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Every relationship experiences its ups and downs, and for some, the downs may result in a breaking point. Business owners may handle such breaking points in different ways, but one thing is clear: while firing a client may be difficult, it’s important to be willing to cut the ties â€" and to know how to do so gracefully.   

A new study from Jane Out of the Box, an authority on women entrepreneurs, recently revealed there are five distinct types of women in business. Each of these five types has unique approach to running a businessâ€"and as a consequence, they may respond differently to firing a client when the time comes.  This article examines Go Jane Go and Merry Jane. 

Go Jane Go is passionate about her work and may be a classic overachiever, possibly event taking on volunteer opportunities in addition to running a business (and maybe a family, too).  She’s eager to make an impact on the world and may have a difficult time saying “no”.  As a result, she may feel that she can’t get away from work or sometimes fall into periods where she’s stressed and not taking care of herself because her plate is so full.  She dreams of having that elusive “balance,” even as she commits more tasks to her to do list. 

For Go Jane Go, business is built on relationships, so ending one could feel traumatic, even if it’s the right thing to do for the business. Because she so willingly takes so much responsibility on herself, Go Jane Go may bend over backward trying to please her clients, even when they are being unreasonable.  Because business feels very personal to her, she may also avoid confrontation, not wanting the client to feel she doesn’t care them as individuals.  Finally, her strong desire to help and her confidence that she can deliver better results than nearly anyone else make keep her doggedly persistent in the relationship â€" refusing to let it “fail” by going above and beyond trying to please them. 

Sometimes, however, relationships cannot be fixed because doing so requires changes on the other person’s part â€" something outside of Go Jane Go’s control.  Here are some questions Go Jane Go should ask herself if she’s struggling with a difficult client:

·         Are you putting off ending this relationship because you like the client as a person? Even if you and this client are good friends, you must make sure your own needs are being met.  If they aren’t willing to make sure you are also benefiting from the relationship, you can end the business aspects but maintain the camaraderie.   

·         Do you feel guilty when you think of letting them go?  If guilt is your primary reason, gently remind yourself that this raw emotion should not ever be allowed to control you.   

·         Are you worried that they won’t be taken care of well, elsewhere?  If so, recognize this may be the best thing for them because it will cause them to see the value you bring in a different light.  I’ve parted ways with clients only to have them return a year later with a greater appreciation for the partnership.  You might think of it as being akin to letting your children ride the bike, even though you know they’re going to fall.  You have to let them fall â€" because in the falling, they have the opportunity to grow.  Difficult clients can well be the same.


Therefore, if you have a difficult client, please take the time to develop a pros and cons list.  Force yourself to see what this harmful relationship is costing you in terms of your time and your energy.  If it is draining you, have the courage to end it.  You and your other clients will reap the rewards when you do because you’ll feel so much lighter.

Merry Jane. This entrepreneur is usually building a part-time or “flexible time” business that gives her a creative outlet (whether she’s an ad agency consultant or she makes beautiful artwork) that she can manage within specific constraints around her schedule.  She may have a day-job, or need to be fully present for family or other pursuits. She realizes she could make more money by working longer hours, but she’s happy with the tradeoff she has made because her business gives her tremendous freedom to work how and when she wants, around her other commitments. 

Since Merry Jane has limited hours to work in her business, she is more likely than other entrepreneurs to say finding new customers is a challenge.  She’s happy keeping her business within manageable limits, but firing a client may diminish an already-small client base.  Therefore, she’d like to keep the customers she has, whenever possible.  Still, Merry Jane values her freedom, time, and opportunity to express herself through her work so much, she won’t tolerate an abusive situation for long because she’s committed to enjoying the lifestyle she’s created.   

Some things for Merry Jane to consider to make the parting easier:

·         Focus on the amount of time and energy this “bad customer” is costing you.  Is it worth it?  If not, part ways sooner rather than later.   

·         Time and energy are resources that you can exchange for other resources â€" including money.  If you took the time and energy this person is costing you and channeled it instead into marketing and sales, you’d replace this customer in no time â€" and probably add more than one replacement.  Commit to a faster break so you can go find those customers who can’t wait to work with you.


Firing a client is never a walk in the park. But it can be a breath of fresh air for two parties who’ve been feeling the stress or a clean break from a disintegrating situation. Whether you’re a Go Jane Go and you just don’t want to end a friendly working relationship, or a Merry Jane who doesn’t want to lose a precious client, sometimes the end is just a new beginning in disguise.

Interested in learning more about the five Jane types and which Jane you are? Check out

This Business article was written by Michele DeKinder-Smith on 11/24/2009

Michele DeKinder-Smith is the founder of Jane out of the Box, an online resource dedicated to the women entrepreneur community. Discover more incredibly useful information for running a small business by taking the FREE Jane Types Assessment at Jane out of the Box. Offering networking and marketing opportunities, key resources and mentorship from successful women in business, Jane Out of the Box is online at