There’s one pervading emotion with which every business owner – and particularly those of the small, up-and-coming variety – is most familiar: pure, unadulterated terror. Headlines scream out from every business journal, highlighting the likelihood of businesses to fail within the first five years, and painting a relatively bleak picture for anyone with the slightest of long-term ambitions.

As a result, we tend to welcome any and all comers with open arms, furiously lining our coffers for that proverbial (and seemingly inevitable) rainy day. Speak to any small business owner, and they’ll likely regale you with tales of horror clients, the types that think nothing of sending you messages at 11pm requiring IMMEDIATE action, yet are equally unwilling to reimburse you fairly for your time.

Yet on we trudge, dragging these heavy client carcasses around with us, ferreting away the meagre profits in exchange for daily torture by individuals who believe they are doing us a favour by giving us their business. Of course, the problem here is that we believe this too, something that results in an altogether unhealthy, warden/prisoner type of co-dependence that leaves neither party particularly fulfilled.

The question continually asked by exasperated friends and family of course is “why don’t you fire them?” Naturally, this would be the ideal outcome, particularly for your poor employees, who are equally strung out by the demands of these wildly inconsiderate and ludicrously stingy beings. Yet, in the back of our minds, we can’t help but hear those warning bells, heralding impending financial oblivion and reputational disaster.

But as a wise man once said (I can’t remember who right now, probably Buddha or Gandhi or someone equally replete with wisdom), others treat you the way you allow them to. The more we give in to petty demands and smile merrily as our requests for incremental increases are laughed off the table, the more we perpetuate this cycle of abuse. We enable, and even encourage it. At some point, it has to stop, or you’ll either end up with heart failure or in prison (yes, punching clients is frowned upon by legal authorities). And let’s face it, that’s definitely not going to be good for business.

Of course, there are a few things we’re going to have to take on the chin during the course of our business journeys. We’re going to have to tell clients their terrible ideas are great. We’re going to have to endure countless hours of ‘brand education’. We’re going to have to chase countless unpaid invoices. But one thing we don’t have to do is be mistreated.

Yes, it might be scary, and yes there may be times when you’re clawing your way to the end of the month fuelled by nothing but stale crackers and adrenaline fumes. But whilst this entrepreneurial diet might not sound appealing, it sure beats the alternative in which you lose your mind, your employees and, inevitably, your business.

Here are three types of clients you need to take a hard pass on this year:

The ‘I know what I don’t wants’

Ditch the ditherers! Clients who offer up vague, incoherent briefs, only to suddenly know exactly what they want once the work is offered up are to be avoided at all costs. If they don’t have a plan, you’re going to be locked in a lose-lose situation, wasting masses of time trying to decipher what it is you’re actually expected to do.

The ‘hurry up and waits’

Typically, clients who highlight emails as urgent or use big, bold capital letters to convey the importance of their requests are the ones most likely to leave you in limbo. Perplexingly, urgency seems to be a relative term to these folk, who somehow seem to forget all about their supposed deadlines once you’ve pulled an all-nighter to supply the work, leaving you waiting for weeks on end for feedback. Avoid!

The nit pickers

Some clients appear to have an issue with letting go of the reins, and thus end up turning each and every little task into a convoluted exercise in nit picking. Actual issues like tonal consistency and brand equity somehow fall by the wayside, but wait, there’s an ‘s’ in that sentence that they don’t like. Clients who focus on micromanaging the irrelevant details and ignore the bigger picture are going to cost you loads of time and money, so step away before you get lured in.