OK, let’s be honest. Firing a bad client is not an easy subject to tackle, but we definitely 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-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, what I don’t agree with is firing a client just because they are a little picky, or because they don’t like their service. Part of being a great business owner is accepting feedback — sometimes it’s positive and sometimes it’s negative. Firing a client over something small isn’t cool. 

But if the client oversteps your boundaries time and time again — especially after a chat or a conversation — it may be time to be up front with them about them finding 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 are setting yourself up for some level of disrespect. 

For example, no boundaries with your hours means clients think they can come in and see you whenever they want. If they ask you to stay until 9 pm, you may be tempted to say yes — unless you have certain hours set in place first. 

I want you to think about some boundaries and deal breakers for you. But, in the meantime, here are some things I consider to be deal breakers and 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 person is late — especially in the morning — it will throw 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 on occasion. But if it is a constant thing, you’ll need to have the uncomfortable talk about being late. And if this 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. You and I both know how hard it is to fill an appointment last minute, 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 if it happens again it is time to take a deposit for at least half of their services, and if that doesn’t work, to end the relationship.

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

Now, being assertive and demanding doesn’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 in your space or talking down to you or your team is a different story. 

4. They have called or come back to have you fix something because they are not happy with their service, or they have called to tell you how unhappy they are after every appointment.

Sometimes you may not be a fit for some people. And sometimes a client may not be a fit for you or your brand. This is OK! It happens. If a client is constantly unhappy, I first recommend having a conversation asking why. Be up front and honest. 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. I’ve been in this business for over 23 years, and I only fired three or four clients in the 11 years of being a salon owner. 

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: 

I would like to thank you for being a loyal client, and 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. 

Or:

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

I have found that being as up front and transparent as possible is always best. 

Are they going to be happy? Probably not. But I can also tell you this: Just 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 know you tried your best. Always protect yourself and have boundaries in place so you can handle things as professionally as possible if it ever comes down to parting ways with a client.