hammock on beach

Say Good-Bye to Bad Clients

With the smell of summer in the air and promise of sunny skies calling you to lazy hours on the beach or lounging poolside, your tolerance level may become lower for bad clients. This is the perfect time of year to take a hard look at your client roster and make decisions about whom you truly want to serve. If you have clients that are making you rethink your life choices it might be time to plan your exit.

The majority of public relations entrepreneurs choose an independent practice to have control over the type of work they do and the clients they serve. However, we sometimes trade that freedom as we cast a wary eye on our bank account. As a solo or micro agency, it is easy to believe that a bad client is better than the threat of one less client or in the worst case, no clients at all. Even those with a thriving practice can suffer the anxiety of letting go of business.

Clients that don’t pay on time, are dismissive or downright abusive are easy to identify as a bad client but there are other types of clients that qualify. Below are three types of bad clients.

The Bipolar Drive-By Client. This client rides a wave of frenzied activity, making plans, issuing directions, and sending emails before disappearing for days or even weeks. Even worse, no one else is empowered to move the ball forward, so you are stuck making a PR plan work without the client’s collaboration. Working like this is frustrating and ineffective.

Clueless and Uncaring. This client does not understand PR and could care less about learning. They are too busy with their own job and their lack of understanding results in unnecessary rework and unclear instructions. We don’t need clients to be experts at our jobs but we do need them to be a partner in their own success.  

You’re the help. This client treats you like an interchangeable lego piece. They expect you to be on demand 24/7 and have little respect for your expertise. You are a vendor who can be traded for someone else at any time.

There are many more client types that may qualify as “bad.” Bad clients are not necessarily bad people but can be good people that are not the right fit for you. One of the reasons that choosing whom you work with is such a high motivation is we have an inherent desire to do work that is satisfying and successful. Working with clients that stand in the way of that can lessen the joy of running your own business.

So why do we hold on to bad clients? One common reason is fear. We may fear that letting go of business is going to make us a failure or destroy our business and income. In fact, keeping a bad client only serves to reinforce that fear and prevents you from moving forward. All of the physical and mental energy that is unnecessarily exerted a client that is not the right fit prevents you from effectively continuing to do business development and or develop deeper relationships with your other clients.

We also fear that resigning a client is a comment on our abilities. We take the responsibility for the relationship not being successful. It is always helpful to learn from every client engagement but don’t weigh yourself down with a burden that is not yours to bear.

You deserve to work with people that challenge you in the best ways and inspire you to do your best work. This summer, reignite the excitement of being a business owner by ensuring that you are serving the right people. If you have bad clients, develop an exit plan that includes replacing income and wrapping up pending work. You don’t have to settle for bad clients, it’s your business and your choice!

How do you deal with bad clients? Let us know in the comments or discuss on social using #solopr.

Photo by James Connolly on Unsplash