When Is It Time To Fire A Client? by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

I am happy to say I have amazing clients.  If you are in a service industry, you know that some clients are more work than others. What you may not know is this is not just a gut feeling; it is actually based on the Pareto Principle, which is more commonly known as the 80/20 Rule.

In a client type of business, as in all aspects of business, about 20 percent of your customers provide you with 80% of your sales. At the same time, the 80/20 rule also means you are spending about 80% of your time catering to 20% of your clients. Not surprisingly, this 20% of customers are not necessarily the best clients, but they are the most demanding clients.

Continuing to exert your efforts on satisfying these difficult clients is simply wasted time, effort, and money. It is also pulling you away from working with the sector of your client base that is providing you with the best source of income. Making the decision to fire a client or a customer is not always easy, but it can have very a very positive impact on your ability to provide service to the clients who are better partners moving forward.

Key indicators it is time to fire a client or customer include:

  • The client is in constant communication – while it is great to be an authority and recognized for your expertise when clients are using you as a free consultant for their businesses, they have crossed the line. If the client continues to do this, despite addressing the issue with him or her, it is time to end the relationship. Multiple emails, phone calls, text messages, or other forms of communication not related to a product or service concern are all signals of someone wanting more than just assistance and customer support.


  • No respect – if a client is offensive, rude, disrespectful or is asking for special favors or things that are unethical or in that gray area of ethics, it is appropriate to have a respective, direct conversation to attempt to come to a mutual understanding of how communication and business relationships will be moving forward. If the client continues with the behavior, it is in your best interests to end the relationship.


  • Unreasonable expectations – some clients have unreasonable expectations and demands. This can include insisting they speak only to you or demanding they have 24-hour access to you for questions or issues they may have. Sometimes, on specific projects, this may be important, but only if you are comfortable with this type of “always available” communication.


  • Increasing demands – some clients start out with reasonable demands with regards to better pricing, more services, or even your time, but then they continue to push for more. If they are threatening to withdraw their business or trying to leverage their past business to get more than you are comfortable in providing, it is time to part company.


Other factors are more specific to the type of business. Clients that are not doing what they commit to do or are failing to follow through on their end of the relationship are also clients that should be fired.