In this economy, many people and companies are just happy to have clients for their small businesses. But sometimes, a client is so much trouble and creates so many headaches that it’s just not worth working with them anymore. So how can you tell when it’s time to “break up” with a client, and how do you go about it? This article from gives some tips and advice for dealing with just this kind of situation. Here’s our nutshell version to help you figure out right away whether you should stay the course or cut and run when it comes to the clients that give you trouble…

How to know when to go

1. If a client doesn’t pay you, or if they routinely pay late or in partial amounts, they’re not worth your time. This is your business, not a charity you’re operating.

Feel like this guy? Dump the client.

2. If your sanity is at stake, cut ties. Everyone has known a client who calls at all hours, demands extensive last-minute changes, switches courses midstream without notice (perhaps more than once), micromanages your every move, expects miracles or simply does not run his or her own business well enough to work smoothly with yours. Don’t let a problem client rob you of sleep or sanity; the stress isn’t worth it. Remember, we’re talking about extreme examples here (some of which you might encounter later at Clients from Hell).

3. If you’re the victim of abuse, get out of that situation. If the client calls you names, bashes your company, makes threats, flings profanity or otherwise treats you in a less-than-professional manner, don’t do business with them. This includes circumstances in which you might not have been expected to see the abuse (for example, if the client accidentally sent you a text message or email meant for someone else, but which contained abuse of you or your company).

How to break up

Once you’ve made the decision to cut ties with a client, how do you go about it? The article suggests keeping your break-up brief and using language like “our two companies are no longer a good fit.” Losing the “fit” can be for a variety of reasons (financial, personality, etc.), but the good thing about the word “fit” is that it doesn’t assign blame. It just defines a situation that no longer works.

As for brevity, it’s vital that you don’t go into apologies, lengthy explanations or other long-winded messages. Be appreciative of the work your client has given you in the past, but make it clear that you won’t be around to work with them any further. You might even consider recommending one of your competitors to your client so that they can more easily fill the gap you leave behind; clients usually appreciate the suggestion, and if you give them plenty of notice, they shouldn’t suffer much with the downtime needed to replace you.

No matter your reasons for breaking up with a client or your means of doing it, be sure you stick to your guns and keep your courage high. Ending a relationship, even a professional one, can be tough. But sometimes, it’s a necessary move to preserve your income, your sanity and your ability to do your job for other clients. After all, not every client is a good “fit.”