I learned something this week that has humbled me a bit, and I want to share it with you. If you run a business that benefits from client referrals, this one is right up your alley.

Without going into specifics, I recently had a client experience that left me wanting to fire the client once the work was done. Each project was a chore, and they effected my ability to best take care of other clients. I felt that I would be doing everyone a favor by simply asking this client to find another designer to work with.

This isn’t a bad thing, mind you. Sometimes we need to fire clients. Though, the better technique is to learn ahead of time what your ideal client is, and then only take on clients that fit that list of qualities. But, sometimes the need to pay the mortgage outweighs your ideals, so you end up with clients who challenge your skills on many levels. Sometimes, those clients need to politely be let go.

Politeness and professionalism is at the core of all of this. Whether the client meets your qualifications for the perfect client, or you regret agreeing to work with them, each client deserves to be treated professionally. You can decide to no longer work with them on future gigs after the current project ends, but even then you need to communicate that decision in a polite and respectful manner.

Why? Because even though they might be pushing your buttons and challenging your patience, those clients might still love your work. They might, in fact, be raving fans. And raving fans tell other people about you. Give them a bad experience, and they’ll share it with others. But provide professional services consistently, and they just might convince others to hire you as well.

Sure, that new referral might be another one-time gig. But what happened to me is that the new referral was the type of client who goes out and finds other clients for me as part of their job. Rather than having one project for us, these kind of clients could potentially bring in dozens of projects, if not more.

Freelancers can become flustered and have their patience challenged. We’re not perfect, and we can’t expect ideal clients all the time, but how we handle those situations can effect the future of our business. Rudely fire a problem client and you will feel the effects of a vocal, upset business owner. Treat them professionally and you just might empower them to help you out down the road.