6 Kinds of Clients That Aren’t Worth the Money - Christine Kane

If you’re anything like me, you started your business in part because you took a gander at the options for making money in this world and discovered that…

A] commuting is a hideous nightmare.

B]  9-5 is for robots.

C]… having a boss makes you want to cough up a furball.

…and D]  you’re not hire-able in the least.

So you escaped the clutches of the fluorescent-lit temperature-controlled cubicle farm,  and you thank your angels daily that you get paid to do what you love.  Plus, you don’t have to dress up. (You’re wearing pajamas right now, aren’t you?)

Facebook post about dressing for work

Of the 122 comments, most of them responded B. Glad we’re in agreement on the fashion thing!

The problem with all of these blessings?

You feel so lucky… that you ignore one of the biggest challenges in your business:

That one client who drains the life out of you.

If you’re like many people, you tell yourself that soul-sucking clients just “come with the territory.”  And who are you to be picky when it comes to taking someone’s money?  (After all, your sister works in corporate and still wears pantyhose everyday!)

Well, guess what?

If you’re running a full-time, 40 (okay, let’s be honest… 50) hour a week business, that’s a lot of life-minutes — 156,800 each year to be exact — to spend with people who fight you, question you or don’t treat you well.

How I see it, you have two choices:

1 – Month after month, year after year, continue to tolerate clients who drain your energy because, hey, they’re paying you.

2 – Release said clients and get your soul back. (And then? Focus on captivating your ideal clients.)

Remember, you get what you tolerate!

It simply sucks when a client is not a good match.

My students quickly learn that ideal clients are not worth it!


With that said, ending a client relationship requires clarity. Which is why I work so hard with my own clients to help them build abundance mindsets, sell with service, and create clear boundaries within their business systems.

For now, let’s just go there.  Let’s identify the toxic clients who may be creating all kinds of revenue – but are draining your joy, clarity and life.

Here are six kinds of clients that just aren’t worth the money…

1 – The one who needs convincing.

Jason’s a personal trainer. He helps women reshape their bodies (and lose fat) through Olympic weight-lifting.

Rina watched women at the gym get in shape working with Jason, so she signed up.

But from day one, Rina didn’t want to lift weights. She was scared of “bulking out.”  No matter how much education or training (or even his own success stories)  Jason gave Rina, she fought him at every session.

She doubted. She argued. She wanted her elliptical back, even though it had never helped her burn fat.

After six argumentative sessions, Jason refunded the remainder of her money and released her back to her cardio machines.

Lesson: The client who needs convincing won’t let go of how they’ve always done it.  It doesn’t matter how much data you deliver or how many results you’ve gotten, this client clings to old beliefs like a binky… more secure in his way of doing things than in the possibility of a good old-fashioned paradigm shift.

No need to get dramatic or roll your eyes.  Just not worth your time. That’s all.


2 – The one who collapses.

I’ve discovered something over my years of working with people:

There’s a huge difference between coaching… and collapsing.

I’ve had clients over the years who showed up for their calls like damsels in distress… always collapsing into a pool of drama, refusing to get clear on any specifics, knowing only that “everything” needed to be fixed.

Lesson: Yes, you do want to offer assistance to a client who needs help with clarity.

But the one who constantly collapses is committed to a pattern of helplessness.  She begins to reveal that she has no interest in turning this pattern around. She is a damsel – and she wants you to be her knight in shining armor.   Fix me, I am helpless.

Yes, there are people who can help this person. But you may discover that you are not the best option.


3 – The one who doesn’t want what you offer.

Anna runs a photography business offering full-service, candid wedding packages. She’s built her reputation on telling in-depth photo love stories:

Mom crying while she buttons up the bride’s dress; the checkered tennis shoes the unconventional groom wears; the nervous excitement of the four-year-old flower girl.

Chelsea and Dan love Anna’s style.  But they don’t really want her package.

Instead, they want “an hour or two” of her time. Formal photos, just before their wedding.

Anna likes Chelsea and Dan. And she knows she could fill this request.  (After all, it’s just a few hours, right?)  But she discovered long ago that this style of photography drains her.

Plus, September is peak wedding season. If she takes the gig, Anna will lose a day of work to the few hours. Not only will this job not feel rewarding, she’ll lose out on income she counts on.

The problem with these clients isn’t always clear at first.  They like you, they love you. They flatter you.  Except, blazing red flag: They want something you don’t offer.

Lesson: If you contort yourself into all kinds of new (and non-ideal) offers and services for any client who comes along, you’re in danger of twisting yourself into many knots of resentment and loathing.  It will steal your life-force over time.

What do you want to offer? What don’t you? Now, be clear with all clients about exactly what you do, and what you don’t do.

4 – The one who argues your pricing.

Have you ever thought:

Wow, I’m so lucky to even been able to do this work I love, is it even right to attach a price tag?

Well, just like so many other solopreneurs, my client Jess has had to stare that suspicion in the face.

She was ready to Uplevel her music business. Her goal: To charge premium pricing for her elite services of driving through the busy city providing one-on-one guitar lessons. This was the first piece of the vision for her new music school.

But she was charging laughable amounts for lessons because:

  1. a) she loved teaching
  2. b) she was afraid of losing clients (and of people not liking her)

Before she could step into her vision, she needed to trust both in her value, and in her abundance mindset.  She raised her prices. Substantially.

Yes, some clients fought her.  Some called her up in the evening to bargain with her. After all, they could pay other guitar teachers much less and still get guitar lessons for their kid.

Jess was tempted.  But in the end, she didn’t cave in, discount, or bargain. She offered those clients the option to go sign up with those other teachers.  (All but two of her clients stayed with her.)

Lesson: Yes, there will always be people who think you charge too much, who try to get you to bargain with them.

You’re awesome at what you do. So can you blame people for wanting to work with you? Well, no. But should you let them talk your fees down?

Not unless you don’t really want the two weeks you have planned with your family in Argentina this year!

Discuss your pricing up front. Make sure your marketing communicates your value.

Charging what you're worth is a first-step to clear out the bargain hunters.

Charging what you’re worth is a first-step to clear out the bargain hunters.


5 – The one who forgets you have a life.

Boundary. Pusher.

This client can’t stop. Won’t stop. Not until she’s exhausted all possible methods to get to you, even when you’ve turned off your phone, re-explained your hours and told her you don’t work weekends.

Every thought, idea and question she has is communicated, like a social media stream, to you via email, phone, text and chat. 24/7.

Lesson: If you have clearly stated your boundaries… if you have given warnings… if you have shared your hours of operation and response times… then your only option is to hit the “eject” button.

Remember:  You teach people how to treat you.  It’s not their responsibility. It’s yours.

6 – The one who doesn’t do the work.

Cindy writes web content for businesses. She understands what’s involved in developing an irresistible brand:  Good solid stories. The process of getting these stories requires work from the client.

Daniel hired Cindy to write web content for his new chiropractic business. Every time Cindy gave Daniel the homework that would help her make his business story come to life, Daniel wouldn’t do the work. He was busy. He “couldn’t think of anything.” He just wanted the website up already.

At first, Cindy tried to help him understand that “just the facts” will make his business just like all the other local chiropractors. It wouldn’t stand out. But Daniel still never did the work.

Ultimately, Cindy realized it was a waste of time trying to read this guy’s mind while waiting for him to get on board and do the work. Together, they weren’t getting anywhere. She let him go without a refund.

Lesson: The client who doesn’t do the work expects a swig of potion from your magic genie bottle. They nod along, excited, until you burst their starry-eyed bubble with the truth: no participation from you, no progress from me.


What do you need from your clients in order to work with them? Write this into your onboarding process.


Got any nightmare client stories? (No naming names, of course!)  I want to hear all the sordid details. How did you deal?

  • Sujata

    I had a client who abused my unlimited email access to me. I had clear boundaries with regards to turn around time, when I would respond…she would email me every thought she had….12 emails a day. And if I didn’t respond within a few hours, she would send another with just my name and a question mark…,asking where I am . Just random things and also questioning every single suggestion I made. She could argue the same topic both ways. And she did. She was sucking the life out of me so I told her I would be discontinuing our working relationship and would refund her a prorated fee of what she paid. She begged, her husband begged me to work with her. Sooooo…..I set up even clearer boundaries, a framework for how often she could contact me, and she had to run all of her questions by her husband before she could contact me with them. Lol. It worked and she ended up continuing to work with me.

    Another client just doesn’t want to do the work. I’m still contemplating diiscontinuing working with her. At the onset, I recognized that I would have to take her kicking and screaming to do something she didn’t want to do to reach a goal she wasn’t clear about. At that time I told her I would be refunding her money because she wasn’t ready to work with me. No harm no foul. She, too, persuaded me to keep working with her. What I am finding is that it is taking almost three months to even get her to take the time tonget clarity about what she wants. Every single suggestion, solution, etc is key with “it won’t work for me. “. Clearly she is not ready or willing to make the necessary changes to get to somewhere she doesn’t even know where she wants to go. So with our next session, if I haven’t seen some sort of turn around, I will be discontinuing our work together. It literally is me trying to figure out a way for her to care about herself. And I can’t do that. That has to come from within, and can only happen when she’s ready to make herself a priority.

    In the future I’m going to go with my first instinct. Thanks for this article. It helps immensely!!

  • Michael LaRocca

    I started my business for reason D, not hire-able in the least. Big time!

    The first client I landed had me edit a book on why you shouldn’t work for soul-sucking clients who drain the life out of you, and how to spot them. I’m serious. A great book, and the author was a pleasure to work with.

    Not that I took his advice. I spent two years covered in the smell of desperation before I had enough on my plate to start “firing” clients. Oh, happy day.

  • Christina Michelle

    I love everything you write Christine, thank you for sharing this! I had a client who wanted me to coach her on ridiculous things and after setting boundaries with her I finally had to let her go. Then she social media and email stalked me for weeks after!! – Boundary. Pusher. For. Real. Reading this inspired me to rewrite my whole website speaking to my ideal client!

  • Marjorie

    I’m a cake decorator. There were 2 occasions where wedding cakes were needed at the last minute.
    The first cake call came at 8 pm on a Friday night. My co-worker called and asked if I wanted to make a wedding cake. I asked when the cake was needed and she said “tomorrow”. She said her cousin was getting married the next day. The bride had paid a deposit on a wedding cake and had been trying to get in contact with the decorator. At 7 pm (an hour before the call to me), the cake decorator said that she had been ill and was unable to make the cake. My co-worker called me. I told her that within the next hour, I need $600 in cash and where the cake was to be delivered and what time. She said OK. She called me 30 minutes later and told me “never mind”. When I saw my co-worker on Monday morning, she told me that the wedding coordinator said that I was charging too much. She said that family members were paying for the cake and were more than happy to do so. They got a sheet cake in an aluminum pan, cut the cake and the pan in half and put 1/2 the cake flat on the table and put the other 1/2 on separator plates with pillars. HOT MESS!

    The 2nd cake call came on a Monday and the cake was needed for Thursday. I told the bride that I needed $1,000 cash before I crack one egg and to forget about me making the cake if I don’t have the money by 8 pm on Tuesday. She had the nerve to fix up her mouth to say to me to call her the next day to see if she wants the cake. I did not but she did and told me I was charging too much.

    People want a lot of hard work for free . . .

  • jan west

    I offered my services up to a certain value as a prize in a raffle. The winner wanted more – was prepared to pay the uplift. Discussed the required dress and fabric and colour blah blah-di blah. Reached an agreement on price. Produced dress. Customer changed her mind about colour and neckline ( had requested square despite my advice) then wanted V neck. Basically a total remake needed with different fabric. Very new to business at that time so went along with gritted teeth. Have now a stipulation in my contracts that alterations post delivery will be limited to 1 minor adjustment. Anything else to be charged at hourly rate. Have never volunteered to do a raffle prize again!

    • Christine Kane

      Jan – as they say, every stoplight in town is a marker where an accident happened. every mistake or challenge like this turns into new standards and stipulations in contracts. 🙂

  • Raina

    Speaking to the point about clients who try to badger and bargain you to lower your prices… After 3.5 successful years in business, the pattern has been that the people who try to bargain me down on price can absolutely and easily afford my services.

    The Bargain Badgers tend to have plenty of disposable income, and an attitude of entitlement to push boundaries, claim my time that is not part of the service package, and treat me like a rented machine.

    This is in stark contrast to the behavior of my clients who legitimately have financial constraints which affect their purchasing services with me. Those clients always approach me respectfully, privately, and unnecessarily apologetically to gently inquire about the possibility of a delayed payment or payment plan, but they have never tried to badger me down on my value.

    Any other similar tales of Bargain Badgers out there?

    B.A.B.S Base Camp

  • Lynn Schreiner

    Haha..this brought me right back to my MONSTER CLIENT ….as I lovingly referred to her back in the 1980’s. I was a nail tech, and she was my most difficult client. I liked her a lot, but she wanted to be ME. She drove me crazy with her requests, and always pushed my boundaries. Back then I was young and didn’t know how to stand in my power. Eventually, while 8 months pregnant with my 1st daughter I made the decision to FIRE HER with the excuse that I was not going to do nails for the rest of my pregnancy. It took me years to get up the courage to do this, and boy did it feel good when I let her go. Now, 30 years later I’m much better at teaching people how to treat me 🙂

  • Richard Lacey

    Congratulations and thanks. You rang every bell in my experience with unreasonably difficult clients and potential clients.
    One year when I was an independent, freelance writer and consultant to uncooperative nonprofits and government agencies (they didn’t do their work but expected and even received miracles from me and then seized all the credit, including all the money and fame, for the accomplishments) I found a great cartoon in the New Yorker: Title was The Agony of the Self-Employed. Alone at his desk, frantically waving his arms, shouting, “Unfair!” “Slave driver!” “Strike! Strike!” “I quit!”

  • Nelu Mbingu

    Thank you for sharing this Christine!

    While I don’t have any clients, this was a great eye-opener into the world of business and entrepreneurship. And it was also interesting to read about the different types of people out there.

    Great article 🙂

  • Juliette

    When I read this post on Wednesday, there was no comments yet. I started replying with a long story of the horrendous client experience. Then I stopped…. and just went ahead and fired them by email! It was not an impulsive decision as I contemplated it after the very last meeting that drained the soul out of me completely … again.

    After 5 years of dealing with misogynistic comments, being patronised, underpaid, not paid in time, shouted at(!!!), insulted and let down regularly, this client is gone forever! The door is closed and I am looking forward to the window that is about to open now.

    Thank you to this post for a gentle nudge- I needed it.

    I feel great! And to everyone at the crossroads, like I was at the start of the week- do not think about. If it hurts you-leave it. You can always find the resources you need within you to move on.

    (Plus I need to make a comment on working from home- love it! My most creative time is often while still in my PJs 🙂 And no more alarm clocks 🙂

  • Alice Osborn

    Hi Christine,

    Thanks so much for this post–I loved how you so clearly defined the toxic clients. I’m a book editor/writing coach and I have raised my prices since last year, which has boosted my business and brought me super ideal clients. I pushed past my fear of clients not liking me or disappointing people and last week I had a potential editing client wanting me to adjust my price down. I said “no” and referred her out. Yay! All it takes is practice. And last year I had a #1 and a #5 to deal with. The #1 ejected himself, which is a shame because he does have a good story to tell and his writing was getting stronger. The #5 blamed me for all of her rushing to the publication deadline, so I fixed that by only taking clients who know that going from a draft to a completed book takes longer than 30 days.

    Thanks so much again, Christine! You rock and congrats on getting your beautiful lyrics in “Summit Lake”!


  • Miranda

    Hi Christine,
    I am a life coach, an artist and a creativity trainer – and lots of combinations of all that 🙂
    When I started I was happy with ‘anything’ (or anyone) that came along. Not anymore. I have learned years ago who my ideal client is (I call her Melissa) and spot the fake ones early on. I still sometimes get a request for something new and interesting where before I would have jumped. Now I say ‘Let me get back to you’, go home, think about it from my point of clarity and then get back to them. And sometimes it’s a yes and sometimes it’s a no because I am clear and know what I want. Never had a problem finding the right client ever since.
    Love reading your newsletters.
    Are you ever planning to make new songs again?

  • Sarah

    Oh my gosh I can relate to all of the above stories. I have a client who says that it is up to me to harass her for her feedback so that we meet her deadline.

    She gives me a deadline and I give her a timeline to meet her deadline and then she says I don’t give her enough time for feedback in the timeline.

    Finally, once I send something to her for approval NOT ONCE has she gotten her feedback to me on time according to the timeline. NEVER! So I push the timeline. Then she tells me you didn’t email me enough to remind me to give you feedback. She never has taken responsibility for her part in the project. Unbelievable!

    Usually her feedback is late by 2, 4, 6 and even 8 weeks. We had a project that was to take 3 months it took 1 year because she is too busy to give her feedback. Ugh!

    It is crazy. She is so toxic. OK thank you for the rant.

    Thank you Christine for the post. Makes sense to me in order to have and enjoy a business that is heart centered. Also when we have clients like you mention it attracts more of the same. Like attracts like right? Fire them! ;-}

    Have a wonderful day!

  • Jim Noble

    Dear Christine,
    I love your coaching methodology and applaud your success.
    I should know great when I see it. I’ve been in business over 50 years, co-founder of a large technology company.

    But I have to tell you, my first exposure to you was your expertise in composing and singing.
    It came from the heart and is part of you and should also carry over into your coaching world.
    I would never lose that if I were you.
    Go girl!
    Jim Noble
    Atlanta, GA

    I love your song “What the hell am I doing with my life”
    Sent from my iPad

    • Christine Kane

      Thank you Jim! That’s great to hear – and yes, I do try to bring the heart and soul into the world of business and coaching as well. The process of creating informs much of what I do now. I appreciate your kind words. 🙂

  • Maggie

    After 6 emails trying to schedule a semi-private art lesson, I finally passed this woman to another artist who has a more open schedule than I do. It was definitely a relief. I was exhausted by her and we hadn’t even met yet.