest factors in working for yourself is when you accidentally start working with a difficult client. Most Virtual Assistants will keep trying to work with the client even though they are super stressed out and feeling really discouraged. But, the truth is, as a small business owner you should not work with clients who don't fit in with your style.

Just because you need to fire a client doesn't mean that client won't be better with someone else. I always give some options to help a client find another VA with the easiest being sending them to our VA job board to submit a RFP.

But one thing is for sure, if you don't fire the client you're allowing someone you can't work well with to take up space that could be filled with your ideal client. This can be very frustrating and also difficult. On the one hand you want to keep making the money because you need it, on the other hand the client's temperament makes it impossible to enjoy your work any longer. It is quite a predicament to be in.

There are five signs that you should be aware of that should point you to firing your client sooner rather than later.

1) The Client Is Not Profitable

The reason you're in business aside from that feel good stuff about helping others is ultimately to make money. If you are working for a client who refuses to pay you more, or who is constantly nit-picking at everything and you've allowed scope creep to happen, it's time to let them go.

2) The Client Is High Maintenance

You know what I mean by this. They require ridiculous amounts of phone time that they don't want to pay for, and they also never get you the information you need in a timely manner to complete the work you do for them, yet they expect you to never miss a deadline. If your client thinks that you should be waiting by your phone, or email, or chat box and ready and willing and able to jump 24/7, then this is not the client for you.

3) The Client Always Pays Late

While you may be happy to at least get paid, clients who are late payers on a consistent basis are a serious problem for your business in terms of cash flow. If you don't have regular cash flow that you can count on from your clients, it can be very difficult to do your job and live your life. Not only does having to remind clients to pay you cause stress, it also takes up time. And whether we like it or not, time is money.

4) The Client Is Abusive

Sometimes you're going to run into clients who are just downright nasty and abusive. They will act mean and disrespectful. They'll tell you that your work sucks but they won't give you any concrete reasons why it sucks. They cause your work environment to feel toxic and you're always on edge waiting for the barrage of insults once you turn in any work to them.

5) The Client Is the Wrong Fit

This isn't the client's fault, it's yours. You took on a client who doesn't align with your ideal client image. You took on a client that wants you to do work that you hate doing, and don't want to do any longer. You've been working with this client for years but you've changed focus and want to stop doing those tasks. In order to open up space in your business, you'll need to let misaligned clients go by giving notice and referring them to someone else.

You can prevent a lot of problems by adequately screening your potential clients in advance. We have client intake templates (and many other business templates you'll need to run a smooth VA practice) to screen your clients in our VAinsider Club member area. You want to disqualify clients before you take on the wrong one, right up front. The way you do this is to have a planned interview and screening program in place that you use on all potential clients.

By ensuring that a client is your ideal client and will not be one of the problems above, you will circumvent any issues in the first place. Never be afraid of letting a client go. It's much better to nip problem clients in the bud than allow the relationship to continue.

Have you ever had to fire a client and what were the red flags/signs you had? I'd love to hear your stories.

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Red Flags that tell me to avoid taking in a particular client:

  • a client who says they are respectful or honest; in my experience if someone needs to specify it they will probably act otherwise
  • a client who says that "money is not an issue"
  • a client who haggles the price under the pretext that "they will bring me plenty of business"

Last year I fired a transcription client who complained that I did not have enough availability for her work, when I asked her how much volume she wanted to send me she replied that "she could not tell because it varies all the time as she is self-employed". I am self-employed as well and I don't think I should turn my thumbs in case she needs something done.



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I am about to fire my first client who happens to be my long time friend. :( Not a good situation at all. We barely lasted 1 month in business together. Wish I had seen this thread before. The signs were there!

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