Why Firing Your Clients Can Earn You More Revenue And Save You Time

Let’s take a reality check. Take a look at your current client portfolio.

I bet you $100 that twenty percent of your clients actually account for eighty percent of your revenue.

What’s more, twenty percent of your “other” clients are likely taking up eighty percent of your time. That ain’t an ideal scenario for any freelancer to have.

So what’s the solution?

You need to factor in the Pareto Rule. If you’ve not heard of it before it goes something like this:

20% of what you do brings you 80% of the results.

So you need to apply this to those clients that are bringing in the least amount of revenue and taking up the most amount of time, and you need to fire their asses.

Seriously you do.

Why you should fire your clients 

Let me give you an example of a client I was coaching recently. She’s swamped with work, she’s also near broke.

Why? She’s taken on a number of new clients with “small” jobs that are paying very little. Eager to take on new business and not turn anyone down, she’s now at her wits end.

The problem is those “small” jobs have actually taken up a lot more of her time than she anticipated. She hasn’t charged accordingly, they’ve not paid her yet either, and it’s distracting her from hitting up her ideal clients.

My answer:  Figure out who your ideal client is. Then only accept work from them. You want to hunt your ideal clients down, and politely turn away the rest.

I know this sounds a bit dramatic but it’s true. You need to stop sabotaging yourself and your freelance business with the wrong clients.

Look at these two very different scenarios:

Scenario 1:

You agree to work with just two clients, paying you a guaranteed monthly retainer of $2,000 per month each for a minimum three-month contract.

You now know your guaranteed monthly income for the next three months is $4k and, that you only have two clients to serve and two projects to work on.

The Result:

  • $4,000 for a set amount of hours or work.
  • Peace of mind in dealing with just two high end clients
  • Ease of set up of client in your system for project management and billing

Contrast that to…

Scenario 2:

You take on ten different clients, each with mini tasks, of $100-300 each. That’s a lot more work and effort to organize and deal with, for less money overall.

Don’t forget the proposals you have to write, numerous emails, admin set up and billing you need to factor in just to service these clients.

The Result: 

  • $1,000-$3,000 total for that month for 20+ hours per week minimum.
  • 10 clients to set up in your system, communicate with and keep track of
  • Multiple projects to juggle and demands to meet each week

Are we clear on why there’s a need to fire those clients you currently work with who fall into the “pain in the ass category”?

Can you see why, before you take on any new work, no matter how much you “think you need the money” or the business, you will carefully consider their value to you?

How to fire those clients

I get it. One of the hardest things to do is to say no. Or putting it another way, to saying yes to the right opportunities, and no to the ones that will not serve you in the long run.

Here’s how I suggest you turn away those “bad apple” clients that will sour your working life.

  • Be much clearer from the outset on your freelancing terms and conditions (on your website and in your meetings and initial contact)
  • State your prices clearly and link this to the value you provide (aim high, so you have room to negotiate)
  • Don’t back down if someone tries to bully you, asks you for a heavy discount or won’t pay you up front – that should be a warning sign
  • If you really don’t want to work with the client and you can feel it’s not a right fit, state your f#ck off price. If they accept you can make up your mind.

If in doubt, come back to your checklist, and see if they tick any of the boxes. It will make it much easier to make snap decisions on working with them.

Other factors to consider a repeat work, extension of a contract and opportunity to be exposed to other top quality referrals.

You can factor this into your proposal and quote, especially the first time around, if you know there will be additional and future benefits.

Attracting Your Red Carpet Clients

Ultimately what we’re talking about here is attracting more of your ideal clients.

The number one reason I see people in this situation of taking on any and all work, is a lack of understanding of who they really want to work with.

When you set up your freelancing business I’m sure you envisioned working with people who respected your talents, paid you what you’re worth and were a complete dream to deal with.

I think that’s entirely possible, you just need to create a vision for your what this looks like and who this person is.

Coming back to the example above, I suggested my client create a checklist of what they wanted from an ideal client.

The Ideal Client Checklist

It went a little like this:

  • Are excited to work with me and respect my opinion and suggestions on what needs to be done
  • Give me a large amount of autonomy on the project so I feel a sense of ownership and can create my best work
  • Don’t quibble on price and are happy to pay me what I’m worth, including additional amounts needed to complete the project
  • Work with me in a collaborative manner and give me information and feedback when I need it, so I can deliver on time
  • Are open to talk or meet with me at anytime in person, on Skype, via email etc to ensure I can do my best work for them
  • Happily accept the tools and systems I use to work with them to ensure the project stays on track, including how I communicate with them and bill them,
  • Send me quality referrals on a regular basis and are happy to work with me again and again

In return for this you obviously need to hold up your end of the bargain. I suggest you create your own checklist of how you’ll do this.

The Ideal Freelancer Checklist

Perhaps it looks like this:

  • Create a clear project brief that the client signs off on before we begin work to make sure we’re all on the same page
  • Communicate regularly with my client to ensure their expectations are kept in check, and actually exceeded
  • Give my client realistic timeframes on the work I’m doing and when I need them to feedback to me by so that all goes smoothly
  • Provide a weekly report that details what’s been achieved and what’s left to do so the client feels assured you have their best interests at heart
  • Follow up once the contract is complete to make sure they’re truly happy – or better yet thrilled with the outcome
  • Set a reminder in your calendar or via your CRM tool to say a friendly hello 2-4 weeks later to show you care
  • Send them a personalized card one month later, thanking them for working with you and inviting them to contact you for future projects

Wrapping It All Up

I hope this has given you some food for thought on how you can actually save yourself time and make more money, by inducing the Pareto Rule.

It’s up to you to be selective on who you want to work with and what you’re happy to accept – in terms of contract scope, payment and deliverables.

If you’re finding this hard to swallow, it could be that you’re undervaluing yourself at a deeper level, and we need to delve into why that is.

Charging what you’re worth, working with your ideal clients and ultimately working on projects that light your fire, comes down to you and your mindset.

You attract into your life what you want out of it. If you adopt the abundance based mindset, you’ll soon find your client portfolio full of your ideal clients.

So tell me in the comments below, what action you’re going to take today to fire those clients who are holding you back, and roll out the red carpet for your new ideal clients.

About Natalie Sisson

Natalie is a Suitcase Entrepreneur on a mission to inspire people to build online businesses they love and can run from anywhere using online tools, social media and outsourcing. Ultimately she wants you to create more freedom in business and adventure in life and that's why she wrote the No #1 Bestselling Suitcase Entrepreneur book to ensure you do.

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Nice article, something we can print and hang above the computer monitor!


Thank you for this interesting article, I love it! I’ve been applying these rules for a while now and I can tell I fall into the “ideal client portfolio” category!

Life is too short, if you’ve taken the steps to setup your own business as a freelancer is because you wanted a big change in your life, being able to choose everything from the type of project you work on to your location and hours.

So why not going “all in” and really making this business fully yours by respecting yourself, your gut feelings and your worth as a person?

Definitely a great way to generate more happiness in your Life… 😉

James McWhorter

This is an EXCELLENT article. Great job!

Sometimes my friends and family have a hard time understanding why I drop clients. Money is money… right ?

It’s always a last resort however, if I have to it is always because I’ve asked myself the following:

Am I making money?
Am I breaking even?
Am I loosing money?


Thanks for the great comments and so glad you like what I have to say because I totally believe its up to you to hire and fire your clients.

The maths is correct – it’s per month – so $4K per month total from both clients and $12K over 3 months. But you had me going there…


Great article! I have been dragging my feet with a couple of proposals and now I understand why. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

Clara Mathews

Loved this blog post. One of my goals for this quarter is to improve the quality of my clients. I plan to focus my marketing efforts on finding my ‘ideal client’.


Great article! It is so easy to underestimate the amount of overhead in communicating with clients. Compounding that across several small projects can drastically impact your effective hourly rate.

Also, I enjoyed the explicatives. 🙂

Claire Kerslake

Fabulous article Natalie! I personally love the thought of the eff off price! You just can’t beat that Pareto principle.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

Debi Auger

SO true! You hit the nail right on the head… all of them. The Pareto Rule, being clear on who your ideal client is, having a red velvet rope policy in place and only accepting those ideal clients, etc.

Clearly stating and sticking to your terms and conditions is important, too. Some people recommend not putting your coaching prices on your website and, like you, I wholeheartedly disagree. You can avoid a whole lot of hassle just by letting people self-qualify on that one thing before they even consider talking to you.

And you need to have the confidence in yourself to deal with pushy people and bullying and see it as a huge red flag because you will likely be on the receiving end of it at some point.

Here’s a real example of an initial, unsolicited contact from a potential (or so she thought 😉 )client. Prepare for how you would deal with something like this: “……Results BEFORE payment. I don’t want to hear this will pay for itself in the first… ! I work first and then get paid so why not when I am hiring someone else?……” You need to be able to take a stand for yourself at that point. To me that attitude spelled trouble. I dealt with it by stating that, since she was already assuming that coaching would be unsuccessful, it surely would be and thus would be a waste of both her time and mine.

Non-ideal clients can be an absolute drain on you and have severe consequences for your business. This is a great article full of ways to keep yourself out of that situation!

Jules Taggart

Love the two scenarios. That makes it a pretty easy decision!

Krystina Feucht

Good comparison. I think many new entrepreneurs and even some experienced ones forget the amount of time spent on organizing, initial proposal and set up, and communication.

Aldo Fernandez

After reading this article, you need to ask yourself the key question… why I’m still bound to a customer that is taking too many hours and paying so few? When you realize your inner issues, then you can grow in business and improve quality.

Chris Wood

Really an interesting article!

Bijay Chandak

Really in interesting article. My suggestion is instead of firing your customer keep them in your low priority list. Keep in touch with them even though you are not doing business. In time of crisis these customer and provide pocket money.

Vernetta R. Freeney

Great post. The f**k off price suggestion is interesting. I’ve never thought of that before. And you’re so right about the small tasks taking up time and not bringing in any income.


Great post! I am dealing with ongoing work-in-trade with a former friend, and no contract except a vague email agreement until the end of this year. She has turned out to be quite a bully and manipulator, especially when new boundaries are reinforced!

I’m training one of her employees to do the low-level work that I do, and am preparing to follow it up with an email stating that my schedule is booked and I am going in a different direction with my business, so effective immediately, I cannot afford to keep her as a client at my old rate, and I cannot continue accepting payments in trade for her merchandise after we settle up (she currently owes around 600). I’ve since doubled my old rate for other old clients, and tripled for new clients, a fact that she is aware of. Some people don’t value what they don’t pay enough for.

The silver lining is that this has made me directly face my deeper, personal, issues of self-worth and how they are reflected in my freelance business. You can’t fix what you don’t know is malfunctional!

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