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How to Fire a Client and When You Should Do It [Free Template]

April 23, 2024 10 min. read

A bad client isn’t worth the trouble. They drain your time, morale, and finances—all resources you should use to serve the good clients who support your business.

It’s time to rip off the bandaid and let that nightmare client go. 

Learn how to fire difficult clients with our helpful tips, scripts, and templates. Plus, identify warning signs of problematic clients to avoid future issues.

How to fire a client the right way

Whether it’s someone who never pays on time, is overly demanding, or is downright abusive––you know in your heart it’s time to terminate that bad client who’s been weighing on you emotionally, financially, or otherwise. 

You’re unsure what to do next, OR maybe you’ve been avoiding it entirely.

We know it’s awkward and uncomfortable, but for the good of your business, it’s time to let them go.

If you’re looking for examples of how to fire a client, there are several ways to communicate that you’re terminating the client relationship.

1. Raise your prices

The easiest way to get rid of a challenging client is to give them the chance to “fire” you instead—by charging them a lot more for your services. 

Usually, raising your rates leads to one of two things. Either the client goes elsewhere for cheaper services, or you’re paid well enough that you’re willing to keep dealing with them.

But if you just want to be done with the client, that’s okay, too. No amount of money is worth your sanity!

READ MORE: How to write a price increase letter

2. Firing a client by email

To avoid a potentially uncomfortable phone call or in-person conversation, firing a problem client over email can be a less confrontational way to end a business relationship. 

You benefit from having a written record of the termination, and you can take time to craft your message carefully. 

Use our example below for some inspiration.

3. Send a client termination letter

If your client’s preferred communication isn’t via email, it may be better to send a letter to end the client relationship.

Write this letter professionally on company letterhead and make a copy so you have a written record of everything you said.

Below is a sample of a termination letter from a cleaning company. You can download our free template to personalize your own letter.

4. Pick up the phone

If you want to verbalize your position or answer any follow-up from your client in the moment, delivering the news over the phone is your best option. A phone conversation can be more empathetic than written communication.

Remember to be clear in your delivery and prepared to answer any additional questions or objections your client may raise.

You can use our sample phone script below to help you with speaking points. 

5. Meet in person

Meeting in person is a good option if you want to discuss the situation with the client and leave the door open for a possible resolution.

Plan for a shorter talk where you say your piece and leave, but if they’re open to discussion, you can make it a longer conversation.

Grab some of our example speaking points below to help guide your conversation.

How do you know when you should fire a client?

Ultimately, you can weigh the risk vs. reward to help you make the call if it’s time to end a relationship with a client. 

Are they slightly annoying but always pay on time? Then maybe not. Or do you spend more time with one client than anyone else—without getting enough profit to balance the investment? Then, yeah, probably.

However, if a client raises any red flags below, it’s time to fire them!

They abuse, assault, or harass you (or your employees)

Abuse takes many forms. In a business relationship, it often looks like a client yelling at you, swearing, sending a string of angry texts, or any other bullying or harassing behavior.

Everybody has bad days, and it might be one of those cases where the client is just being difficult. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you’ll accept an apology.

If the client isn’t sorry and shows no signs of change, it may be best to fire them.

And if somebody assaults you, threatens you, or uses hateful language? That’s an instant firing. At this point, you may want to bring in a lawyer, too.

If people are rude to me or my staff, we part ways very quickly.

Bertie Lynn Premier Lawns

Impossible to satisfy

You know you do good work, but this client would never say it. They’re trash-talking you, leaving bad reviews, or constantly calling you back to fix things that don’t need fixing.

You’ve tried everything to make them happy, but nothing is working. Sometimes, you must realize that you can’t please everyone, especially if they’re determined to find problems with your work.

If the client is taking your time, attention, and resources away from other clients who are happy with your work, let them go. They might have better luck with another service provider.

[If] the customer has higher expectations than they are willing to pay for, it’s time to part ways.

Kyla Rae Genuine Earthworks

Consistent late payments

You might have a client who hasn’t paid an overdue invoice or is regularly late sending payments.

They’ll often say it’s coming or avoid the subject when you remind them. But they’re still expecting regular service, which isn’t reasonable.

If it’s been a few months since your service, you’ve sent reminders, and they still haven’t paid the invoice, it’s time to part ways and focus on more profitable paying clients.

At this point, you should send the bill to collections, too.

GET PAID FASTER: Send invoices through Jobber and get paid online

They make it hard to do your job

Maybe you’re a cleaning business, and the client always leaves clutter everywhere. Or perhaps you’re a lawn care business, and the gate is always locked, so you can’t access the property. Or you sent appointment reminders before your visit, but the client still forgot you were coming.

With this type of client, communication is poor, making it hard to do your job. This sets you back and affects your schedule for the rest of the day, which also affects your other clients.

If you’ve talked to the client about it and reminded them what they need to do, and they still aren’t doing it, it might be time to end the business relationship.

READ MORE: Learn how to prevent customer cancellations

If it arises to a level where it’s stressing you out and just causing undue stress in your life, it’s time to fire that client.

Mitchell Gordy MITHGO Outdoor Services LLC

They have unreasonable demands

Some clients want to be sure they’re always getting the best deal or want to know what other services you offer, which is perfectly fine.

But a few of those people regularly want extra services for free or ask for tasks outside of what you do. They might even ask you to do something illegal or unethical.

This bad behavior shows that they don’t understand your business and the value you offer. It often also means they don’t respect you as a person.

If these bad clients won’t take no for an answer or keep questioning your prices, it could be time to say goodbye and focus on the great clients who see your value.

I have had to fire a customer or two.

One reason is if a customer constantly asks my staff to do extra work they know they should be charged for and get belligerent when questioned about it.

Bobi Beverly Your Helping Hands Cleaners

Avoiding future bad clients

After you’ve let go of the toxic clients affecting your small business, the best way to avoid getting in that position again is to find new clients that fit your business

That means taking referrals from your good ones and doing solid discovery by asking the right questions upfront to ensure that you can meet their expectations (and that they can meet yours). 

We’ll close with sound advice from service pro Zach Jurkowski of Montreal Contracting—bad clients attract more bad clients.

Originally published in May 2019. Last updated on April 23, 2024.

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