When is it time to fire your customer? A review.

I wrote this post in August of 2010, and I still feel strongly about the topic. The brilliant Margie Clayman started a discussion on Facebook after reading this post on Entrepreneur.  After an interesting debate I thought I’d dust off my blog archives and re-read this to see if almost 2013 me still thinks 2010 me was right. Yep, I do.  I haven’t changed a single word: 

When do you fire your first customer? Certainly not when you start out and can’t pay your bills. When your business is new, your main concern is earning enough to pay your rent, light bill, and hopefully buy enough groceries to feed your family. You’ll take jobs sometimes knowing they may not be worth it; the customer will be unacceptably difficult and you’ll put so many hours into that one project that you basically work for free. But hey, you’re the new kid in town and as the old saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers.

And that’s ok, in the beginning. You need to get some work under your belt, build up your portfolio, and get the word out that you’re good at what you do. But there comes a point when you must start saying no to the obvious fire a clientproblem customer and be much more selective with who you work with. When you finally get so busy that you can’t keep up with all of the work you have, you must do two things:

1. Raise your prices.
2. Fire, or don’t hire, your problem customers.

If you own a small business, or even if you’re a consultant and part of a larger group, you cannot clone yourself. Only so many jobs get done, so you must pick the profitable jobs that will help your reputation, not harm it. That means the client that makes a million changes because they never know what they want and can’t make a decision to save their life must go. That means the customer who wants to haggle over price at the END of the job must go. That means the client that drags their feet and doesn’t get you the information you need in a timely manner, slowing you down and costing you time you could be spending on other projects must go, no matter HOW much you like them.

If you’re sought after because you’re good at what you do, you deserve to earn a living and work with people who can help you maximize your, and ultimately, their potential. The entire point of self employment is having control over when you work, how hard you work, and YES, WHO you work for. Not every sale is worth it, and not every customer deserves your time. The key is, recognize when you’ve reached the point that you cannot keep up. If hiring new staff is not an option, you need to raise prices and be more selective with clients. I guarantee you that it will improve your bottom line, and your quality of work-life.