How do you know when to fire a client, and how can you do so without ruining a potential referral relationship? That's what we're talking about today.
This can be a touchy subject for many, and if you're operating your business from a scarcity mindset, worried that a single client will make or break your business, then you're going to keep putting up with the garbage heaved upon you by horrible clients.
On the other hand, if you know and fully accept the fact that clients are the commodity rather than your talents, then not only are you in the right place but you won't have an issue letting one (or sometimes more) go.
Now I'm not suggesting to start wholesale firing your clients; after all, you are in business and clients keep you in business. But there are definite circumstances when it's time to clean house, so to speak. Let's look at them.
When To Fire A Client
I've fired a number of clients in the past, and it isn't because they've questioned my methods. I'm not a prima donna and I hope you aren't either. But there are some very definite lines you should draw in the sand:
- The person is repeatedly abusive to you or a member of your team, subcontracted or otherwise. Just because someone is paying you it doesn't give them the right to treat you like crap. Give them one warning, and when done again, fire them immediately.
- They continue to question the value you provide. This one is more an issue of a mismatch between you and the client. If they are paying you then obviously they saw some value in what it is you do, or they weren't paying attention. But if they continuously demand you to justify what you're doing then either they don't trust you and you shouldn't work with them, or something is going on in their head that they aren't telling you. Either way, it's time to go.
- The client doesn't pay on time. You've got a business to run just as they do. Not being paid is a problem, and once the payments start to slip (and they get away with it) the precedent is set. Don't let that happen.
- They won't conform to the way you work. As with #2 this is a mismatch scenario. When I had my web development business we used a method of rapid software development called “agile” that required a lot of communication and fast action. We use it at Dempsey Marketing too, applying it to marketing projects. Not all clients are willing or able to be as available as needed to get their project done in record time, which seriously inhibits delivery. If they can't or won't keep up then it's danger Will Robinson! Time to work with someone else.
What are some of the reasons you'll fire, or have fired, a client? Add your reasons in the comments below.
Now that we've seen why you should fire a client, let's look at how.
How To Fire A Client
If possible you never want to burn a bridge, especially if you're letting a client go because of a mismatch. Also unless you're dealing with an abusive or non-paying client I highly recommend you complete the project before firing them. If you're in the middle of a contract check with an attorney to see what kind of out you have and what, if any, repercussions you may face.
When firing a client the most important thing to remember, regardless of circumstances, is to leave emotion out of whatever communication you send their way. You might be ready to hop on the next plane so you can kick down their door and punch them in the face, but don't do it and don't act like it either. Instead, thank them for their business and tell them that you will not be working with them again.
If you can, get them on the phone and explain the situation. Direct communication is the best. Second best, and perhaps the best option when you are feeling really heated, is to send an email. BUT write your email in Microsoft Word or something like that so you don't accidentally fire off an incendiary.
Let your email sit for 30-60 minutes. Go back, review it, and then send it out.
Ever Fired A Client?
Do you have any stories of firing a client? Why did you fire them and how did it turn out?
Let us know in the comments below.
I'll see you there.