As a fitness professional, you quite rightly spend a lot of time thinking about your ideal client. You want to deliver a great service, speak their language in your marketing, attract more of them, and keep them coming back.
How much time do you spend thinking about the clients you don’t want to work with? “Bad clients” are an uncomfortable topic, but that’s no reason to ignore the elephant in the room.
How to identify a “bad client”
Like all relationships, the coach/client dynamic can go sour over time (or maybe you just ignored the red flags!) The first step in identifying bad clients is knowing what defines a good one. Spend some time on your ideal client avatar, and be sure to include less tangible things like attitude, values, and personality.
When clients don’t get results, it reflects badly on you.
Once you are working with a client, it becomes pretty obvious when they’re not a good fit. Do they respect your time? Are they often late? Do they stick to your agreed arrangements about check ins, payments, cancellations?
Do you enjoy coaching them, or does every interaction leave you feeling drained and negative? Lastly, are they actually getting a good service from you or do you feel they’d be better off with a different coach or programme?
Also read our guide to dealing with unreliable clients.
7 reasons to get rid of bad clients
1. They use up a lot of your time
Bad clients are a drain on your time – you’re either troubleshooting, worrying, thinking about new strategies, or talking to them outside of session times. Of course you’re happy to support clients, but when one or two are taking up so much more time than others, it’s time to let them go.
2. They don’t listen or ignore what you say
Maybe you’ve got a client who completely ignores your advice, doesn’t listen in sessions, or overrides your expertise. That’s not just frustrating for you, it will eventually lead to an erosion of the coaching relationship. Let them go so they can coach themselves.
3. They sap your energy
Trying to coach a bad client will seriously drain your energy and positivity. You will end up dreading their sessions and resenting all the extra time and energy you spend on them. It’s not conducive to running a thriving business.
4. Their results reflect badly on you
Bad clients are unlikely to get great results, and do you really want clients like that repping your merch or tagging you on socials (scrap that, bad clients rarely do you the favour of mentioning you on Insta!) When clients don’t get results, it reflects badly on you. Let them go so you can align yourself with clients who share your work ethic.
5. They are taking up a slot in your roster
This is a useful one to remember if you feel guilty about letting bad clients go. They are taking up space that could be filled by a great client who you really enjoy coaching! But that will never happen unless you bite the bullet and get rid of them.
6. They are impacting your income
Bad clients are often bad at paying, forget to cancel, or cancel so late that you can’t fill the slot. All of those things have a direct impact on your income and profits.
7. They take time away from your business
Imagine what you could be doing with all the time you spend thinking about, worrying about, and stressing over that bad client. You could be coaching other people, designing new offers, writing content, or having time off! Life’s too short to coach bad clients.
Questions to ask before letting a client go
- How much notice do I need to give them?
- Have I previously communicated with them about the issues?
- How many times has this client been a problem?
- Is it definitely them (they’re not catching me on a bad day?)
- Are they definitely aware of payment or Ts & Cs?
- How, when, and where will I have the conversation with them?
- What do I plan to do with the time once I free it up?
- What can I learn from this – do I need to change my messaging, onboarding, or services?
How to get rid of clients without burning bridges
It’s vital that you get rid of bad clients in a professional way that leaves no regrets on either side. This might be particularly difficult if they’re been disrespectful, but remember that you are a professional running a business. They might still refer people to you, too!
Creating an off-boarding strategy to cancel a client
- Prepare what you are going to say: why do you feel you are no longer a good fit?
- Choose a suitable time and place to have a face-to-face conversation (private, calm, when neither or you are in a rush), or set up a phone or video call for online clients.
- Explain your reasons calmly, and give them the opportunity to respond or ask questions.
- Don’t leave them in the lurch, offer to put them in touch with other PTs in your gym, or make suitable suggestions for online coaches.
- Finish the conversation by reflecting on high points of the coaching relationship, and thank them for their custom
- Send them any outstanding paperwork like reviews, programmes or assessments
- Consider giving them a small goodbye gift like branded water bottle or protein bar – the aim is to leave on a good note with no hard feelings.
If you're thinking you could have combatted some of these client issues or atleast identified them earlier on with a better onboarding process, then check out our guide Client Onboarding Essentials - it's free, downloadable and full of practical advice.