How to get rid of bad clients

sack clients

When you find that you have a client who is making you miserable, or you've ranked your clients and find that a D has appeared, what is the best way to move on?

Firstly, you need to remember that this is your business.  You are perfectly entitled to choose who you work with and who you don’t.  If a client has managed to slip through your net and is now making you miserable you have two choices.  You can train them, or you can bin them. 

The decision is yours to make, but is likely to come down to why you’re miserable.  Is it something, with help, the client can change, or do they refuse to?  If not, the decision is simple but just how do you bin a client?

Make them choose to go

You can put so many barriers in the clients way that they decide your service is no longer for them.  This is a professional approach, we’re not talking about not doing the work you’re paid for, just being a bit more demanding of when and how paperwork is presented.

Ask them to go

This one is a bit more difficult.  You tell them that due to changes in your business and the services you offer you are no longer able to work with them. 

I used this myself to get rid of a client who I let in before I realised the need to work with a specific client group.  This client was a limited company and I told her that we would only be working with sole traders.

You could tell them it’s due to other clients expanding that you need to reduce the number of clients you have to free up capacity. 

I would recommend doing this just before their year end to allow them to find someone else at a natural break point.  You could also send a list of other local bookkeepers and invite them to contact someone else.

Up the fees

To make this work, you need to up the fees substantially.  Think around the 200% mark.  Explain that you’ve reviewed their work and realise that you are operating at a loss and as such need to review your pricing structure. 

The worry here is that some client may agree to pay the increase.  In this instance you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of keeping them at the higher rate.

Be honest

Think carefully about how you word things if you go down this route, you don’t want to have some ex client bad mouthing you all over town.  Be clear and state the facts. 

What is it about the client you can no longer put up with?  Are they giving artificial deadlines?  Do they wait until the last minute to get papers to you? 

Be clear about why you want to part ways but be prepared for them to appeal to you that they will change their ways.  Again, you know your business and you’ll need to decide if you thing this is true.

I know many bookkeepers and accountant who git rid of their worst clients every year.  I had a conversation with one the other day who got rid of a few last year and was shocked at just how easy it was to fill the void with ideal clients.  This isn't unique, it's something I hear time and time again.

1 comment


I have just parted with one client. Said I couldnt do the extra hours they needed, but that wasnt the only reason. I had to beg for Bank Statements everytime and paperwork was taking 2 to 3 weeks to arrive and they had someone else chase debtors for me, which wasnt a real help as I didnt know who had been chased and who hadnt so could not get into a good routine and I thrive on Routine. Patrisha.
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