As a contractor, your clients are the lifeblood of your business. But some clients… they can suck the very marrow out of your will to go on.
When you run into one of these “vampire clients”, it’s much better to fire them then keep working with them just for the money. Because in the long run, it may end up costing you more than just money to keep working with them.
So, hang that garlic garland around your neck, put a few wooden stakes in your tool belt and learn these six tell-tale signs it’s time to fire a client:
1. They’re Never Satisfied
There’s just no pleasing some people.
You may have just installed the absolute finest mermaid scale tile bathroom that the folks at BHG would drool over, but this client still finds something to complain about.
They may hover over your shoulder and tell you that you’re doing it wrong, even though their expertise is the law or gourmet cupcakes, not installing tile—or fixtures, granite countertops, paint, cabinets, plumbing, or whatever it is you’re installing.
In the end, these clients will cost more than they’re worth.
2. They Can’t Make Up Their Minds
Can someone just make a decision here? First they want the Celery paint in the kitchen one moment, but then suddenly decide they want the Elderberry color the next —halfway through the painting process.
And that means the countertops have to change too.
Ah, but then they discover Minions Yellow and the process starts all over again. Seriously – you cannot nail clients like this down to a decision if their life (or wallet) depended on it.
An ultimatum about sticking to signed orders and change fees may help these clients make a decision, but if you notice a strong indecisive trend… it might be time to move on.
3. They’re Mean as the Malfoys
These can be related to the “never satisfied” clients, but are usually in a class of their own.
You can get a “never satisfied” client who puts on a veneer of niceness, but you know very well that if you’re remodeling the Malfoy’s home, you can expect nothing but abuse and disrespect. You’re a trained professional and deserve to be treated as such.
Be careful to gauge the client’s demeanor during early meetings and try, if you can, to avoid clients like this altogether.
If you find yourself working for the Malfoys— you don’t need to stay around for more abuse. You can provide a refund to moldy Voldy according to your contract terms, but terminate the relationship as soon as you can and move on to better things.
4. They Want Givenchy on a Walmart Budget
Hey. It’s true. Sometimes miracles happen.
But some clients expect you to do a million-dollar job for a few thousand and don’t have a realistic idea of how much things really cost. Their Pinterest boards have 4k pins of the most expensive materials, designs, and ideas, and they want you to bring those to life in their kitchen.
You can help some clients like this with a friendly reality check and suggest materials and designs that would that would be great at a lower cost.
However, if you have clients on a budget who won’t budge, it’s time to give them the space they need to get their heads together so you can spend your time with clients who can be reasonable.
5. They’ll Gladly Pay You Tuesday…
…for the counters you installed last month. Sigh.
When you’ve got a client who seems to always have some fairy tale worthy of the Brothers Grimm about why their payments are late, it’s time to say buh-bye. Particularly if you have been proactive with your contract, payment schedule, and pre-work deposit requirements while they haven’t met any of those obligations.
A pre-work credit check may help you avoid clients like this, so don’t be afraid to include that as part of your services.
6. They’re All Up in Your Business
It’s one thing when a client occasionally asks questions and is curious about how you do things. For many homeowners interested in these things, that’s natural and conversational.
It’s entirely another when they’re hovering behind your back, micromanaging every measurement, every cut and questioning every breath you take to the point where it’s clear that they don’t trust you to do the job they hired you for.
While strong communication at the first meeting and clear expectations on paper throughout a project are always helpful, sometimes they’re just not enough for these kinds of clients. Spend your time and energy finding good clients and let go of the “vampire clients” who drain the joy out of your work!