Knowing when to say goodbye to a client

Columnist Kristen Asleson says a bad client brings stress and takes away from time you can spend doing enjoyable work for other clients.

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Letting a client or customer go can be a painstaking decision; sometimes a lengthy decision-making process, yet for some, quite quick.

About eight months ago, having to let a client go was a decision I faced. This client was on my books for about two months, but after the first month of learning the specific ins and outs of her business, it took a toxic turn. The work and tasks expected of me were pleasant, quite easy and enjoyable rather than mundane and boring.

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Looking back at my career in staffing, I can say with certainty that I was ghosted quite often. Countless interviews were skipped with no communication from potential candidates; no phone calls to cancel or reschedule. Just silence.

What was not enjoyable was the micromanagement to the point it was asked of me to log on to Zoom and work while she was also on the screen. Almost like I was being watched while simultaneously being told to make decisions for her without asking. After making three or so decisions and being told, “I would have done it this way,” when being given two choices, the realization hit me that the ship was sinking fast.

After two weeks of angst revolving around this client, I realized it was time to let her go. In fact, the level of anxiety surrounding this work for her was so high that I did not even open my laptop and do work for other clients. Reluctantly, I offered two weeks of project work while she searched for another virtual assistant, but the weight that fell off my shoulders after those 14 days was like none other.

My sister, who is an artist and personal chef, recently moved from Lawrence, Kansas, to Decorah, Iowa. While she was easily able to let go of several clients, there was one she decided to keep. Of course, this client was one she had served for many years, and cooking for him and his children was quite pleasant.


At first, she thought she was prepared to make a clean break but after much pleading from him and putting her numbers on paper, she decided a trip to Lawrence every eight weeks would be doable. That is one happy client, and lucky to boot.

According to Bonnie Schutz, owner of Tandem Resource Solutions, letting go of a client is a tough decision. She shares a few indicators that are telling of when it is time to walk away, including:

  • Your client does not show respect to you.
  • Your client causes loss of morale, confidence or self-respect.
  • Your client is constantly invading boundaries.
  • And, your client has unachievable expectations.

Lastly, Schutz says, “If a client is abusive, undermining or passive-aggressive, let them go. You need to take care of yourself, first and foremost.”
Had I seen these indicators a year ago, making the decision I did may have been made sooner than later.

In addition to the indicators above, there is also the client who second-guesses everything you do. It is okay for a client to ask questions, but if they lack that much confidence in you, then maybe it is time to move on. One can only take so much second guessing.

Once you have decided to “fire” a client, acting quickly is a must. And, the best way to do this is with a simple notice that you will no longer be providing your service after such and such a date. In addition, you do not need to explain your why or go into much detail. Just be respectful while being careful of not burning bridges.

Although letting a client go can be uneasy, once it is done you will realize it leaves your plate open for more work with existing or new clients, while bringing a reduction in your own stress and anxiety. That is what is important — taking care of you.

Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to .

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