Every business owner has their own story about a “nightmare” client. Abusive or unprofessional behavior, a penchant for unreasonable demands or a habit to avoid paying invoices on time are among the all-too-common experiences many business owners face when working with a poorly-behaving customer.
With “quiet quitting” and the effects of the “great resignation” still dominating workplace trends, the prospect of enduring such scenarios also undoubtedly contributes to why otherwise good employees quit.
Despite these negative effects, however, research from accounting software company FreshBooks’ “Bad Clients” report found that many small-business owners are still willfully doing business with their worst client.
FreshBooks surveyed small-business owners across the country and asked about the worst clients they’ve encountered. It discovered that only slightly more than a third of small-business owners said that despite terrible experiences, they’re still working with their worst client. In fact, only 35 percent of small-business owners reported ending a relationship with a client by firing them.
According to the survey, 34 percent of small business owners said “meanness” was the number-one example of poor behavior exhibited by their worst client. A quarter (25 percent) said being “dishonest” or “not paying on time” made someone their worst client. (Small business owners under the age of 35 were more likely to cite “meanness” as the worst trait, while business owners over the age of 35 were more likely to identify issues with getting paid as the worst client behavior.)
Nearly half (41 percent) of business owners said “making unreasonable demands” was the earliest indication that a client would prove to be a bad experience.
If the report is any indication, women in the workforce appear especially susceptible to poor treatment from clients. Women surveyed for the report were 50 percent more likely than men to have experienced “mean behavior” from a client. Women were also twice as likely to say their worst client was “skeptical of their abilities” early on in the relationship, though they were 30 percent less likely than men to identify “dishonesty” as a trait their worst client exhibited.
Women surveyed for the report were also 30 percent more likely than men to continue doing business with nightmare clients.
FreshBooks’ report was based on an online survey of 400 U.S.-based small business owners and self-employed professionals working in various industries. The survey was conducted in-house between September and October 2022.