How To Politely Break Up With A Client Who Is Driving You Nuts

overwhelmed black man discussing problem with female psychologist
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No matter how much you love your job, there will always be clients who drive you up the wall. Maybe they’re constantly changing their mind, or they’re never happy with your work. Whatever the reason, you’ve reached your breaking point. This is when you need to break up with a client.

The question is, how do you do it without burning bridges or damaging your reputation?

In this article, I’ll give you some tips on how to politely break up with a bad client so that you can move on to better things.

Making the decision to break up with a client

business owner in a meeting to break up with a client.
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When you a running a small business or a freelance operations, it’s easy to feel like you can’t afford to lose any clients. After all, every client is important, right?


Just because a client is paying you, doesn’t mean that they’re worth your time and energy. In fact, if a client is constantly causing you stress or making your life difficult, it might be time to consider breaking up with them.

It’s not an easy decision to make, but if you feel like you’re at your wit’s end, it might be the best thing for both of you.

Here are a few signs that it might be time to break up with a client:

  • They’re constantly changing their mind
  • Never happy with your work
  • They’re disrespectful or rude
  • Don’t pay on time
  • Always making last-minute changes

If you can relate to any of the above, then it might be time to considering ending things with your troublesome client. Of course, it’s important to do so in a polite and professional manner. After all, you don’t want to burn any bridges.

How to go about politely breaking up with a client

Once you’ve decided that enough is enough, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to break up with your problem client.

Just like any break-up, this can be a difficult and emotional process. But if you handle it in the right way, you can come out of it unscathed.

Here are a few tips on how to politely break up with a client:

  • Make sure you have another client lined up first
  • Give them plenty of notice
  • Be honest but professional
  • Offer to help them find another freelancer/ agency
  • Keep the lines of communication open

Let’s take a closer look at each of the above points…

Point 1: Make sure you have another client lined up first

This is probably the most important piece of advice we can give you. Before you even think about breaking up with a client, make sure that you have another one lined up first. This way, you won’t have to worry about losing any income in the process. 

Point 2: Give them plenty of notice 

Once you’ve found another client to work with, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to break the news to your current one.

You might be tempted to just stop working with them without any explanation but trust me, this is not the best idea. Instead, it’s always best to give your clients plenty of notice before ending things. This way, they can start looking for someone else and they won’t be left in the lurch.

Point 3: Be honest but professional 

When it comes to breaking up with a client, it’s important to be honest but professional at the same time. There’s no need to sugar-coat things. Just explain that you feel like it would be best if you ended your working relationship. 

Point 4: Offer to help them find another freelancer/ agency 

Just because you’re breaking up with a client doesn’t mean that you have to leave them high and dry. If possible, offer to help them find another agency or freelancer who can take over from you. This way, they won’t have to start from scratch and they might even remember you fondly for your help down the line.

Point 5: Keep the lines of communication open 

Finally, once you’ve broken up with your client, make sure that you keep the lines of communication open – just in case they need help or advice in the future.

After all, even though things didn’t work out between you two, there’s no reason why you can’t still be friends (or at least friendly).

What to expect after breaking up with a client  

So what happens after you break up with a bad client?

Well, unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question as every situation is different. However, here are a few things that could happen:

  • They could plan legal action against you
  • They could leave negative reviews
  • They could try to influence your other clients
  • They could slander your name
  • They could blacklist you from future opportunities

While none of these outcomes are ideal, it’s important to remember that they are unlikely to happen if you handle the situation in a professional and polite manner

When I decided to break up with a client

I won’t label the word “bad” however this one client made me stretch all possible limits. Meetings, online or offline, would never end on time. Four hour meetings or two hour long zoom calls were normal.

There was always so much pending. There was always so much to be done.

I tried addressing these by sending suggestions on optimizing meetings and using project plans to track progress.

However, there was no change in their approach.

It was important that I end this engagement to free up my time for other clients. Also, I had stopped enjoying the work.

This is what I did:

  • Reviewed minutes of meetings for the last few meetings. Reviewed all pending tasks and creating a task plan for the next 30 days
  • Made a plan to finish all pending tasks owned by me
  • Wrote down instructions on how to complete activities for pending tasks owned by the client and their employees
  • Clearly articulated the outcomes of each task, the overall 30 day plan and the next steps for the client
  • Sent an email with my decision to end the consulting assignment with a 30 day notice. I attached the 30 day plan with the email
  • Discussed it on call the next day

Wasn’t easy.

However I had covered all points to make sure work does not get affected. I ensured I delivered on what I promised.

Did that help? Yes, for sure. The engagement was a strain on my time and resources. Sometimes, it’s okay to incur a short term loss for future gains.

So don’t drag such contracts. Know when it’s time to break up with a bad client. Act immediately.

Got any stories or tips to share. Please do in the comments below.

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By Nitesh Verma

Founder - Business Management Blog. I am an independent business strategy consultant, helping companies take data driven business decisions. My mission is to find and implement simple solutions for complex business problems.

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