Knowing When It’s Time To Wave Goodbye To A Negative Client

Author: Myk Baxter

As a digital marketing consultant, throughout my career have come head-on with negative clients and the turbulence surrounding them.

Building client relationships is of course of huge importance when it comes to growing my business, but you want your partnership to be reflective of your brand and your services, so it’s important to be the bigger person and respect your clients. 

However, if they decline to return the favour, you always have the upper hand to take action.

Today in this blogpost I discuss why you should end a client partnership, how to fix it, and how to terminate the partnership if needed.

8 Signs That It’s Time To Terminate A Client Relationship

A huge part of business growth is the ability to read your clients, understand their motivations, and how they treat those underneath you.

Below I outline several red flags that should be acknowledged when looking into your client relationship and knowing when it’s time to make a change.

  • The Client Is Taking Up More Time Than What’s Worth

As an expert in your specialist industry, you understand how much your time is worth and the value each hour holds. Therefore, if time spent with a client is unproductive and wasted, now may be the time to step away.

Working with a negative client also drains you of extra time and energy, resulting in a degradation of other parts of your business.

Everyone within your client pool should be valued, and this is critical to your business. However, it’s important to have a good idea of how much each one is worth.

Here are some signs of how a bad client may waste your time:

  • Being unprepared for meetings.
  • Showing a lack of unwillingness to committing to a plan & delaying the timeline of work.
  • Turning your ideas away.
  • Being inefficient when replying to emails, questions, or deliverables.
  • They Continuously Turn Down Your Recommendations.

Every client comes to you for a reason: to help them with business growth. They may know their business, but they signed an agreement for you to provide great insight and service to their organization.

You continue to invest your time in helping them reach their goals. However, they are continuing to shoot down your ideas, recommendations, and deliverables. 

Whilst the contract bounds you together, there should be a mutual agreement that you will work together to achieve the goals set initially. 

But sometimes they don’t see this and other factors can get in the way of pursuing a healthy partnership.

  • There Is No Respect Between You And The Client

Respect should be at the heart of any business relationship. Where there is trust, great things are achieved. 

However, things can turn rocky when respect is broken on one side. No respect signals no trust, and without trust, it can be hard to maintain your goals.

If a client doesn’t respect you, they will do all they can to bash your work and your business. So, now might be the time to move on.

It’s important as a business person to show respect, and you want to reevaluate the relationship if the favor isn’t reciprocated.


  • There Is Little Communication Between You And The Client

At the start of the relationship, you and the client should agree on a chosen communication channel. Will this be via the telephone, instant messaging, or email?

You want to also set an acceptable timeframe to respond to a message. Emergencies may sometimes arise, but you need to agree on a time window that works for both parties.

If neither can keep up with their communication commitment, follow up with a check-in discussion. If it cannot be maintained after this, it’s time to part ways.


  • There Is No Progression In The Relationship


A great business relationship will go from strength to strength as both sides learn more about each other. If your values fit, the relationship will bloom, trust will grow and better ideas will flow. 

But, if after a period of time you do not see any improvement in communication, it’s a sign that it’s time to move on.

As time passes, attempt to find the best communication channel that fits you and the client.

Identify how and when they communicate and tailor your messages to suit them & if you still do not see a better partnership, speak with them directly.


  • Your Client is Pessimistic 

You always become a reflection of what your mind thinks about. If your client projects negativity towards your working partnership, it will be impossible to achieve your goals. 

It’s normal to become stressed when passionate about something, but pressures piled on should never have a negative impact on your relationship.

You can do your very best to be positive. However, if a client hits back at your words of encouragement, it can affect both your mindset and the quality of your work. You may avoid working to produce the best quality work.


  • You Are Seeing A Loss In Money 

Every moment spent on a client comes down to pounds, and if the time spent does not deliver profitable results, it’s time to break down the relationship.

Firstly, evaluate why you are losing money, and then reach out to the client about the ways to improve your partnership and how you can achieve the goals. If you continue to see no great results, it’s best for both sides to terminate the relationship.

  • The Client Is Verbally Abusive or Demanding 

If a client is verbally abusive towards you or your team or degrades you, it’s time to cut them off with immediate effect to avoid any more harm. You have a right to not tolerate abuse in any kind of form.

Again, if a client continuously makes demands that cannot be met or gaslights you when unable to accommodate them, it’s time to turn away.  

Remember there are some people you will never be able to please, and the sooner you realize that and end those negative relationships, the better it is for all.

Amending The Relationship

Now that I’ve highlighted the red flags to look out for, below are some strategies on how to improve, fix or amend a client relationship.

Evaluate Your Perspective On The Situation

You may choose to step back, take a breath and come to terms with the fact that it’s not the client’s fault. When your stress levels are high, it can impact your emotions and the actions you take.

During this reflection period, think if there is anything you can do on your side. Then, lay out the conversation to have with the client to fix the problem.

Explore Other Lines of Communication

If communication is at the forefront of the issue, look towards using a different communication channel or changing the style. 

Would a weekly or bi-weekly meeting work better than daily emails? Should you call rather than using email?

Looking into other ways of engaging with the client may make it easier to clearly transfer information and be more efficient for both sides.

Start A Fresh Agreement 

If your current contract with the client is drawing to a close and they are considering continuing the relationship, you could look to put together a new agreement. Starting fresh and setting new boundaries could help towards creating an efficient working relationship.

It could be a great turning point for unleashing new opportunities and ideas within your relationship.

How To End The Client Relationship

If you’ve done all you can to fix the relationship and have come to the conclusion that nothing works, below are the steps on how to terminate the client relationship in a professional way.

Step 1: Evaluate The Agreement 

Before you release the client, check to make sure you can legally do so. 

Although, it is better to terminate a relationship at the end of a contract, rather than in the middle of it.

Step 2: Wrap Up On Any Elements You Owe The Client 

As a way of showing great professionalism, round up all of the pending projects that you owe the client.

Identify which elements the client still needs and which ones they want you to complete, and work efficiently to do so.

Do not let terminating the relationship affect the quality of your work. It may be ending, but you do not want them to talk badly of you and your business.

Step 3: Plan Out Your Final Communication

When approaching the client, outline why the relationship is ending. Discuss why the terms in your contract lead to your discussion and proceed in a professional manner from there. 

Here are some other factors to consider when setting out the conversation:

  • Highlight your talking points
  • If you are having the discussion over the telephone or virtual meeting, practice the conversation & 
  • Visualize how the conversation may go.
  • Be direct, but tactful with the client.
  • Have a clear and thoughtful reason as to why the relationship is ending.

Step 4: Tell The Client

Although it may make you feel uncomfortable, there are a few ways of telling the client. For example, you can send a professional email and spell out each reason clearly.

Or, you can set up a meeting to discuss this with them over the phone. Whatever way you chose, stick to your gut and show the client respect.

Step 5: Never Leave The Client Hanging

There is nothing worse than leaving the client in the dark once ending a relationship.

Outline a clear exit plan, offer them support for their next move, identify the projects that need to be completed and carry out your commitments as an agency.


As we approach a new year, understanding the above and your worth is now more important than ever. If your client is not holding up their end of the deal, it’s time to look at your options.

But always show your client pool the respect you’d expect to receive and fulfill your commitment. You always want to understand the client before communicating with them too. Actioning these principles will allow you to continue meaningful work and have a healthy mindset. 

Thanks for reading,

Myk Baxter, eCommerce Consultant