In business, the aim is to find and keep a client, right? Well yes, and very occasionally no.

What if the relationship with a specific client is no longer serving the needs of your business, comes at the expense of better clientele, or worse still, is actually costing you time and money?

As much as we might hate to let a long-term client go, there are occasions when the need arises in the interests of your business and even for your personal wellbeing.

Here are four signs it’s time to part ways with a client, and how to cut them loose with minimal pain…

A client audit

Just as a business audits its finances, its stock and considers its staff needs each year, they should be conducting an audit of their clients.

This audit is based on key metrics along with some criteria that’s harder to measure.

Clients should be considered on what they bring into a business, how reliable they are at paying, and quite simply how you feel about dealing with them.

It’s important to note, like a business itself, the type of clients you have will evolve over time.

Often start-up businesses will bring clients on board because they feel they need them.

That may mean they go above and beyond to serve this initial client in the interests of building a reputation.

While they are finding their feet, they might also charge less than they should, or fail to establish the right boundaries.

Two or three years later, however, that playing field has likely changed.

You clearly know the sweet spot when it comes to pricing your products or services, understand the value you bring, and know exactly what constitutes a good client or one who is slightly more painful.

But if you’re looking for clear indicators it’s time to let go, here our top four signs.

They’re paying you less than you’re worth

Each year a business should evaluate its pricing. In many cases it will need to rise in line with CPI or the quality of services and products you deliver.

However, often a client audit will reveal a number who have been paying below market price.

In a few cases, that might be OK because of the other benefits they deliver to your business like on-time payments, prestige, referrals etc.

But in others, the time, effort and resources you dedicate to this client are a legacy of the past.

If these clients are not willing to pay for your services at your current market price then they are costing you time, effort and resources that would be better utilised elsewhere.

They’re taking too much of your time

In business and life there will always be people who you give an inch to and they take a mile.

If you’re going above and beyond for a client, chasing invoices, or constantly working to please a hard-to-satisfy client, it’s time to cut them loose.

There are better areas and better clients to apply your energy to.

They’re treating you poorly

No relationship with a client should come at the expense of your self-esteem or mental wellbeing.

If you’re being treated poorly via rude emails, ridiculous demands or a failure to pay when they should, this is the top indicator a client needs to go.

Yes, you’re in business and customer satisfaction is key, but in the real-world there is a limit of what you need to endure.

And if fear of poor reviews or bad word of mouth is holding you back, don’t let it. Potential clientele can spot an aberration amongst otherwise positive testimonials from a mile away.

You’re not delivering what you feel you should

In the early stages of business, you might say yes to jobs that are a little outside what you really wish to be known for.

Meanwhile, some clients might employ you for your expertise but then fail to listen to it.

On a further note, there might be some jobs that you simply lack enthusiasm for because of one or all the factors above, and you find this lack of passion means the work you produce doesn’t live up to your own expectations.

These are all clear indicators this might be a client to shed.

What to do?

Breaking up is never easy, and don’t underestimate the very real fear it can elicit in business.

However, often losing a client in the interests of better serving others can open new doors of opportunity, allowing you to concentrate on the areas that matter, and improve your income.

If you’re considering making the split, do it cleanly and professionally.

  • Clearly understand the reasons why the break needs to be made
  • Remove emotion from the equation
  • Politely indicate the reasons behind your decision
  • Appreciate their side of things – most clients understand a working relationship should be a win-win situation
  • Give them sufficient notice
  • Offer them a referral to another who you feel may better suit their needs

You’d be surprised at the relief that comes with losing a client who is not serving your business needs, and chances are you have better clients out there who you can now focus your attention on to build your business.

The reality is, bringing on and shedding clients is a normal part of business.

It indicates you’re growing, evolving and improving over time.

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