When An Artist Should Fire Her Clients


An artist should know when to fire bad clientsAs an artist, do you know when it's time to fire your clients?

Do you know when it's time to throw in the towel on cheap customers and bad clients?

Have you gotten the wrong message about how to properly build your art business? Do you think you need to  'Prove to your customer that you're willing to work harder, drive more miles, and bend over further than everyone else to earn his business.'

If you're an artist, selling art online or anywhere, then listen up. Having this attitude BEFORE the sale is often counterproductive.

And some of us kill ourselves trying to do this AFTER the sale, which is fine. Except... some customers simply *are not worth the effort.*

When an Artist Should Fire Her Clients

What are the 'bottom 10%' of your customers like?

--They beat you up on prices
--Then they pay late
--Also, They expect special treatment
--They're rude
--No respect for your boundaries.

Well today I'm giving you permission to FIRE them. Get them off your back, once and for all.

I fired a customer myself, just the other day.

He'd met me through my inner-circle of friends and ask me if I would consult with him about his art business.  When I told him my hourly rate, he said it couldn't afford it.  And he asked me if I would lower my rate for him since I was a friend of one of his close friends.

I told him that I wouldn't lower my rate but I would work with him in smaller increments of time and he could pay me for 3 shorter sessions.  He agreed to that.

My time is very valuable, I have clients who eagerly pay my normal rate in order just to get access to me. Sorry, I can't just take random phone calls from people who just want to yak about their problems.

(And I *truly* enjoy working with an eager student. It's one of the most satisfying things about what I do!)

Anyway, things started out OK with this particular person -- but somehow he got the idea that the parameters didn't apply to him.

He sent me documents to review which went beyond the scope of our agreement. Then He would call me on the phone and inundate me with emails. Also, He had a split payment arrangement, and he started fudging on the amounts.

He was consuming ENORMOUS amounts of my time, he didn't follow through on my instructions, and he constantly complained about everything.

I terminated my association with him and refunded his money.

Most customers will be shocked when you fire them. He sure was!

But you'll be amazed at the liberating feeling and the renewed self-respect you have when you establish rules and stick to them. And when your other customers find out that you have enough self respect to give problem customers the boot, they'll respect you more, too.

Consider this:

Former CEO of GE Jack Welch had a policy of getting rid of the bottom 10% of employees every year.

Controversial? Absolutely. Did some really good employees fall victim to 'corporate politics'? No doubt that happened, too.

But was it effective? Yes, it was.

It sounds harsh, and certainly it's an unpleasant policy for everyone involved, at least at the moment. But think about it -- don't you figure the poorest performing 10% of people in a company probably belong somewhere else anyway?

And... don't you figure your competitors need your worst customers more than you do? That IS an excellent strategy, by the way. Distract your competitors from good customers by sending 'em bad ones.

So go ahead -- Make my day. Get rid of the bottom 5-10% of your customers every year.

Make a list of people who drain your resources and damage your morale, and get rid of them.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. barbara8max

    What a great post. I learned how to say “no” only a few years ago. I spent years doing precisely what you have described, and finally got smart. There are so many things that, yes, I know how to do, but I hate doing them. I’m either not very good at it and/or I don’t like dealing with particular types of clients. But in this particular case, I happened to be talking about this very situation with a fellow artist who told me he loved doing work like that, and that he hated doing the type of work I loved to do. Oh. Okay. That was a revelation to me. One day, I sent a client to him — a great job was done, happy client, even happier artist buddy, who called me back to thank me and ask why on earth I’d turned down so much money. Told him again, I hate doing that type of work.

    Long story short, people need to stop being so competitive/greedy/insert PC word of choice to grab every job going (and only end up sabotaging themselves), and develop a Rolodex/network of artists that you know do other things well, and start referring your clients from hell to the people for whom these are the clients from heaven.

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Hi Barbara,
      Thanks for your story. There’s a lot readers I’m sure who can relate.

      1. barbara8max

        Btw, Gary, I found you and your newsletter only a few weeks ago, and I have been forwarding your emails to everyone I know for them to start subscribing. I’ve worked in a lot of different fields and it doesn’t matter what they are, clients, situations and bosses from hell exist in all of them. Substitute the words art or artist for engineering, architecture, marketing/sales, teaching, restaurant work, tourism, whatever field your analyses and advice are completely transferable. You write so well and pull no punches, and a bonus: you’re funny, too.


        1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

          Thanks for your ideas here. And you’re right, the article could apply to any industry. Looking forward to hearing more from you in the future.

  2. Barbara Cassidybara

    What a great post, Gary. I fired a student for the exact same reasons. What a great feeling and it opened the door for me to say that no word. Yes, it is still hard from time to time. Barbara, I agree that we must network between us – I most certainly am not good at all mediums or styles and don’t pretend to be or want to be. It’s that ole saying – what goes around, comes around. It works so well in all business whether art related or not.

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      I agree with you that it’s hard to know from time to time when to put your foot down and make the decision to fire someone. Thanks for your input.

  3. Al

    Just fired a client today…. and then I read your post.

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