Beware of PITACs! They stress you out. They consume far too much of your time and energy. You secretly wish they’d go away. So what the heck is a PITAC?

PITACs are “Pain-In-The-Ass Clients.” You know who I’m talking about: those pesky clients who can make your life difficult, or even miserable.

Here are 10 signs, any of which may indicate that you have a PITAC on your hands. PITACs:

  • Are high maintenance—they take too much of your time and effort
  • Complain unnecessarily
  • Are slow to pay or dispute fees
  • May be unprofitable
  • Don’t seem to appreciate you or your services
  • Don’t listen well or remember accurately
  • Refute or question what you tell them
  • Don’t keep their word or follow through
  • Are unpleasant, moody, or demanding, and you want to avoid dealing with them
  • Occupy way too much of your thoughts, emotions, and energy

Do any of these descriptions sound familiar?

I’ve coached many of my clients on dealing with their PITACs. I recently spent several hours with a client going through his list of clients and devising strategies for firing his worst offenders. Last week, I talked another of my business coaching clients down off the ceiling because she was dealing with a client who disputed her fees and refused to pay for work that she had previously authorized.

Sometimes you can manage a PITAC by changing your behavior—for example, by setting limits or boundaries. Or, you may need to have a serious conversation about your business relationship. Sometimes you can subtly encourage them to go elsewhere by raising your fees, becoming less available, or changing your terms of service. Sometimes they’ll leave on their own. Sometimes, you may need to fire them. Other times, you may have to just live with them.

The best strategy is not to bring them on as clients in the first place. PITACs frequently show their colors even before they become clients. They aren’t easy. They may be overly hesitant to accept your offer, raise lots of objections, or take a long time to decide to work with you. They have too many concerns or haggle over fees. Oftentimes, your gut will sense a PITAC long before your brain admits it.

I recently got a call from someone who was interested in coaching with me. I asked what his goals were and he launched into a story about all the people who were responsible for his lack of sales. He blamed everyone but himself. The more I tried to get him to tell me his goals, the more he talked about the people who screwed him. His negativity was so thick you could cut it with a knife. My gut screamed, “PITAC!” I told him I wasn’t the right coach for him.

Sometimes, in our efforts to make money or grow our business, we’re tempted to take on problematic clients. I suggest you resist the temptation. You don’t have to work with everyone, nor should you.

PITACs drain you and energetically stifle the forward momentum of your business. Pay attention to the red flags and avoid PITACs at all costs. Life is too short, and there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

One more thing: If you’re ready to kick your business up a notch, working with the right business or sales coach can help you achieve your goals faster and more effectively than you would on your own.