How To Leave Your Client In 4 Easy Steps

by Terri Scott 6 Minutes

Frustration Bev Sykes

Are you tired of dealing with clients who chip away at your confidence, slow down progress,or cause you physical discomfort or emotional anguish? If so, then you’ve got a toxic client on your hands and you need to get rid of them. Before we get into how to leave your toxic waste-dump client, let’s look at the plethora of reasons why it’s time for you to pack up your operation and leave them, sooner than later:

They’re Pushing Your Sanity To The Brink

Does working with your current client make you feel as if you’ve been cast on some sort of throw-back hidden camera television show? If so, then you might be working with someone who is literally pushing your sanity to the brink!

They’re overall pains in the rear to work with. They’ll come to you with their  Napoleonic complexes, treating you with contempt and resentment, because they resent having to hire you. You might have also dealt with (or are currently dealing with) a client who loves to pick on you, questioning why it takes you so long to finish the job – they can’t seem to grasp the fact that you actually take pride in your work, and you care about rendering quality products and services to your clients.

And, you’re sure to come across the type of sanity-challenging client who wants to micro-manage every sentence, phrase, graphic, photo, logo, color, etc.

They’re Strangle-Holding Your Productivity

While you’re the type of agency that prides itself on quality, it’s also important to get the job done (so that you can move on to other billable projects). There’s a great chance that with time, you and your team have developed a flow that helps to promote project efficiency. And, you’d love to maintain the flow…if only you didn’t have to keep dealing with the client who wanted endless revisions (for free, natch).

What about those clients who completely trash your finished product, practically making you start all over again? This usually happens when your client fails to provide you or the team with clear, concise directions. This is also the type of client who thinks nothing of approaching you breathlessly and repeatedly, begging you for emergency jobs with vice-tight deadlines, all without paying for a rush fee.

And, few things strangle and kill your productivity like those ghost clients…you know the ones who disappear and reappear more frequently than Caspar the Ghost (but they’re usually less friendly and a lot more demanding upon their reappearance).

They’re Blocking Your Cash Flow Like The Hoover Dam

A business begins their journey on the road to profitability when they direct more money into their business than what they’re directing out of the business. But, they need to be able to direct and generate an adequate amount of money to begin with. This is hard to do when you’re dealing with clients who want to nickel-and-dime everything that you propose. This is common when you’re dealing with first-time entrepreneurs who need your services, or when you’re dealing with those who are experiencing cash-flow issues of their own.

You’ll immediately recognize them-they’re the ones who ask you (in a voice that implies that they’re demanding) to give them a discount since they’re “just starting out”, or “they’ve hit a rough patch”. They love to punctuate their Trojan-horse demands with sweet promises of “more work”, “revenue-sharing”, etc. If they’re not especially clever, then they’ll flat-out antagonize you during the fee negotiation process. In short, they’ll make it their business to ensure that your business never realizes profitability.

They’ll Light A Match To Your Professional Reputation

While it’s both exhilarating and necessary to make money, as the old saying goes, all money isn’t good money. After all, it’s kind of hard to continue to make money and stay in business when your professional reputations has gone up in flames.

Beware the client who’s possibly involved in illegal activity. Regardless of how lucrative their project may appear to be, it’s not worth taking the risk of being linked to criminal activity, especially when the activity causes bodily harm or mental anguish to others.

This becomes even more crucial to keep in mind if you or your team are asked to create copy that makes dubious or false claims—these run rampant in industries that promote fitness, medical supplies, health supplements or even, information products.

Did you know that if you or your team are found to have produced janky or questionable copy, you might be invested under FTC Truth In Advertising laws? None of these are the outcomes of a brand who wants to stay in business for years to come.

They’ll Make Your Head Spin In Circles As You Question Your Career Choice

Clients like these are closely related to those who throw your sanity for a loop. They’ll make you doubt your professional capabilities to the point where you ask yourself if you’ve made the right career choice. When you envision working on their projects in the morning, you often feel tempted to invent a mysterious illness that prevents you from getting out of bed. They might even make you cry as you think about the trajectory of your life!

By now, you might recognize at least one toxic client prototype—none of us go unscathed in our industry! You’re probably wondering how to unleash yourself from the toxic relationship that you’ve found yourself in, but by now, you’re worn down and scared to death. After all, aren’t we always a little frightened that every client might possibly be our last? Isn’t that why you’ve put up with the toxic dynamic in the first place?

The good news is, you can reclaim yourself and banish those bad clients away after you learn how to overcome your fears. Here’s 4 tips that will help you to finally break free!

Believe In What You Have To Offer

You know that voice that’s nagging you, telling you that every client counts and that each one could be your last? It’s full of crap, and it needs to be silenced if you want to gain control of your business. The fact is, you wouldn’t have started your business if you didn’t have a sneaky suspicion that you were good enough to hang your shingle in the first place.

While it’s true that you need clients, know that your clients need you far more. The fact is, there will always be more clients than there will be appropriate service providers. You offer products and services that clients need to open up for business, or stay in business. The type of clients that you don’t want to lose realize this.

And, the irony is that these are the type of clients that will be hard for you to lose, because they’ll keep coming back to you on your terms, each and every time!

Laughter Is Truly Awesome Medicine

On the other hand, toxic clients will bully you and degrade you with threats such as, “You’ll never work again!” and “You have a lot to learn!”. They’ll warn you about all of their industry connections and they’ll make veiled threats about ruining your reputation. This article writer has been on the receiving end of such threats and has experienced an increase in revenue and business opportunities. In fact, laughing at the threats is highly recommended, and it’s an awesome tool for soothing your soul.

Learn Detachment

Some clients are abusive personalities who love gaining domination over those they perceive to be underlings. Instead of treating you like a trusted and respected business collaborator, they get off on treating you like the help. Understand that their behavior has nothing to do with you and that it has everything to do with dark aspects of their personal life.

More to the point, hurting people hurt people. When you remove yourself from the scenario and observe their behavior with detached pity, you’ll protect your spirit from being crushed under the weight of their toxic residue.

Leave Gracefully As Possible

Just because your nightmare client is a toxic waste-dump of time and energy doesn’t mean that you get to behave in the same way. Challenging as it may be, you’ve got to be the business person who’s got their eye on their professional reputation, and end the relationship as gracefully as possible.

You can’t ignore their phone calls or emails. What you can do is professionally yet firmly inform your client that you’re ending the relationship. Draft a memo that summarizes the scope of the project, what has transpired, and why the relationship isn’t working anymore.

If there are outstanding fees that you are owed, then itemize them and send a final invoice. If you owe your client outstanding fees, then mention these along with a firm deadline of when your client can expect to receive a refund for incomplete assignments, or retainer fees.

Never resort to name calling, or unprofessional behavior. If you are speaking to the client on the telephone or in person, then use an even yet firm tone of voice. Thank them for initiating business with you, even if you don’t mean it. Then, when it’s all over, take yourself out for a celebratory day or night out! You’ve finally freed yourself of enduring a toxic client, and you understand that you’ll never have to endure one again in the future.

* Photo courtesy Bev Sykes Creative Commons

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by Terri Scott
Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time. You can view her work at, and she'd love to hear from you: