OK, let’s be honest.

Firing a bad client is not easy, but we need to talk about it.

When is it time to say goodbye to that client?

Well, you should decide on a case-by-case basis.

We all have boundaries, and although you’re in a service- or class-based business and want to make everyone happy, sometimes you have to put your foot down. 

Setting boundaries is key to creating consistency in your business — and boundaries are necessary self-care for business owners.

I truly believe in sticking to your guns when a client is out of line or disrespectful. 

However, I don’t agree with firing a client because they’re a little picky, or they don’t like their service.

Part of being a great small business owner is accepting feedback — whether it’s positive or negative. Firing a client over something small isn’t cool. 

But if the client oversteps your boundaries time and time again — especially after a conversation — it may be time to be up front with them. Tell them to find another service provider to take care of them moving forward. 

When should you fire a client?

So, what constitutes a broken boundary?

This is based on the boundaries you set in your business — and those are critical.

I can tell you this: When you don’t have boundaries in place, you’re setting yourself up for some level of disrespect. 

(Schedulicity helps implement boundary management with customizable policies and waivers that must be acknowledged by clients before their appointment.)

For example, if you have no boundaries with your hours, clients think they can come in for an appointment whenever they want.

If they ask you to stay until 9 p.m., you may be tempted to say yes — unless you have certain hours set in place. Your hours are on your Schedulicity booking listing for a reason.

Think about some boundaries and dealbreakers for you.

To help, here are some things I consider to be dealbreakers (and boundaries that mean it’s time to let your client go):

1. The client is late to every single appointment, and I mean late — 30 to 45 minutes late. 

This is a major problem.

Being a service provider means you run on a tight schedule. If one client is late — especially in the morning — it throws off your entire day. 

It’s important to share these boundaries and policies with your clients. Things happen, and people get stuck in traffic or run behind schedule.

However, if it’s a constant habit, you need to have a talk about your late policies. It might be uncomfortable or awkward, but it helps the client understand your boundary.

If the client’s late behavior continues, it may be time to part ways. 

2. They cancel their appointment more than once within an hour or two of their appointment time.

This is such a bummer.

It’s hard to fill in a last-minute appointment (though Fill My Book helps), and you’re probably doing everything you can to reduce cancelations.

Time is money, and money is being lost at this point.

Maybe you give one free pass, but you run a small business. Your clients need to be respectful and professional, too.

If the client continues to cancel last minute, it’s time to take a deposit for at least half of their services. If that doesn’t work, end the client-provider relationship.

Pro tip: Sign up for Schedulicity and set up prepayment on your services or require partial deposits to help avoid late cancellations or no-shows.

3. They crossed the line and were outright disrespectful to you or your team. 

Now, being assertive and demanding don’t equate to being disrespectful.

You may have some clients who are a bit more vocal about their services, or they are quite particular. This is part of being in a service-based business.

However, a client yelling and carrying on rudely in your space or talking down to you or your team is a different story – a relationship-ending one.

4. They called or come back to have you fix something or tell you how unhappy they are after every appointment.

Sometimes, you may not be the right fit for some people. Sometimes, a client may not be a the right fit for you or your business.

This is OK! It happens. (Read that again and again.)

If a client is constantly unhappy, I recommend having a conversation asking why. Be upfront and honest. (Here are a few email templates to help with client communication.)

If they continue to be unhappy, I recommend referring them to someone else who may be a better fit.

How do you fire a client?

It’s not easy. Being in business over 23 years, I only fired three or four clients as a salon owner. 

It’s best to do it in person, but if that’s not possible, have a cool, honest, respectful conversation over the phone. Say something like: 

I would like to thank you for being a loyal client, and I’m so sorry we cannot please you. I’d love for you to try a hair stylist or even a salon that would better suit you. I want you to be happy. 

Or:

I’m so sorry. I tried to make this work, but I feel you’re not being respectful of our time. We have clients on a waiting list, and it’s not fair to them if you keep canceling your appointments or showing up late. I pride myself on being as fair as possible.

Takeaway

Being as upfront and transparent as possible is always best. 

Are they going to be happy? Probably not.

I can also tell you this: By having a conversation about boundaries, I was able to save some clients. Those clients became very clear on my boundaries and became respectful of them.

This may not be the case with some of your clients, but at least you tried your best.

Always protect yourself and your boundaries, so you can handle things as professionally as possible if it ever comes down to firing a client.

BONUS: When you sign up with Schedulicity, their online booking software offers a Reliability Rating.

The Reliability Rating allows each client to start with five stars. If they miss an appointment, they automatically deduct stars, so you’re aware of iffy clients.

They also allow you to block bad clients from booking with you if they’ve crossed your boundaries (i.e. didn’t acknowledge a waiver or policy, became a frequent no-show, etc).

At Schedulicity, business owners and service providers come first. Always.