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When to Cut a Project, Client, or Program

It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.

If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>

This week I asked our panel of experts …

How do you know when to cut a project, client, or program…
even if it's a profitable one?

Lynn Terry of Clicknewz says:

My answer is going to be very short:

When it's no longer fun.

Or – when it becomes stressful.


When this happens I take a serious look at my options. I never (ever, ever!) let a site/product/project just die or disappear.

My options are to

1) sell it to someone who WILL enjoy it, or

2) outsource all the tasks involved with the project.

The latter is only an option if I can manage the project hands-off, still turn a profit, and be totally free of any stress related to the project.

Otherwise… to auction it goes! 😉

I no longer have clients, but back when I did I always made it a point to connect them with someone who could take over when I chose to step out. It's important to maintain your reputation and your relationship, even if you no longer want to work with that client personally. My competitors always enjoyed the profitable referrals, which kept me in good with them too!

Shannon Cherry of The Business Building Live Intensive says:

A few years ago, I ran a successful membership program, which had been in existence for a few years.

For more than 8 months, I debated whether or not I should get rid of it. I asked my husband, and colleagues, and all of them said no because it was so profitable.

So I didn't. But it kept nagging at me. And what I realized was I had lost my loving feeling about the project, which had been going on consistently for 4 years. Frankly, I was bored with it. I was evolving and this program was keeping one foot in the past, making it difficult to transition from just being known as a publicity and public relations pro to a business and marketing pro.

So I ditched it. And as soon as the decision was made, I felt a weight had been lifted. And here's the fun part… I still profit from the content I created from that program. It's become blog posts and articles, and I've resold the ebooks I create too. So by quitting, both the content and me got a new lease on life!

Lain Ehmann of says:

As entrepreneurs, we often start out saying “yes” to everything. We want to serve every customer, answer every email, and participate in every JV that comes our way. However, what got us to where we are now is not sustainable. We have to learn how to say “no,” and even to sometimes say, “no longer.”

There are some guidelines I use to make this decision:

1. Do I enjoy it?

If I don't like doing it, or don't enjoy working with the people involved, I need to say “no.” Sometimes a great working relationship can devolve, or you can outgrow a project or person. I went into business for myself so I could love my work. If I don't love what I'm doing, there's no point in it.

2. How else could I use the resources I'm dedicating to this project/person?

Sometimes, something is profitable, but I could be investing in something MORE profitable. For instance, if I'm holding on to something because I've always done it, what would I do instead? Does that have a higher payoff?

3. Am I holding on out of fear?

This can be really common with a money-making project, particularly as you transition to spending more time on your own business and less on freelance tasks or your day job. Are you only holding on to a client because you're scared nothing better will come along, or you're afraid what would happen if you let go? If fear is the only thing connecting me to something or someone, it needs to go.

I've found that rare is the time I regret cutting a client or project loose. In fact, I usually wish I'd done it sooner.

Take bold action, even if it scares the heck out of you!

NicoleNicole Dean of .. here! .. says:

It's funny. I asked this question because I was feeling overwhelmed. So what did I do about it? I am thinking about buying and taking over another business. ((Rolling eyes at self.))

Over the years, I've had bunches of clients and numerous projects. Of course, since there are only 24 hours in a day, those projects have had to be narrowed down and streamlined more so that I have time for what's important in my life – my kids, my husband, my family, my health.

While I'm about to share how I've decided what to keep and what to let go, please don't read into this that any past projects and/or clients were not valuable to me, nor great learning experiences.  They were.

This is a good time to bring back and talk about my R.E.A.D. system – which you've probably heard me talk about before. It's the first topic that I cover in my course.

When I need clarity, these are the steps I go through…





Obviously this post and this week's question is about the “E – eliminate” aspect of the formula. However, the decision really can't be made unless you know yourself and your know your numbers. That part comes down to the ever-helpful Pareto Principle (aka the 80/20 rule).

If 90% of your stress is coming from one client, ditch him or her.

If 80% of your profits are coming from your mailing list, focus time on that.

If 5% of your income is coming from a website where you're investing hours of your time every day, then that's probably one to sell or walk away from.

ok. But how do you figure out your numbers? There are a few ways, but this is one that I use and I'll talk about it in my upcoming Productivity course. Watch for that. 🙂

In deciding what to keep and what to trash, I like to make a spreadsheet where I estimate my time spent verses my profits for the year.

If you can figure out approximately how many hours per year you'll be spending on a project and how much total income you'll make (after subtracting expenses) – then you can figure out how much your time is worth on that project.

For instance, let's say I have a blog about baking and I spend about 100 hours per month on it and make about $100/month. That would mean  my income was $1/hour. Yes, it's a business and that income will hopefully grow BUT…

If I also have a blog about dog training that I spend 100 hours per month and I make $1500/month on it, then that blog needs to be the one that gets more love – while the baking one should be reassessed and maybe let go.

It's a matter of knowing your numbers and prioritizing based upon that.

I know that math isn't sexy, but it is important if you want to make money and also still have time to live your life. (Both good things.)

Please remember, we only get so many breaths on this earth.

CHOOSE where you want to focus your time and energy.

CHOOSE where and how you want to make your impact on the world.

CHOOSE who you want to spend time with.

CHOOSE happiness.

So that's my two cents on that question. I would LOVE to hear how you personally make decisions and prioritize your projects, too.

Talk to me.

Nicole Dean


I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • Tawra

    Thanks for the input. Actually for the last 8 years or so I keep saying I’m going to quit. (We’ve been doing this for 15 yrs.)

    The amount of money we are earning vs. stress just isn’t worth it but…then I think well, if we can just get over this hurdle then it will go better. It never does, only causes more work.

    Now we are making enough money to live on, barely, so we are holding out until Mike can do something else and then we can just take it back to a hobby again. Well, I think, I will probably change my mind before this post is done! LOL

    We have done so much work that I hate to just dump it and selling it would be like selling your kid and seeing someone else with them at the grocery store but you can’t have them! LOL (I know, it’s crazy, I’ve just put too much into this but at the same time I’m pretty worn out. (I do have a chronic illness so being worn out is the norm for me.)

    We are going to look at the numbers again after Christmas and see if this should be it or if we should keep trying to make a go of it. You’re info. was very helpful!

  • Sharyn Sheldon

    Hi Nicole,

    Love all the expert input. I’ll just add that you have to look carefully at the financial aspects before you chuck something – not just your ROI on your time, but from a broader planning perspective. If you are dependent on the income you’re getting from a client or project, how long will it take to replace that income as you spend your time elsewhere? Can you afford to wait? What is your backup plan if you can’t replace that income in the way that you’d wanted to? I know it’s all common sense, but people can dig a whole for themselves if they haven’t created a realistic plan for rebuilding any income they’re losing when they eliminate something that has been earning (no matter how much they hate it).

    – Sharyn

  • The Mom

    Math not sexy? Au contraire! Is it time to bring out the Math Club picture again. 😉

    Seriously, you all make wonderful sense. Myself? I know something has to go when I keep avoiding it by doing other things, like scrubbing the tub. It’s really gotta be bad if I scrub the tub to avoid doing it. Seriously. I don’t need any math to help me figure that one out.

    But sometimes math is the only friend we have. When something is fun, but keeping me away from my long term goals, a little math (and a slap upside the head from Nicole!) comes in handy.

    Thanks experts for the reminder that it’s okay to let it go.

  • Denise O'Berry

    The thing that’s amazing — once you’ve typically made your decision to eliminate — is that often something you love comes in and fills up that space you were so uncomfortable with. Making room for good things is always, well, a good thing. 🙂

    • Tishia Lee

      Denise I totally agree with you! I recently fired a client that was causing me way too much stress & it just wasn’t worth dealing with it. As soon as I fired her I had 2 different transcription projects come in (which I love doing!). Letting go of something that isn’t working or isn’t fun anymore makes room, like you said, for the good things!

  • Elisabeth Kuhn

    Great points! And it makes me think…

    Maybe you could do an upcoming Income CPR on best ways to unload a website that could generate some cash OR that we no longer want to work on…


  • Alice Coaxum

    I found this post timely and informative, since I am contemplating whether to let go of my sites or not. I have conflicted feelings. I’m going to consider some of the things I learned in this post before I make a final decision.

  • Savvy Subcontracting

    My client and I were just talking about this. Right now I’m going through a career transition. What I keep in mind is just because it gets harder doesn’t mean I need to cut my client. When I get to the point of bringing his business down is when I will let him go.

  • Emily

    Gotta agree with the “experts” – I recently decided to ditch an adsense blog b/c although it was making progress and had a lot of potential, I wasn’t all that interested in the topic and it had become a horrible chore to keep up.

    Enjoying what you do is everything.

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