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My Breakup and Bad Clients: What They Have in Common

October 12, 2017

Two months ago, I stood outside the doors of the 9-year relationship that defined a large part of my adult life. With tears in my eyes, a suitcase in my right hand and my dog’s leash in my left, I looked behind me to see the closed door and even knowing I was making the right decision didn’t make the path in front of me less scary. I knew that closing that door would forever transform me – but again, that realization didn’t make it easier.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: why is this marketing person talking to me about breakups? Why should I care and how does this affect my bottom line?


I get it! No one really cares about this one breakup in the space and time continuum – but I’m leading with it because hey, I’m human. There’s a living, breathing person typing this blog, sipping coffee, and thinking I’m crazy to write this.

 And here’s why you should care – this breakup taught me a lot about marketing and the relationships we foster.

Here’s what I learned: 

The Importance of Letting Go

I’ve known for two years that I was ready to move on, but that daunting realization wasn’t enough. Often, the same happens to us when we’re faced with a bad client relationship – we hold on. We make excuses as to why we should stay, with the top reason being cash flow. Sometimes, client relationships are more costly than they are profitable, however.

A constantly dissatisfied client has a significant effect on your team’s morale, and therefore their productivity, because you’ll find yourself constantly trying to appease them and, in the process, giving them more time and energy than you should. Frequent calls to quell their anxiety, last minute “emergencies” that aren’t emergencies, and the weight of the knowledge that no matter what you do, they’ll still be unhappy.

With these kinds of clients and people, there is only one thing you can do, cue Elsa…

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Yup, I said it. Maybe in an alternate universe you can work it out. But in this one, no chance! Let it go.

Just Keep Swimming

Perhaps what was most terrifying to me in my breakup was deciding what to do next: where I would go, what I would do, and how my life would be altered by this significant change. In business, you’ll find yourself in similar circumstances. You aren’t sure how your business will look without that client – and especially without that client’s revenue. Just like a real breakup, you just need to keep moving forward.

In the wise words of an adorable fish named Dory (a personal friend of mine), JUST KEEP SWIMMING!

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Yes, you may have to make some compromises, but the point is to keep moving forward, search for ways to supplement that revenue, and take your newfound availability to brainstorm and close in on a new client with whom you can have a truly beneficial relationship. When managing teams and attempting to motivate them, nothing is better than a client they genuinely enjoy. Chances are, with your team free of the “jerk” client, they’ll be able to help you in the conquest of a new and improved client. Until you find that perfect fit, just keep swimming!

Vision (the short term sucks, but the future is bright)

Ultimately, breaking up with a bad client is about vision. It’s about being willing to make the short-term sacrifice to achieve the long-term result.

It will be very uncomfortable at first – you’ll wonder if you’ll be okay, if you’ll be able to make it work, if the ends will meet, and you’ll take a direct emotional hit if the client you break up with is angry/annoyed/disappointed, but ultimately you must let go of the bad to make space for the good.

In the long term, you’re helping your team foster a community of good relationships; without the unhappy, nagging client, they’ll have more time to focus and have better morale. Without the roller coaster of emotions that bad clients bring to your team, you’ll also be able to service existing clients better.

I know what you’re thinking (mind reading is my side job, of course): easier said than done. We need cash! We need the money! Cash flow is king. We understand – money makes the world go ‘round!

However, here’s the flip side: if you aren’t decisively breaking up with a bad client or planning how to find a way to break up with a bad client every day, you’re choosing to stay in what can become a toxic relationship that inhibits your growth. If you can’t let go, you won’t grow.

Bad clients affect your team more than you realize. You can have an all-star team that, due to their frustrations and the poor recognition a bad client gives them, loses all motivation – not just for the bad client but for all your clients. If you consistently hear your employees complaining about a client, if you yourself consistently complain about a client, and if you feel in your heart that this client will never be happy no matter what you do, you must let go! You must sacrifice where you are for where you can be.

Growth doesn’t come from your comfortable place. It comes from discomfort, late nights, seeing some of your worst fears realized and then having to battle them. It comes from authenticity, vulnerability, and making large sacrifices guided by your belief in yourself and your values.

So go ahead, break up with that bad client. It will suck! But in the end, it will be worth it – it certainly was for me!

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Darling Jimenez
Written by Darling Jimenez

Darling Jimenez is a passionate graphic and web designer committed to delivering on time products that can generate leads and provide a friendly user experience. With more than 5 years of experience, she loves to stay on top of the latest design and marketing trends.

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