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04/27/2014 10:43 am ET | Updated Jun 27, 2014

5 Signs It's Time to Break Up With a Client and How to Do it

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Photo credit: Stephen Poff via Photopin

It's not you it's me. While that might be the easiest way to wiggle out of a personal relationship, when it comes to someone whose been paying you money on a regular basis, the untangling process gets a bit tricker.

Let's face it. The people we interact with on a daily basis affect our well-being. We go to great lengths to choose a mate that compliments our personality and lifestyle, but when it comes to clients, we often settle for scraps. Everyone knows that clients are the livelihood of any successful business, so even though it's counter intuitive to consider ending any client relationship, doing so ensures your business stays healthy.

Sometimes the money just isn't worth the price of peace we find ourselves paying. Like pruning a plant of dying branches, periodically pruning your business of troublesome clients is a necessity.

Here are five signs it's time to break up with a client -- and how to do it:

1. Ask yourself how you feel when you are about to interact with a particular client.
Are you filled with feelings of dread? When your stomach's tight and your shoulders are up to your ears before interacting with a client, that's your clear indication of dysfunction. Sure, we don't have to enjoy every client as we would a good friend, but when the mere thought of having to communicate with one causes anxiety, it's time to get really honest on whether or not the money is worth the price you're paying.

2. Are you being abused?
Most of us recognize the signs of abuse in our personal relationships, but we tend to brush off abuse when money is involved. Verbal rudeness, lack of clear communication, unreasonable demands, and an absence of respect, are all signs that your client relationship is an unhealthy one.

3. Do you feel drained after any interaction with them?
No matter what your business is, there's a level of creativity involved in your success. Feeling drained after working with a client depletes your creative juices for all clients. Ask yourself: is this client really worth draining everything I have to offer other clients? When we allow problem clients to eat away at our time, energy and creative juices, we cheat our other clients of our best efforts.

4. Are you able to walk away from this client at the end of your day?
Healthy clients allow us to focus on their needs, deliver good service, and then move on to other tasks. Unhealthy clients linger in our minds as we replay frustrating scenarios, unpleasant conversations, and problems they deliver on to our plates, even in our off hours. There's no getting away from them.

5. Problem clients leave us questioning our abilities.
When we deliver our brilliance to the world, clients that appreciate our work reward us with their money and their praise. Problem clients are never happy. Over time, it's natural to start to doubt your abilities when you're dealing with a bottomless pit of neediness. Ask yourself: am I delivering my very best? If your answer is yes, yet your client still isn't happy, it may be time to realize this just isn't a match.

So how to end this toxic relationship?

Keep it simple. There's no need to defend and no need to burn a bridge. Here's a sample email that's simple and effective:

Dear You Know Who,

Thank you so much for all of your support and business over the last few weeks, months, years (fill in the blank).

We've recently done a review of our workload and have come to realize that we're probably not the best match for your needs at this time. While it's been a pleasure to work with you, please consider this formal notice that our relationship will end on XYZ date.

It's been a pleasure to do business with you, and we wish you the very best in all of your endeavors.

Sincerely,

Your free and happy self.

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