Do you have a client who’s perpetually pushy, mean, or just plain difficult to work with? Or perhaps one that pays you very little for the amount of time you are investing? It might be time to tell them goodbye. Here’s how to fire a client who’s making life hard, to make room for one you love working with.
Firing a client isn’t fun, but it can be the best thing to happen to both of you. Quite often, the discontent is on both sides of the equation. Part of the reason your client may be difficult is that they don’t feel a connection with you. And that’s okay. When this happens, firing a client can take a load off your mind and free up your schedule to work with other clients. Yes, it’s awkward to tell a client you don’t want to work with them in the future – but it probably won’t be as bad as you think.
How To Fire A Client
1) Make every effort to salvage the working relationship.
Just because a client grates on your nerves or asks a lot from you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to fire them. Sometimes it’s easier to take a deep breath, minimize your contact with the client as much as possible, and wait until their contract runs out to stop working with them. Firing a client in the middle of a contract should be an absolute last resort.
2) Raise your rates.
If a client is taking far more of your time than they are paying you for, you will understandably feel less generous toward them. Consider raising your rates to get compensated fairly. If they refuse the rate increase, then you have a tangible reason to cut them loose. If they approve it, you feel a heck of a lot better working with them.
3) Set new boundaries.
If they are compensating you fairly but stepping all over your regular work boundaries (texting, calling, and emailing at all hours, for example), you need to set new boundaries. Have a talk with them about how they communicate with you and perhaps how you need ample notice on new projects (No last-minute projects on Friday afternoon!), or not to expect responses over a weekend. The ball is in your court here. What would it take to make working with this client better? Make a list and present it to them. If it goes well, you retain your client. If they don’t understand, then you know it’s time to move on.
4) Check the fine print.
Make sure you’re legally allowed to fire the client. Review the contract that you both signed when you started working together. Make sure there’s nothing that prevents you from dropping the client before the contract is up. If there is, you’ll have to grit your teeth and wait things out or hope that they fire you first.
5) Fulfill your obligations.
Maintain your high standards. Finish all the client’s work that you’ve currently got in progress. Get to a natural stopping point, like the end of a project, before you break the news that you won’t be working with them anymore.
6) Choose the right moment.
If it’s a retainer client, the year-end might be a good time to break it off. This often comes with the announcement from you that you are raising your rates. Never break things off with a client when you’re angry at them or fed up. Wait until you’re feeling calm and level-headed to have the conversation. It’s never okay to be disrespectful to a client. Make it your mission never to burn a bridge. You never know when you may need to cross it again.
7) Break the news.
Call your client and let them know that you will be unable to continue working with them. Keep your message short and concise – the less you say, the less they’ll be able to argue with. Instead of blaming the client for the break-up, try to find a neutral-sounding reason for why you won’t be working with them anymore. If you need some ideas for what to say, try something like:
• “I’m glad to have had the opportunity to work with you, but I don’t think our businesses are a good fit for each other anymore.”
• “You have a strong vision for your business. Unfortunately, I no longer feel that the work I do is meeting your needs.”
• “My freelance business has changed considerably over the last few months. I’m sorry to say that as of [date], I will no longer be able to work with you.”
In general, it’s more professional and polite to have this conversation over the phone. However, if you usually communicate with your client by email, it’s okay to break the news to them that way.
8) Refer your client to someone else.
It’s unprofessional to leave a client hanging, so while you don’t have to refer them to someone else, it’s generally considered the right thing to do. Send your ex-client the contact information for a few other freelancers who might be willing to take them on. This makes you look good, and it reduces the odds that your client will be angry about getting dumped.
Key Takeaway On How To Fire A Client
The way you go about firing a client has a significant impact on your reputation, so do it carefully. Don’t rush the decision. Finish all the work you owe the client if you can, and try to end things positively. There are exceptions to every situation, but it is possible to fire a client and remain in good professional standing with them. Just remember to NEVER make it about what you need, but rather how this change will benefit them in the long-run — even if it will help you as well.