Roundtable #14 – Firing Clients


Roundtable #14 – Firing Clients

What is your experience with firing a student/ client?

Have you either fired or REALLY wanted to fire a client or student? Did you go through with it?  Did you lessen your work/ availability with them in hopes they would leave?  If you didn’t go through with it, what stopped you, and how do you FEEL when their session rolls around?




First heard the concept of firing clients from Tim Ferriss I believe and that initial seed has helped me try to keep this idea in mind through out my teaching career. That’s not to say I still don’t fail at it from time to time though.

My most recent failure with firing a client was during a parkour camp we had a neurodivergent student who maybe participated 20% of the time, was on their own safely for most of it and then randomly would have these outbursts that were a bit worrying. We thought to try and give them some more days to see if the participation ratio increased. Instead the outburst ratio did. At the end of the 3rd day (of a 5 day camp) he was violently flinging his metal water bottle and trying to run away from the park.

Thankfully the parent was able to grab him in a timely manner and we didn’t have them for the rest of the days but we should have accepted the reality that the camp wasn’t a good fit for him (even though his brother loved and excelled in it) and we would have remove both of them as the parent wouldn’t drop off just one of the kids (which isn’t our problem but wasn’t any easier as we could see how valuable it was for the brother.) It’s not always easy to fire a client or relay that they aren’t a good fit for you but it’s important to do so not just for our personal sanity but also for the safety of everyone involved.  —  Jereme Sanders



Building a practice is a very personal thing. The more that we understand our unique strengths and value the more successful we will be I believe. Initially I was very reluctant to fire any client because just getting new clients was a big deal. However I came to realize that clients were seeking me out for my unique strengths and those were the clients that I wanted to attract.

I do some marketing with Groupon and this results in a wide variety of people coming to me. Many of them are simply motivated to get a less expensive Massage. They will never return and I would rather not have these clients in the first place. If they’re suitable of course I accept them. My strategy is that I have raised my prices on Groupon so high that I am sure That the people that are coming have chosen me carefully.

I have had a number of bad experiences with clients and I’m no longer hesitant to fire them. At the end of every session I typically invite people to rebook but with such clients I don’t do that. I also lock my online system so that they cannot book in. What is my reasoning? First of all I didn’t enjoy the session. Second of all it didn’t seem like they enjoyed the session  or they were mistrustful or suspicious. Trust is a requirement.

Clients that are only looking out for themselves and give no consideration to me I also feel are unwelcome. This is an exchange of value around our bodies and I think it is important in the case of massage therapy and healing in general  to have an open heart.

Sometimes clients come in the door with a lot of baggage. They are either too demanding or mistrustful and I do not want to massage them in that condition. If I accept the client I often regret it. I am prepared now to look people in the face and say that I don’t think my Clinic is a good match for you and even though you have driven all the way over and made an appointment I’m going to recommend you find another therapist. do this all often and it is only with clients that are not prepared to receive a massage.

I consider it to be not only my right but a kind of duty. It is a duty to myself to protect my practice and my boundaries but it is also good for the prospective client to understand that an appointment with me is a special thing, a kind of privilege, even though I charge a lot.

I don’t think the issue is firing clients as much as it is protecting your own vision of your practice and building on that vision and whatever sense of niche that you may have so that you can better reach out to the kinds of people that you work best with.

 — Jim Freda



Oh I have experienced all sorts of firing and hoping they would leave ;). It used to be hard until I find the right words I think. I would pretend I was too busy and scedule them less, in the beginning. But when I realized this behaviour also made me passive aggressive within the session, I did not like it. So I started telling them I no longer want to work with them maybe too bluntly, hurt a lot of feelings, I didn’t like that either. Slowly by trial and error, I found the best words and the timing (it’s better in the beginning when you first get a hint of maybe you are not a great fit, rather than waiting too long to get too annoyed). It is usually revolving around me saying that I might not be the best trainer for them in terms of their learning style and motivation. Giving them a list of trainers that they could try working with. Bc basically it is nothing personal for both of us, it is just not a good fit. When I stopped judging myself for not working with them, I also stopped taking the issue personal. I also was able to help them not take it personal.

After a while I even figured out a way to asses the client and their goal/learning style and give them a taster class for them to see how I approach things, BEFORE commiting to them in the long run. And by that time I was just really connected to my gut feeling, so I avoided a lot of uncomfortable conversations like that. Better boundaries are always great in every part of life.
Gökçe S. Hall (Sevinç Gökçe)



As a public educator, we do not have a say in who joins our class.  Someone else, somewhere, decides how the kids should be grouped, and we figure out how to make things work.  In 21 years of teaching, I have only requested that a student be removed from my class once.  It was during that fated return-from-COVID partial year in which we had six weeks until summer dismissal.  Because PE is a magical place, it did not abide by CDC recommended space regulations.  (We were told our high ceilings accounted for the allowance.). Fifty students were crammed into a room roughly the size of a basketball court.  I had mostly freshman, and three boys in particular were stuck in irresponsible, destructive, stuck in middle school mode.  One of them in particular kept dropping the floor of behavior, and all my powers and patience of connection proved naught.  I pulled the safety card, requested he be removed and placed in another class, and he was.  Things improved steadily after.

Similarly, when I worked as an employee of a chiropractor, I only had a few spots open per week and they were easy to fill with people who didn’t have to pay out of pocket.  We got paid through insurance.  It was remarkably easy and refreshing to only work with one person at a time.  Still, like school, it was never the client who paid me directly for my services.  This lead me to believe I couldn’t fire students or clients.  The gig was taking on whomever came along.

When that gig ended and I built my own place, things changed.  I was able to take ownership of everything.  I got to decide.  I was and still am teaching full time, so I am never desperate for clients to keep my finances afloat.  It was an ‘extra’ and you can be discerning about ‘extra’.  

My affinity to and for Adarian Barr opened the world of performance to me, and performance people were not like pain people.  You can interact with pain people and get honest answers, but performance people just kind of nod and pretend they get things and then get mad when they realize they don’t understand. This is often weeks later.

One sprinter reached out from India.  He asked me to analyze his videos and then give him instructions/ feedback on how to improve.  (He wanted Adarian but I came to find out later that Adarian had fired him too. ) I broke things down in my way, into pieces, but in hindsight I think he used them as supplemental exercises and did not know how to apply them.  For instance, it is very clear in my mind that if I show you a start set up, and describe it as a start, you would be able to integrate it into a start when you run.  This gentleman, however, never seemed to be able to put the two together and then got angry and very demanding since ‘he was paying me good money’.   (For context, I charged him $65 dollars for three video analyses and three ‘corrective’ instructional videos to ‘clean up’ what I was seeing.)  Anyway, after I spent extra time evaluating additional videos and then creating more feedback/ instructionals, with clear connections to the actual task of running, he messaged me in emotional frustration about his lack of improvement.  I told him that I was now going to block him and our coaching relationship was over.  He then proceeded to plead about needing more help.  Then I did block him.

After about a week of unravelling my reaction to things, I unblocked him and told him I was sorry about the way things went, and that maybe we are better off just casually discussing things instead of pay-for-performance.   He agreed, and we had a few chats since then, but mostly we’ve gone our separate ways.  In hindsight, his communication style might have been a sign of being on the spectrum or perhaps there was a language barrier at play.  Still, when you’re in the moment and already going above and beyond and STILL not being appreciated and/or being blamed for someone’s lack of progress, it’s time to leave that toxic relationship.  That’s the thing about money, though… to keep it coming, you’re likely to do a lot of things you otherwise wouldn’t want to.  — Christine Ruffolo



[Feature Photo by Igor Omilaev on Unsplash.]

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