Why it’s okay to kiss clients from hell goodbye

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Fed up with putting up with clients from hell? Don’t get mad – just kiss them goodbye, says AAT member in practice Jenni Frost

Problem clients. We all have them. And some of them have a Man Down The Pub (MDTP). He is an even bigger problem, an accountant’s recurring headache. The MDTP says he doesn’t pay tax. The MDTP said he only pays £50 for his tax return. The MDTP says if I get an offshore account I won’t pay tax.

That’s what he does and he earns loads…One day, I’d like to meet this mythological MDTP. And I’d like to clip him round the ear with a heavy calculator.

Most clients with MDTPs have the good grace to accept reality when you tell them how it really is. But some seem to want to pick a fight or, worse, decide you don’t know your stuff. Don’t you just hate that? Doesn’t it wind you up? You shouldn’t, and it shouldn’t, because you should be able to sniff them out and prune them from your client list (or not let them pass muster in the first place)

Problem clients

That’s right: there is no time in your life for problem clients. Maybe it’s not a client with an MDTP or the one who thinks he knows better than you at tax. Maybe it’s the guy who takes you by surprise, accuses you of lying and proceeds to rant at you for ten minutes without any just cause (never have I been so close to hanging up the phone after first venomously shouting something both unladylike and unprintable). As it was, I just burst into tears after the call ended (I’m a big softie really). And then showed him the Order of The Boot (softie, not doormat).

Clients should treat you with respect and you shouldn’t have to put up with being a verbal punch-bag or having your knowledge undermined. There is a door – you are allowed to use it.

Likewise the client who doesn’t pay on time (read: pays reluctantly after months of chasing), delivers her books a week before the deadline and doesn’t even say thank you for working late to stop her getting fined. You don’t need clients like that.

Or the bookkeeping client who, when you advise them of your price increase, tells you, ‘Actually, we were thinking of offering you £x per hour’ – less than what they were previously paying. You don’t need to be treated like an employee, disrespected or underappreciated (I took a leap of faith on the bookkeeping client as it was a big contract, and it was my first client-sacking, but the work was replaced relatively quickly). No regrets.

Don’t be afraid to say no

When you’re starting, it’s hard to say no to work – especially given the state of the economy. But you are running a business, not a charity, and you deserve to be happy in your work. And indeed to get paid for it – that’s why it’s called work, not ‘doing some accounts for pleasure’. You deserve nice clients – and there really are plenty out there.

I firmly believe in the Law of Attraction (if you’re interested, Google it). The more nice clients you have, the more you will attract. The more problem clients you have, the more you will attract. Even if that sounds like hippy mumbo jumbo, you may as well try it (attracting nice clients, that is, not problem ones – unless masochism’s your bag).

I’m sure few practitioners have all A1 clients (I know I don’t), but don’t be one who settles for the dregs of the client base. I mean that in the nicest way. Some clients are trainable. Some aren’t. Some are so lovely you can overlook their faults. And the others?

Don’t get mad. Walk.

Jenni Frost is a licensed accountant .

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