fire bad client

I Can’t Quit You: How to Release Less Than Ideal Clients

Business owners, especially sole entrepreneurs, often have a hard time firing PITA (pain-in-the-ass) clients. In our lives, we may have friends who are not good for us, but who we keep around for way too long. Why do we do it? And how do we gain the courage to break ties to those who don’t serve us?

Why We Do It

As in most human motivation for action, the main reason we do not release what is bad for us is rooted in fear. As a business owner, we are afraid of losing money, missing opportunities, or burning bridges. Personally, we keep undesirable friends around because we are afraid of being alone, being selfish, or hurting others. Fear keeps us trapped in our current undesirable situation. Fear of the unknown keeps us from taking the risk of letting go.

Another reason we don’t fire clients or sever relationships, may be an underlying belief that we don’t deserve better. “Everyone has difficult clients. That is just part of doing business right?” “I know my friends take advantage of me, but who would treat me better?” The belief we are undeserving sometimes keeps us from even seeing that we are being mistreated. The truth is we deserve to be happy and surrounded by those who help us excel and grow, not those who keep us down.

fire bad clientWhen we hold on to those things and people which do not make our heart sing, we are blocking good coming into our lives. If we stay in a bad marriage, where is the room to meet Mr. Right? If we spend our work days taking care of client projects which bring us down, where is the time to do something we are passionate about? If we clutter our homes with old items which do not provide us with joy, where is the space to bring in a beautiful new piece? We need to let go, before we can receive.

Also keep in mind that in releasing the other, we are also giving them the opportunity to find something which serves them better. We may feel an obligation to a client or a friend, but if our heart is not in it, are we actually serving them? Keeping a relationship for longer than necessary hurts everyone involved.

How to Break Ties

The first step is to recognize who in our life is not good for us. Who is draining our energy? Who is frustrating us? Who do we feel worse after being around? Take a few minutes to recognize who in your life lifts you up, and who does not.

Second, accept the truth that you deserve better. Everyone deserves to be happy, including you. You do not need to stay in a situation which hurts you. Trace the origin of any belief you have that makes you feel otherwise. Where did it come from? Release it and accept that you deserve better.

Next, release any sense of obligation. You are not beholden to anyone. Acknowledge that your happiness is as important as theirs, and that you are the only person in charge of and able to create your happiness. Nowhere is it written that you need to suffer for anyone else. You have the power, ability, and responsibility to have a better life.

Finally, have the strength to clearly and cleanly dissolve the relationship. In order to be released, you need to speak your truth. A quote attributed to Buddha (wrongly I believe) says, “If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, it is true, is it necessary, is it kind?”  As hopefully you have learned above, when it is time to sever relationships it is both true and necessary. The way to go about it is through kindness. Do not spill years of resentment on the other. Do not give constructive criticism unless you truly know the other person wants it and is able to receive it. Do not lie to soothe the pain – this is not kind; it will come back to hurt in the long run. Clearly state your truth, your needs, and your desire for a clean break. For a client, recommend other resources if possible. Then wish the other well.

Look around your life. Are there people or projects that no longer serve you? Are you ready to release them, remove what is not working, and allow better to come your way?


Thanks to Maureen Willenborg of Wilcon Personal Assistant in Arlington Heights IL for the question that led to this post.

Do you have a question you would like to share? Send me a note and I’ll answer it in an upcoming blog post.

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