Well it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. Every so often, a client of mine will ask about a client of theirs; you know the one, you spend your entire week sweating every detail, but it’s never enough, and overall, they consume more of your time and resources than 10 of your clients combined. They wear down your staff, constantly want more and more for less and less, and generally just make your life miserable. More often than not, it was a client you got early in your business, when things were off to a slow start. A portion of you feels some sense of pathetic loyalty, but in reality, you know in your heart it is a toxic relationship for your business.
Today, I’m giving you permission right here, right now: sometimes you absolutely must fire a client.
Before you pick up that phone or email that missive, there is some care that must be taken in doing this right, both from a logistical standpoint and a monetary one.
- First and foremost, do they owe you money, or are they even behind in payment? This is a first order of business that simply must be taken care of, before you embark on the “break up” path. Get all billings cleared up and if they’re slow, all the more reason to be a little tough.
- Are you under contract and has that contract been fulfilled or is it nearing expiration? You don’t want to have anything swinging in the wind that might surprise you later.
- Have a “break up” speech prepared and keep it very simple. Put the letter in writing, but also call as a courtesy to let them know things are coming to a close with your work for them. “Moving in a different direction” or “We’ve done the books and this isn’t profitable for us any longer” are two very effective methods.
- Do not be swayed by extra money, unless you’re prepared for more torment, resist the carrot and hold firm to the departure.
- Always, always, (did I say always?) be professional and control the tone of your voice. You are in the position of power in this discussion, maintain than. Make sure to thank them for their business and do so sincerely.
When making this choice, some get a little squeamish, wondering if they just cut off their nose to spite their face. My answer is, “it depends.” If the client is the albatross you think they are, you probably are right on the money and this “termination” is exactly what will help your business. Remember, once you get rid of a client like this, you’re in much better position to take extra special care of those clients that fit your model better.