Going into business for yourself carries so many pressures. From day one you hit the ground running, looking for new clients, staying up to date on the latest tech, trying to put out good content, and doing whatever it takes to pay the bills.
Owning a service driven company means that you rely on people to make your money. This is the source of what drives you from day one.
One day you take on a client that seems pretty standard. Things start out rocky, and eventually you find yourself dodging emails and dreading project updates. You've had bad clients before right? You'll just get through it, tough it out, finish this project and say goodbye. So you face it head on, finish up, and then the unexpected happens. This client comes back for more. Maybe they never leave, and you get stuck in a whirlwind of misery and work and keep telling yourself “but it's money.”
No matter how you got into this situation, you're still stuck wondering if you should cut ties. Your decision hinges on that next payday, and you just can't let go of the next check this is bringing you.
It's time to make like Elsa, and Let It Go.
The time you're spending miserably hammering away at misdirected work, ludicrous change requests, or draining meetings could be spent on gathering better clients. You could be using that energy creating amazing content or contributing to a trade publication to attract new contacts.
It's tough to let go of a job or a client. Chasing them has become part of our DNA, but sometimes you need to be objective and look at whether you are in, or possibly committing to, an unhealthy relationship.
Instead of focusing on the things that are going wrong, try to make a list of all the things that would get BETTER if you moved on. I've said before; you can't ever fully separate your emotions from your work. Your bad night's rest might affect you just as much as some other personal issue that's been weighing on you. The flow can go backwards too; work can affect how you sleep or how you handle a personal issue. (Letting go of a client might not be the only answer here, but that's another blog post.) Only you can pinpoint these, and if you can pinpoint a client as the source, then you have a serious problem.
I know it's not as easy as throwing up your hands and saying, “DONE!” You need to set a hard boundary and stick to it. If it will cause a problem or a hole figure out ways to solve those even before you talk to the client about breaking up. Too busy to figure it out? Hit Pause! Tell them you need a day to consider the projected future and set aside that time to make a plan.
If you let one bad client poison you eventually that will spread through to your other work, and you could end up losing more than just one paycheck.