It's Not Me, it's YOU: How to Spot a Bad Client

Colleen Kowalski

bad client.jpgProfessional relationships, like romantic relationships, are not always meant to be. 

Every business wants to make sales, gain a larger customer base, and ultimately grow their business. Unfortunately, this mindset makes it hard for most businesses to turn away bad clients. Bad clients drain the life out of your employees, disrupt what should be a positive workplace, and sometimes "forget" to pay you on time.  

While it may seem like these are a few unimportant factors that your business has to endure in order to make money, you do not have to take on every lead, especially if that lead is a bad client.  

There is a fine line between a good partner and a bad one. Below are some ways to determine if your lead should become a client or if you should part ways. 

"My way or the highway"

Have you ever been in a relationship where your significant other tried controlling your every move? They controlled where you went, what you did, and how you did it. You should never feel like you have to call your significant other to ask permission for everything you do. Additionally, if they threaten to leave you if you don't do what they say, then you should leave them first. 

The same goes for business to client relationships. If your client threatens to leave if you do not follow their every idea, then it is time to start thinking about parting ways.  


Not everyone is worth your time. Just because someone is interested in you does not mean they get the opportunity to be with you.  

Some companies might not be as qualified for your business as others. And while this doesn't automatically make them a bad client, it can hurt your business. Unqualified clients who cannot afford to work with you are not good clients. You will hurt their chances of getting off the ground and you will waste time and money trying to make that happen.  

"Every other company we've worked with was awful! No one could do what we wanted." 

If your client says this, begin preparing your exit strategy. This is not your chance to prove that you are the best in your industry. This client is like a father saying that no one will ever be good enough for his daughter. Although you might be a great catch, there is no convincing this father that you are worthy of their baby, no matter how strong your handshake may be. They have made up their mind before you even came to the door. It is your time to bow out gracefully.  

"We'll be in touch soon." = "We'll be in touch NEVER." 

When you have worked hard to secure a potential client and things seem to be going well, it can come as a shock when out of nowhere they stop talking to you. This is what teens in the dating world call "ghosting" (or so I've been told). You and the client (potential significant other) build up a nice rapport and then they appear to drop off the face of the earth.  

Do not spend all of your time and energy trying to get this client to talk to you, because you could be using that time meeting new clients that are much better for you. Think of this post as the friend who tells you that there are "other fish in the sea" and move on. 

Gut Check

Above all, if your gut is telling you, "This company does not seem like the right fit," TRUST IT. You are probably right. If you do not feel completely sure that you and this company will have a strong working relationship, then do not force one. You wouldn't force yourself to stay in a romantic relationship with someone you can't stand, so why do that in a professional one?

The Break-Up

If you have a bad client, you need to know how to properly end the business relationship. It may seem awkward and difficult but once it's over you will feel much better. Remember to be polite and professional when ending a professional relationship. Start with a nice email detailing why your business is not best suited for the client. Make sure to leave things on good terms in the event that this company eventually turns their life around and becomes a good client. Even if they continue to be bad, you do not want them to bad mouth you to all of their friends in other companies. 

Have you had any experience with bad clients? What have you done to move on from this relationship? Does ice cream and chocolate work for ending business relationships too? (asking for a friend). Let us know!  

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