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5 Clients to Dump Now (and how to do it)

youre fired

Without clients, our respective businesses simply wouldn’t exist.  However, the relationship with some clients can be so bad, you are much better off parting ways.

When one crosses the line, should you try to salvage the relationship, or do you deliver a satisfying Trump-like “You’re Fired!”?  

If only it were that easy.  Burning bridges isn’t wise. 

Here’s my list of Top 5 must-dump clients, and how to do it. 

1. The Cheapskate: Have you noticed that the client who pays the least expects the most?  If they nickel and dime you right out of the gate – run, do not walk.  This client will change scope, change their mind, and change strategies to the point where your average hourly rate pales to that of a baby sitter.

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How to break up: Easy: Raise your rates.  He doesn’t value your work, and sees you as a drag to the bottom line.  You can’t win.

2. Never Satisfied Guy: No matter how may miracles you pull out of your ear, it’s never good enough.  This client isn’t ever going to be happy with your work.  It may be a communication issue – where he has something in mind he can’t pinpoint or articulate.  Or, he just plain doesn’t know what he wants.  Naturally you can’t deliver on the unknown.

How to break up: Remember, you risk this guy bad mouthing you.  So, if you’ve finished the project, make it clear you’ve conformed to the scope originally agreed upon and cite the agreements from the onset of the engagement.  It’s important he understands you delivered exactly what he asked for.  When he asks for additional work, you may want to say previous commitments will prevent any additional work now, and refer him to someone else. 

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3. Abusive Guy:  If it feels abusive, it is.  You’re a professional, not a slave.  Nobody deserves abuse anywhere.    

How to break up: Stop the engagement.  Make sure all invoices are paid and hand over work to date. 

4. Einstein:  You know him!  In his mind, he’s forgotten more about what you do than you will ever know.  And, he took a (fill in the blank) course in college (hey, so did I!).  So, why did he hire you in the first place?

How to break up:  Like with Abusive Guy, stop the work and get all invoices up to date.  Additionally, Einstein will probably take a crack at what you started, so you may want to make certain his final output can not be tied back to you as it could sully your reputation.

5.  Zero attention-span guy: He sends you 57 emails a day, most of them after 9pm.  They are all on the same topic, but he’s managed to flip flop so much within each email, now even you’re confused.

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How to break up:  There might be a way to salvage this to make it through the end of the gig.  First, let him know that you can’t deliver on your deadlines when he misses his.  You may even want to attach additional billable hours to missed deadlines.  To work with this guy requires an iron hand in a velvet glove.  If that’s not you, he probably won’t change his behavior, so you may want to shy away from future work.

Now, I realize if you’re an agent, some of the “how to break up” advice may not apply.  That said, tell me if you’ve run into some of these guys (or gals, as the case may be) and how you said good bye.


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Written By

Brandie is an unapologetically candid marketing professional who was recently mentioned on BusinessWeek as a Top Young Female Entrepreneur. She recently co-founded consulting firm MarketingTBD. She's held senior level positions with GE and Fidelity, as well as with entrepreneurial start-ups. Raised by a real estate Broker, Brandie is passionate about real estate and is an avid investor. Follow her on Twitter.



  1. John Wake

    September 24, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    One of the best aspects of selling real estate is the ability to fire clients. I can put up with most anyone for 30 to 45 days but having the freedom to bail out is liberating. I’ve never regretted dumping a client.

  2. Portland Real Estate

    September 24, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I have been there, some people just have ridiculous expectations that I would never be able to meet. Be realistic in what you can provide for people without it being a drag on your life or your other deals. If its going to cause you too much stress, let them go.


  3. MIssy Caulk

    September 24, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    I’ve fired a few. Not many but a few. I have also deleted from my data base 2 clients in 14 years.
    I never wanted to hear from them again.

  4. allison crow

    September 24, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    fired a cheapscape and an abusive elderly couple last week:) felt good.

  5. Linsey Planeta

    September 24, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    I have had to fire clients. As a matter of fact, I fired one late last week. It felt painful and expensive and yet I knew that no amount of work would turn this into a satisfied customer (or a paycheck for that matter). She didn’t fit into these categories; she was the absolutely ‘Terrified Buyer’.

    I wrote about this some time ago and continue to think about it because if you’ve been in the business for any length of time – you’ve been through firing a client. But one thing I am coming to grips with is that – it’s ultimately my fault.

    It’s interesting that Missy has had to fire so few in that many years. The difference, I suspect (and Missy feel free to jump in), is that she’s listening to her inner voice far sooner. The red flags show and I suspect that she ends it sooner than I have been.

    The economy has certainly played a role in my job and willingness to exhaust ‘leads’. I suspect I am working far longer than I should when clearly my time might be better spent moving on from some of them.

    John says that he’s ‘never regretted dumping a client.’ My only regret is that I didn’t dump them sooner.

  6. Ruthmarie Hicks

    September 24, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Actually, this is a pretty good list. I particularly like “Einstein.” Sometimes I think that everyone thinks they are a real estate expert. And yes! I have to ask the question – why did they call me in the first place if they knew so much more than me.

  7. Bill Lublin

    September 24, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Brandie – Your professional demeanor shows through in this post as does your advice – great job!

  8. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 25, 2009 at 2:25 am

    I’ve yet to fire one after engaging with them, but I’ve wanted to.

    I’ve refused to take a few after the initial phone conversation. Just flat out told them that no, I’m not meeting you at a gated locked up neighborhood 45 minutes from now…late on a Saturday evening. Sorry!


  9. Joe Loomer

    September 25, 2009 at 6:35 am

    I’ve fired a few in my time but something in my character usually makes it quite late (and painful) in the game by the time it happens. I refuse to give up on them until I realize the time-suck is killing my ability to generate other business.

    Agree with Ruthmarie about the Einsteins- especially in this age. These are the ones that look at you sideways no matter what you say – casting that cynical gaze that screams “I don’t believe you! I know better! I’m EINSTEIN!”

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  10. Brandie Young

    September 25, 2009 at 11:55 am

    John – I agree. Having the option to choose to/not to work with certain clients is a perk!

    Tyler – True! Realistic expectations are very important.

    Missy – It sounds like you’ve done a great job attracting the type of clients you want. No surprise, having met you.

    Linsey – Good points! I didn’t think of “Terrified Guy” – the client that just can’t pull the trigger. And, it’s reasonable to assume we all are feeling some pressure from the economy and perhaps waiting just a little longer to end a relationship. But, at the end of the day I like the way Tyler put it “Be realistic in what you can provide for people without it being a drag on your life or your other deals.”

    Ruthmarie – I think there are more “Einsteins” than we realize!

    Bill – Thank you!

  11. Brandie Young

    September 25, 2009 at 11:59 am

    RM – Good for you, standing your ground.

    Joe – It is painful, true. But the best move for all involved.

  12. Mark Jacobs

    September 25, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Great post, As agents we need to be very picky on who we work with. It could cost you a lot of time and money.

    Augusta Real Estate

  13. Hal Lublin

    September 29, 2009 at 10:46 am

    I think I’ve worked with ALL of these people. Ugh.

  14. Doug Francis

    January 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    People are going to be… people. I too have worked with all of these people and tortured myself during the experience. Once it was over, it was like a new day had dawned, and I was my old self again.

    If we could just limit all these people then the real estate business would be so cool. On second thought, I guess we still need all these people, dar-n it.

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