Firing a client may seem ironic. After all, you probably face a great deal of competition in your field and have worked hard to get the client in the first place. However, there are some clients who will never be worth the money. Following is some helpful advice on who to fire, how to fire them and how to handle the aftermath. Read on to avoid some of the costly and stupid mistakes I’ve made.
Why Fire a Client?
There are several good reasons why you should fire a client. A few of them are:
- The client does not pay well.
- The relationship is draining your energy.
(i.e. the client is a bully, overly picky, does not pay on time, sets unrealistic deadlines, etc.)
- You do not have the equipment, training and/or resources to competently handle a project
- You are changing your focus, and they are no longer are a good fit.
Firing a client will not only allow you the time to focus on profitable relationships but even enable you to have more fun with your work. Bad clients inhibit your creativity, make it hard for you to handle other professional relationships and can even interfere with your free time and relationship with family and friends.
Knowing Who to Hug and Who to Chuck
Some professionals have suggested firing the bottom 10% of the client base on a regular basis. While this can be sound advice in some instances, there are several factors to consider when firing a client and money is just one of them. In fact, the client’s personality type in such instances can often be even more important than your payment. Following are four types of people that you will probably want to ditch as soon as possible.
- Toxic clients (bullies, nit pickers, mean people, manipulators, those who do not respect your boundaries)
- Penny pinchers (clients who always try to get more than what they paid for and/or continually complain about the price)
- Dishonest clients (Those who pay late and/or must be chased down to collect payment
- Unprofessional clients (Those who do not answer their emails, take too long to approve a project, regularly provide unclear or confusing project instructions, etc.)
It is important to not be too quick to label a client as falling into one of the above categories. Problems will always arise in a professional relationship and the client is not always at fault. If a client has been professional and respectful in his or her dealings and then suddenly changes, try to find out why. Perhaps he or she is ill, dealing with a family emergency or especially stressed out.
Clients that order large amounts of work for you may need extra time to approve projects; this is normal and should not be cause for concern as long as the deadlines are realistic and the client pays on time. Even repeated requests for revisions should not be viewed as negative if the client is respectful and clear. Such requests can help you improve your work and skills and lead to a profitable, lifelong business relationship with a client who knows you are willing to listen to what his or her input.
The Dos and Don’ts of Firing a Client
Knowing how to fire a client is just as important or even important than knowing who to fire in the first place. Following is a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts to bear in mind when letting a client go.
Be clear on why. Go over you reasons and write them in a clear, concise manner. Can the relationship be improved? Have a good colleague review it with you.
Think it through again. Can you afford to loose the business? review the numbers. Can you afford to keep working with them? think about it.
Make it clear the client is being fired. He or she must understand that the business relationship is being terminated, not negotiated.
Be kind and respectful. Which is far more easy if you don’t linger too long and build up anger, which I did, and in less than admirable moment , I told the SVP of a major corporation, with more than 400.000 employees, to go f**k himself. Even if stopping working with the client is the best course of action -Don’t be the kind of asshat i were -ok?
If you know someone who can meet your client’s needs, provide this information. However, do not simply include the name of a business for the sake of providing a referral. You want to be sure the business you are referring your former client to can (and is willing to) work with the client.
Never let emotions get the best of you. Unprofessional business letters have a way of winding up on social networking sites and could damage your reputation permanently.
Never seek revenge. Doing so will drain your creativity and could cause you numerous professional problems as well. My friend, a chef once said something about ass-holes that sounds similar to a lesson from a Tibetan Lama; “wish that they may become happy, somewhere far away from you” -Nikolaj K.
Don’t expect the client to understand your reasons for firing him or her, even if you have explained these in a clear, professional manner.
Never badmouth a former client, either to a supplier or to other clients. Doing so reflects badly on you, not the client.
Getting Over a Bad Client
Firing a client can be angst provoking. You will probably worry about whether you did it right. If it was the right thing to do. If you can afford it, or you are about to live on noodles for a while. Wondering if the former client will seek revenge and/or feel the need to immediately gain new clients to make up for the one you dumped.
Take at least a little bit of time to enjoy the freedom brought about by the end of a bad professional relationship. Celebrate it, this is an occasion for champagne, letting go of business is harder than winning new. Enjoy having time to invest in work that is both creative and profitable. Use some of the extra time to develop new personal relationships. You may also want to assess what went wrong in your relationship to determine how you can avoid taking on bad clients in the future.