Fire a client? I know. It sounds backwards, doesn't it?

But the great thing about life is that you get to decide who you want to work with and what you want to do.

One of the quotes I'll never forget from Tom Peter's book, Brand You! is this ... 

"Do cool [stuff]. Every [single] day. Or die trying."

Note: Substitutions are mine. You'll find more colorful language in the book.

Every year I've had to fire at least one client.

Here are some indicators I look for to know when it's time to move on

  1. You're no longer communicating with me. I have great relationships with my clients. Broken communications habits are a good sign that the relationship has shifted. If we can't remedy it, the relationship is doomed.

  2. We can't agree on anything. It's OK to have differing opinions. Few people want to be surrounded by "yes" people. And I know when to fight for certain things and go along with others. But when everything is a fight, something is off.

  3. You're second-guessing every decision. You hired me because of the results I've achieved for someone else. If you know how to do my job better than me, then why are you wasting our time and your money?

  4. You're no longer talking with me but talking to me. This is a respect issue. There has to be shared trust and respect for a healthy relationship to exist.

  5. You decide you don't want to grow as a brand, business, or cause. Growth and multiplication are in my blood. If you don't want to grow something, then I'm not interested.

  6. You stop involving me in strategic decisions. I don't want to feel like an order-taker. That's a terrible way to work.

  7. You no longer want to risk doing something that might not work. Results are a given. But while we're doing proven things that work, we should also be experimenting with new things. If not, you'll miss opportunities. Plus, experimentation keeps things interesting.

  8. You begin to think you know more about what I do than I do. This is always a sign that a "silent" party is speaking in the ear of the client. That's a trust and integrity issue for me.

  9. The projects you want me to work on are no longer challenging. I love taking on challenging projects. That's one of the reasons I went out on my own. If I get bored, I won't bring my best. I know that about myself.

  10. You stop paying on time. This is a non-verbal cue that you're business is in trouble or I am no longer a valuable member of your team. This must be resolved quickly.

  11. You're a jerk. I don't want to waste my creative energy on managing difficult and negative people.

One thing I learned from reading Tom Peters' book is ...

My marketplace value is determined by the projects in my portfolio and the people in my network. I want to be sure I'm improving both with every client I take on.

My advice to you

Don't waste time with people or projects that don't offer you the chance to improve your professional "asset" portfolio. It's the only currency you have to spend in a skeptical and cynical world.

Take control of your life. You're the only one who can.

Who will you fire this year?

P.S. If you're the guy or gal who can't seem to build a long-term relationship with anyone you work with, maybe the problem isn't "them."

Image Credit: Shutterstuck