The “PITA” Client: Be real…what triggers you?

The “PITA” Client: Be real…what triggers you?

If you know that you love your business, but you find yourself feeling increasingly annoyed or depressed when you have to “work”, chances are that you have 1 or 2 pain in the ass (PITA) clients that are dragging you and your energy down. OR you might really need a vacation…in which case, take it already!


The crazy thing about PITA clients is that they can sneak up on you. Before you know it, you are ready to quit your business and “get a real job” and you won’t even know WHY! You’ll just know that “things feel off and it doesn’t quite feel worth it anymore”.


What you likely have happening is that you’ve attracted and retrained a PITA and they are sucking your soul (all the while, paying you to do so).

What is a PITA Client?

Ok, here’s the deal: “PITA Clients” come in ALL shapes and sizes. What might appear to be a PITA client to YOU, could be a dream client to someone else.

For instance, one web designer might LOVE getting clients who are not very tech savvy and they need hand-holding as they move through their design process. While another designer might love working with clients that are super tech savvy and the thought of hand-holding annoys them (like SERIOUSLY annoys them).


How do you identify a PITA Client?

Learning to identify a PITA client is like learning any new skill…it’s a little odd, but over time, you get better and better at it.

Before you started your business, you were likely working a job where everyday was filled with PITA’s (remember…that’s a BIG reason why you wanted to quit). But back then, you didn’t have a choice about whether to work with them or not. You run a business now, so you get to choose who you work with and who you don’t.

So now, the next step is learning to identify them. Some of you DO NOT struggle with identifying a PITA (high-five!), but others (myself included) sometime have a hard time figuring reading the signs.

3 Signs you have a PITA client:
  1. You feel anxious as your your calls or meetings with this client get closer. Note: if you do this with EVERY client, then it’s likely not a PITA, it’s something else causing a generalized anxiety.
  2. You feel powerless and you may not be able to identify “why”. This can be a case of them continuing to push boundaries that you have made clear. Example: you have asked that they pay you on your invoice due date at the first of each month, but despite your numerous reminders, they always pay on the 10th. Note: It’s a good time to check in with yourself about how clearly you are communicating your boundaries. Have a friend or colleague review your emails or policies to see if you are ACTUALLY being as clear as you think you are.
  3. At the end of a call, session or working on their stuff, you feel MORE drained than usual. Note: If this one is hard for you to answer, consider tracking your energy levels using a scale between 1-10 and seeing where you fall before and after you work with a client. If you are always drained, then maybe this isn’t a PITA issue…it’s a burnout issue or a “change my line of work issue”.


What to do once you have identified the PITA:

While I’d love to tell you to just “go and fire them all”, you might not be in a place to do that. You may actually be in a contract that you can’t break or you may temporarily need the income that they are helping you to generate. Here are a few suggestions that run the spectrum:

  • Give them an ultimatum: Sometimes all that PITA’s need to hear is that they are being a bit of a PITA and that if things don’t change, you will have to step away from your work together. This is done best using kind words and a platform of communication that you know you excel at.
  • Learn from them: Sometimes our PITA’s are angels in disguise because they teach about ourselves and help us work through our life lessons. Admit that they are a PITA (internally) and complete your contract taking note of the “signs” so that you can avoid this type of client in the future.
  • Fire them: If you ARE in a place where you can fire them (i.e. you won’t be breaking a  contract, etc), then maybe it’s time to fire them and free up energy for more non-PITA’s. If you do this, keep everything above the belt and professional.
  • Transition them to someone else: Remember, just because they are a PITA in your eyes, won’t mean they are in another persons! So consider telling them that this relationship won’t work for you anymore, but that you have a great recommendation for someone else who can help them.

How to avoid PITA’s in the future:

Identify their personality type and avoid it in the future: One of my friends (Rebecca) is an Integral Coach and she helped me realize that certain Enneagram number personalities really push my buttons. While I *could* work with everyone, why not simply take note of certain personalities that I don’t jive with…and AVOID them in the future. The typing system used in this form personality testing really works for me to help me get some perspective and give me the tools to identify what to avoid as I screen potential new clients.

Use copy to tell clients how to behave: Copy is a powerful tool to tactfully set the stage for interactions. Have you ever been to a coffee shop with signs directly at the register that say things like “put your phone away you jerk” or “don’t be “that” guy, put your phone away!”? I live in Portland, so I see them a lot. While they might not work 100% of the time, they probably sway many potential offenders from being “that jerk” (most people do not want to be “that jerk”. So get creative with how and where you use copy to stop bad behavior before it starts.

Communicate Clearly: While having great copy and policies might help to shape client or customer interaction with you, sometimes you just need to be VERY clear with expectations from the get go. This is done best over the phone or face to face. We might think that because we stressed over every word choice on our booking page or our client policies form, that our clients or potential clients did too (they didn’t!). So sometimes all it takes is being VERY clear with clients about what you will tolerate and what you won’t. Then, if you do have to fire them later on, it won’t be a shock!

Pay attention to the subtle clues: And last, but not least, pay attention to what your gut is telling you. If you are about to take on a brand new client and you are overly-stressing about it and something feels off, it’s likely that it IS OFF! While you may be trying to “be nice” and avoid disappointing them or while you may want the money, take a step back and think about whether the potential payout will be worth the potential trouble.



2 Responses to The “PITA” Client: Be real…what triggers you?

  1. Loved this article, thanks Anna! Communicating boundaries and all the other things you talk about are key to happiness in business. I think it´s not easy when you´re starting out to spot the PITAs and to fire them, but totally agree we need to keep these points close to our heart to avoid people sucking our business souls out!

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