5 Ways to Fire a Client
Episode 20: Five Ways to Fire a Client Transcript
Hey, this is the success society podcast with me, Megan Johnson, because you deserve to make money from your bad-ass business. So, I’m here to help you create success sooner and with less pain along the way.
Sometimes a client, well, sucks!
Maybe something changed about the work that you’re doing. Maybe they hid their real personality from you and they’re actually horrible. Or maybe you have changed your business and now you aren’t the best fit for where you’re going with your business. For many reasons, sometimes you just have to fire a client. It’s not any fun, but let’s walk through it in this episode.
Why Fire A Client?
Why would you fire a client? Let’s talk about that first. There’s a few reasons why, and let’s just step through those.
The first one that I see most common is communication. It’s so frustrating to try to work with a client that doesn’t listen to you or doesn’t respond back to you, making it really really hard for you to be successful in your work with them. So maybe see that as something you need to pay attention to so that you don’t have to get to the point where you have to fire a client for everybody’s best interests.
Communication is really important. We talk about it all the time, right. And we focus a lot on your communication in making sure that you’re really forward with clients in communicating with them what’s going on with their project and how you can help them. But helping them with their communication is a little bit more difficult. So, oftentimes I see that if you really can’t teach them how to treat you in the way of communication in working together. Sometimes it just means you’re going to have to fire that client.
Another reason is time or scope creep. Has this client just turned into a nightmare of: “I’m not making any money off of this project because they keep trying to add more to it, and when I say no, they’re incredibly unhappy.”
Or “They’re asking for way more time than anticipated and the discussions around correcting that haven’t gone well.” And so sometimes I see that as a need to fire a client as well. What you bid the project for really turned out to be double or triple the work, and that’s a really not a healthy situation for your business or your bottom line.
The third reason, which happens often as well is that client is a soul sucker or an energy sucker. It just is terrible to think about going to work with that client or working on their projects and it just really becomes something you dread. If you’re feeling that way and you can’t communicate through that with a client, whatever the behavior is. Maybe it’s time to let them go and move on.
So those are my three things to watch out for, as you work with clients. So it doesn’t get to the point where you might need to let them go.
- Good communication on both sides, help them to communicate with you as you need, and be very clear on what you need.
- Make sure that you don’t end up with time and scope creep.
- And those general soul suckers, those energy suckers. Watch out for that, make sure that you’re really, really charged up about the work that you’re doing.
Rules To Live By (not just when you fire a client)
Okay, now that you have decided that you’re going to fire a client, there’s a few rules to live by.
The first rule is always complete your work and keep your end of the bargain. Deliver everything that was due. So go back, check your contracts, check your agreements, your statement of work, whatever it is that you live by that defines your agreement, go and make sure that you fully deliver what they signed up for. This is really important. Your reputation is everything. So always, always keep your end of the bargain.
The second rule is remain professional. Sometimes we want to just. Ahh freak out on people because they’ve been a jerk to you or treated your stuff poorly, but always remain professional. This goes back to one of my rules to live by, which is always take the high road every single time.
And the third one is refer them out if you can, don’t leave them in a lurch. If you can give them a referral. Being careful not to refer a terrible client to a great referral partner. But if you can give them a referral, it’s always, always great to send them on their way with continued support. So that’s kind of my rule to live by if you’re going to fire a client.
How to Fire a Client
Okay, so we’re here. Let’s talk about five examples of ways you may fire a client.
#1 The Non-Renew
I’m going to start with the least confrontational. Number one, the non-renew. Yep. It is the least confrontational way to get a client off your roster. You simply, when their current contract comes to an end, just let them know that you won’t be renewing their contract and wish them the very best in the future.
I’ve done this. I’ve had it done to me. It might sound like:
“Hey Steve. It’s been great working with you. As our contract winds up on (X date), I wanted to give you advanced notice that we’ll not be continuing to support you with your (blah, blah, blah) needs. If you bring someone new on before the end of the contract, I’m happy to support in that transition as best as I can.
Thank you for your business and your time.
It’s been a pleasure,
So it’s pretty simple. It’s just a really passive way to say. We’re gonna move on.
#2 The Price Increase
Okay. Number two, the price increase. I really liked. The price increase. When you are noticing that you might have several, not so great clients, they’re not terrible, but you really need to raise your rates to the point of you’re getting people.
That are really committed and more professional. I once had a, when I was in business school. I had a professor talk at length one day about the “pain in the ass fee” that when a client is a giant pain in the ass, what do you tack on to your base price just to make it worth your time and energy to serve them? I thought that was hilarious.
But there’s a lot to consider about your pricing strategy and a price increase is one way to have a client choose to show themselves out.
It might sound something like this:
“Hi, Bill. I’m writing to inform you that as of X date, our pricing structure will change to the attached schedule. We are always committed to the very best in (whatever it is that you do).
If you have any questions on this increase and how it’ll affect you and future pricing, please let me know.”
So you’re opening that conversation. You’re letting them make the choice.
#3 The Straight Talk
Okay. Number three. This is the straight talk. It’s really best in person. And it’s important that you stick to your guns, be professional, but non-confrontational courteous, but not passive.
Also arrive with a plan for what needs to be completed and delivered. Remember my rule. Always, always follow through on what you’ve been contracted to do.
Also be prepared for the why question they might ask.
It might sound something like this.
“Hey, George. Thanks for meeting me today. I’ve spent a lot of time considering this, and I’ve decided that I’ll no longer be working with you on (X, Y, Z).
I will end all work on (X date). Before then, I have a plan to complete all work in the pipeline and can work with anyone to transition prior to that date, if you so choose.”
They might follow up with a why question. Speak plainly, but professionally.
“Well, the answer is the work is no longer a good fit for a portfolio.”
“I think you might be better served by somebody who has (X, Y, Z)”
Something that they they need, and you don’t have like more directly interfacing or more expertise in whatever it is that they need.
So that’s the straight talk. It’s really not a good fit anymore and you just need to let them go.
#4 The Bow-Out
Okay. Number four is the bow-out. When you know, you’re cruising for a bruising, it’s really smart to identify clients that you won’t be able to do your best work for in the future and bow out before the relationship goes bad, or your work goes bad.
I think we’ve all had this experience where we realize we’ve made some changes, or we’ve changed or there, our client’s business have changed and we really aren’t able to serve them in a way that is up to snuff. Our expectations of what we provide our clients.
So it might sound like this:
“Hey, Larry. I’ve really appreciated working with you and I think that your organization really would be better served with a larger firm with more capacity. (Or insert here, whatever it is that you think that they need.) Thanks so much for your business over the past (however long you’ve been working together).
I really wish you the very, very best in the future.”
#5 The You’re a Jerk and I won’t Tolerate it
Okay. We’ve gotten to number five. That’s the one. That’s the scariest. You’re a jerk and I won’t tolerate it. That’s what I’m calling that.
It’s usually after you’ve worked really hard to correct the relationship, maintain proper boundaries. You’re struggling to be treated well or your staff, and they just won’t come around. This is best when you need to get out before it gets worse.
It might sound something like this:
“Tom. I know you value your time and resources as much as I do. With that in mind. I think it is in both of our best interests to end our agreement as of (X date).”
And then just follow that up with any deliverable details or closing instructions that you may have or need.
There’s no way around it. Firing a client is uncomfortable and sometimes, really difficult. Depending on who you are and what your personality is like, hopefully this helps you come up with the language that you need to get them off your roster. For the best interest not only of your clients but of your business and your reputation and everything that you’re building. It’s really important to have the right clients so that you’re delivering your best work.
It’s going to propel you faster and further if you’re always in the zone. Doing great work for great clients. That’s why it’s important! Sometimes you just have to cull the roster to make sure that you’re doing that. It’s not fun, but you can do it we can do hard things! Remember that.
I hope today’s episode helps you gain the clarity, confidence, and competence to turn your business into a revenue-generating machine. Hey, head over to Megan JohnsonCoaching.com to get some awesome resources. And if you’re on Facebook, you should probably search the group Success Society with Megan Johnson to get more connected and get into the group.
I’ll see you there, and have a great week!