An email message you dread opening. A fiery phone call that leaves you rattled. A meeting every one of your staff members is desperate to avoid. All companies have clients that can be challenging to work with at times, but what are the signs that a professional relationship really isn’t worth continuing?

The time you’re investing isn’t worth what you’re making.

Even if you’re willing to go the extra mile to satisfy a client, at some point there is a reasonable limit to the time and resources you can be expected to devote to one project. If a client requests multiple changes or tacks on additional work without acknowledging the added expense of doing so, it may be time to cut your losses and move on.

Your expertise and advice are repeatedly rejected.

A client knows their business better than anyone – just like you know yours. Although it may be hard for them to entertain new ideas and embrace change, this is probably what you were hired to help them do. If your suggestions are continually met with resistance which won’t allow the project to move along, neither you nor the client will be happy with the final product.

The client is consistently late with payment.

You’re running a business and certain inherent rules are understood. Payment is expected on time. Although a sporadic late check may be tolerated, paying late repeatedly should not be. Having to chase down money from a client is time-consuming and deteriorates your relationship with them.

You or your team are being treated in an unprofessional manner.

While an occasional terse email or snippy phone conversation from a client can be forgiven, red flags should go off if you are being berated or treated in a demeaning manner. Some clients may reserve this type of behavior for your staff, only choosing to deal with you in a professional fashion. In any event, no one should be expected to endure this type of situation.

So when does the old adage “the customer is always right” not apply? When after careful consideration you realize that the time, energy and resources you are investing are not paying off. Your expertise is valuable. Give it to those who see its worth and you will both be satisfied with the end result.

Susan Bryant is a writer and editor who enjoys working on diverse subject matter and collaborating on interesting projects. She can be contacted at