First up let me say that for the most part I have fantastic clients, we usually end up the best of friends during our time working together and often they come back again and again to scope out and work on new projects. I love 99% of my clients!
Like many small business owners every now and then it becomes necessary to fire a client. Have you ever done this yourself? Are you game?
The truth is some clients just suck you dry one way or another, the worst client of all is the control freak in my mind – you know that client for whom nothing you do it right, every thing has to be challenged and changed to suit them even though they hired you as the expert in your area?
For me every client and I are in a relationship and that means that the rules of relationships apply and the first touchstone of any relationship is TRUST!
A lack of trust is a lack of respect. For me a nervous client is not a problem I am prepared to go the extra mile and spend the time to assuage their fears and trepidation about stepping out of their comfort zones.
BUT! I am not prepared to spend my precious time doing the same job over and over until it falls within my clients comfort zones, nor am I prepared to put up with drama, drama, drama and being accused of lying when the client is having a cow because something I did pushed one of their fear buttons. Or when it is something I had nothing to do with at all pushes one of their ‘not good enough’ buttons and I end up taking the brunt of the flack as I am supposed to be up at 2am in the morning to delete the negative post or comment off their timeline immediately.
When is it time to fire a client?
First of all your priority is to assess each situation on it’s own merits, what responsibility do you have in the situation and what could you have done better? Are any of your buttons being pushed that have nothing to do with the client or with what is happening? Deal with your own stuff first and then decide if you can or cannot work with this client any longer.
When it all gets too hard – when your clients take up more of your time that you can ever charge for on silly calls, emails and ‘fixing’ things that don’t need fixing. Or your client has completely unreasonable expectations of the project even after you have been very clear about the scope of it before hand.
When they don’t trust you – this is a biggie, if your clients don’t trust you then you don’t have a good relationship and therefore they are going to blame you when things don’t go their way. They are going to ask the same questions over and over again hoping for a different result or they are going to make you do and redo everything until they are feeling safe and secure again which often defeats the purpose of hiring you in the first place.
When your client is not aligned with your own values and ethics – if your client asks and even expects you to do things that don’t sit well with you, don’t! Run the other way, if you make these compromises you may just find yourself in a place you would not like to be and with a reputation that doesn’t suit you either.
When your client consistently asks you to work with them and consistently cannot pay for the work you have done, or takes a long time paying it off without arranging this with you first – for me this shows a lack of respect both from your client for you and from yourself for yourself. Respect yourself enough to insist on prompt payment, unless the client has been up front and you have made the decision to allow them some time to pay.
When your client is abusive – ever! Goodbye! no changies no take backs GONE!
When your client changes their mind over and over and expects you to redo the work as a part of the original price or quote.
When your client doesn’t value what you do or has hired you because ‘they probably need someone like you as other businesses are hiring people like you’. Of course the words change but the real reason is the same, they don’t respect what you do, they don’t really feel they need what you do, they don’t understand it and don’t see the value in it – but everyone has told them they ‘have’ to so they are. If your client sees no value in what you do, they will begrudge every moment and every dollar and will be reluctant to pay and often will do their best to do a trade with you using services or products you don’t want in exchange.
Ultimately it all comes down to valuing yourself and what you do enough to make sure you get paid what you’re worth and work with people who value and respect you and what you do.
How to fire a client
Remember this, how you fire your client will determine what they say about you later and how you are viewed by your market. When possible do it with grace and as much honesty as possible without divulging the full truth, I like to say something like this:
“I want to thank you for thinking of me, however now that I have had time to evaluate your ongoing needs I believe that “Joe Bloggs or Jane Doe” might suit your purpose and needs better than I do and I would like to refer you to them.”
At times I don’t refer, particularly if I believe the client is just too abusive or doesn’t value the service at all, in this case I am usually happy to be honest and say something like this at the end of the sentence, “I believe that you may not need this service at the moment…” or “I recommend finding a consultant who deals more with ‘this side of things’ as I prefer to concentrate on …”
All of these are honest, they just don’t disclose the negativity I may already be feeling for them, LOL.
There are times when things get out of hand a little as they just have for me, in this case the client has taken some very ordinary comments I made to her via email and twisted them to mean something else entirely, so I have fired her with as much grace as I can in this situation. It never pays to get angry about it all yourself, taking responsibility for the situation is of prime importance! They did nothing to you that you didn’t allow.
I am going to say that again – they did nothing to you that you didn’t allow. You teach people, even your clients, how to treat you. If you are being treated with disrespect it is because you have allowed it, if they are slow to pay it is because you have been reluctant to ask them for it in a way that gets results (and I don’t mean by being rude or aggressive). I want you to remember it is up to you to draw the lines in the sand right from the start, with your clients, it’s easy when you respect yourself enough to do this and when you do your clients will respect you as well.
This is a lot easier when you remember that you can draw those lines in the sand right at the beginning of your relationship with every client, with a smile on your face and peace in your heart.
Do you have a client horror story? Have you ever fired a client? How did you do it?
Tell us below…