This is not an easy subject, but it needs to be talked about: Sometimes, you’ve got to say goodbye to a bad client.

Over the past few weeks, stylists and owners have been messaging me about this very topic, in part because of the complicated process of reopening.

Clients may feel frustrated if they haven’t been able to come in to see you, and that frustration sometimes translates into them becoming a bit demanding or even a little bit disrespectful. But when is it really time to end a relationship with a client? 

Well, this decision should be made on a case-by-case basis. We all have boundaries, and although you run a service-based business and want to make everyone happy, there will be times when you have to put your foot down. 

This is never an easy decision. I can tell you that for my 11 years as a salon owner, I can count on one hand how many clients I had to “fire”. Still, there are a few deal-breakers that will mess with the flow of your business or can feel just plain out disrespectful. 

Here are four signs it might be time to fire your client. 

1. If the client is late to every single appointment — and I mean late

Let’s say over 25 minutes or more. You know that time is money, which is hugely important right now after you’ve been closed for a long period. And, if you have to rush around because they are late, that pushes you behind with your next guest. It’s just not fair — to you or the other client. Believe me, I know that things happen. Traffic hits, and people run late. But if it becomes a pattern, that’s when you have to put an end to it.

2. If they cancel their appointment more than two times within an hour of their appointment time. 

You can also ask for a deposit for their future services if you want to make it work. Typically, half of their service is sufficient. Use your best judgment.

3. If they are just plain rude and disrespectful to you or your team. 

Now don’t go too wild here — this is really if they are yelling or demeaning to your team (not if they are just unhappy with their service). If their behavior feels abusive, it’s more than reasonable to let them go.  

4. If every time you work with them, they wind up unhappy. 

We cannot please everyone. If you have done someone’s hair five times and all five times, they are unhappy, it may be best to recommend another stylist within the salon or another salon, in general. It’s great to have relationships with other salon owners in your area for this reason. A client may be a fit for them and not for you, so send them on down.

Bonus: If it’s time, here’s how to fire a client gracefully

It is not easy to have this conversation by any means. It’s best to do it in person, but if that is not possible, then having a cool, honest, respectful conversation over the phone is best. You can say something like:

“First, I would like to thank you for being a loyal client. I am so sorry we cannot please you. I would love for you to try a stylist or even a salon that would better suit you. I want you to be happy and understand that I may not be your person.”  

OR:

“I am so sorry, I have tried to make this work, but I feel you are not being respectful of our time, etc. We have clients on a waiting list, and it is not fair to them that you’ve canceled several appointments or often show up late. I pride myself on truly being as fair as possible.”

You always want to be as positive as you can, but stay true to yourself and do what is best for your business.