Recently a good friend and fellow small business owner decided enough was enough and fired a pretty big client. It wasn’t an easy decision; she had been working with them for years and the money was good. But the client drained her. She was constantly stressed and knew she was spending way too much time trying to please this unappeasable client. The client treated her poorly, had unrealistic expectations, was a horrible communicator, didn’t follow her advice, was overly-demanding for what he was paying her, and always made her feel as if she wasn’t doing enough – despite the fact that she put in 4 times the number of hours on the account that she did on any other.

Choosing to fire a client is never an easy decision. As small business owners, oftentimes we feel compelled to work with whoever will pay us, because for most of us getting a new client is not an easy feat. But I want you to study your PITA (Pain in the A**) client(s) and get real about how much you really need them. More often than not, when you start doing the math you’ll realize you’re better off without them.

Here are my 7 signs that it’s time to tell a client to take a hike:

  1. They treat you like crap – They speak to you like you’re a 4 year old. They constantly compare you to others (usually in reference to cost). They second guess you and basically make you feel like you should quit your day job and become a Walmart Greeter.
  2. They don’t value you. You bring a ton of value to their business, and yet they constantly beat you up about price, constantly challenge you to prove your worth, or demand more and more of your time.
  3. They act like they own you –They usually aren’t paying you enough and yet they feel like they own you. They call you at all hours of the day and night, including holidays and weekends and expect you to be there instantly. When you aren’t they make you feel bad
  4. They are never happy – You bend over backwards trying to make them happy. You feel like it must be you so you work harder, longer, and smarter – and yet they still aren’t happy.
  5. Your profit margin is shrinking –On the surface you might think you need this client because they pay you a lot, but start tracking your hours worked vs. revenue. If you break it down you might realize you would be making better money as a Walmart Greeter.
  6. Your customer service is suffering – You spend so much time trying to make this one client happy that you barely have time for your other clients – the ones who DO value you. What would it cost you to lose one of those other clients? (Look at their profit margins, NOT their total revenue).
  7. You’re beating yourself up- This client is starting to make you doubt yourself. You wonder if you aren’t doing enough or doing it right. You realize this client makes you feel bad about yourself and your product or service.

Of course some of this is about setting expectations right up front about what you will and will not provide. But sometimes we get into things quite by accident; let one late night phone call slide, respond to one holiday emergency out of the kindness of your heart and before you know it becomes an expectation. Take a look at these 7 signs, and if even a few resonate, it’s time to cut your losses and move on!

AvatarCarolyn Higgins

Carolyn Higgins is the President and founder of Fortune Marketing Company. Her personal mission is to help small businesses stop wasting money on advertising and promotions that don’t deliver and help business owners implement an effective marketing system that will bring in more customers—consistently. For more information about Fortune Marketing Company visit the Fortune Marketing Company website or blog.