If you’re having trouble with a difficult client and considering firing them, you’ve come to the right place. Everyone who’s been freelancing or running an agency for a significant amount of time knows that not all clients are great to work with yet they often don’t know what the best way to deal with it is.
So, in this guide, we’ll dive deep into one way of dealing with a difficult client – that is, by firing them, and when this is the right choice:
- Are You Certain Firing The Client Is The Right Choice?
- How Frequently Do Agencies Usually Fire Clients?
- How To Fire A Client – 3 Ways To End A Client Relationship
- Summary – Firing Clients Might Be The Key To Growth
Are You Certain Firing The Client Is The Right Choice?
Not every seemingly devastating client relationship has to come to an end.
There are always other measures that you can take to minimize the effects of working with a client that can be particularly difficult or complicated.
Often the complexities of dealing with a client you are considering firing are caused by the absence of a proper process or them making it difficult for you and your team to get their work done for them.
As John, the founder & CEO of True Mtn Marketing puts it – firing a bad client can help a lot but whenever his team comes to him saying they want to drop a client, he asks them to take a step back and be 100% certain this is the right move. Sometimes a client can get toxic simply because you aren’t able to do the work. If you simply aren’t able to excel in a client relationship, do your best to have a conversation with the client and explain the issues causing some tension while proposing a solution. If this is out of the question, follow these simple steps to properly end a client relationship.
Poor Client Communication
Some clients just aren’t as good at communicating what they want. In this case, firing them should really be a last resort. Why?
Well, because with proper systems in place and using a tool like Atarim – you’re able to make it dead simple for any client regardless of their experience working with agencies to tell you what they want on their website.
It’s actually very common for late payments to be the culprit of poor client communication and projects that are just getting out of control. When you receive feedback from a client in dozens of places – from email to Facebook Messenger and everywhere in between – it’s just impossible to keep track of what they want. Most requests will conflict and you’ll have to jump back and forth to try your luck at getting it right.
And when you don’t, clients will keep referring to additional work that needs done instead of being able to see in a single place that all of their requests have been taken care of – which prevents you from collecting that sweet final payment and them from launching their site…
Lack Of Confidence & Unrealistic Expectations
The barrier to entry for web designers is almost non-existent which is great for people getting started. But most agencies that really know what they’re doing have run into clients that have had bad (or even terrible) experiences in the past that have put them off of working with other companies.
This is the cause of a poorly defined scope of work.
And the end result is scope creep. This is one of the scenarios where I’ve actually had to fire a client in the past. Sometimes it’s just not possible to know that the client will keep asking for more and changing their expectations so you need to have a process in place for when this inevitably does happen.
Most Atarim users, include a clause in their client contracts that states any work that wasn’t included in the original scope of work will be billed at a set hourly rate and tracked using Atarim’s built-in time tracking functionality.
Not only is this important to do to maintain your agency’s proiftability but including this in your contract also shows clients you are a true professional with boundaries that they are going to need to respect which will lead to a much better/healthier relationship in the long-term…
How Frequently Do Agencies Usually Fire Clients?
Based on the agencies we’ve surveyed most have only ever been faced with a situation where the only logical solution was to let the client go between two and three times.
Every client relationship problem is a communication problem.
All of the agency owners we surveyed for this post said that they always try toget through to the client with better communication before making the decision to fire them and also believe that the reason the relationship led to this place was due to the lack of communication from the very start.
How To Fire A Client – 3 Ways To End A Client Relationship
- Level With Them As A Business Owner
At the end of the day, even the clients that seem to care the least about you still understand that you’re running a business. So if yo’re able to present to them in a completely objective way that it’s just become unsustainable for you to continue working with them – they are very likely to understand & level with you.
When doing this, one of two things will happen.
- They’ll accept that you want to move on and allow you do do so in good faith (rather than in spite, which is what we’re trying to avoid here).
- Or, they’ll offer to change the way they work with you or finally start adhering to your preferred web design process which can end up turning them into one of your favorite clients.
After all, more than even people understand that mental health always comes first. If you objectively convey why a client has been affecting your happiness as an agency owner – obviously without explicitly stating this – the chances they won’t understand are really low. And in the event that they don’t, this is even more of a reason to bring the client relationship to an end now because you can’t truly focus on growing your agency when you have even a single negative client holding you back. You end up losing more than just the amount of money they’re paying you because your business will lack the positive energy that is necessary for growth…
State that a new personal situation might prevent you from giving the client your fullest attention. Caring for their business, you prefer to recommend someone else to take over.
I’ve found that when using this approach, clients are very understanding and open to you moving on while retaining a positive attitude towards you and your business.
- Accept (Partial) Responsibility
If you try to blame the client entirely for making it impossible for you to do great work, then this is almost guaranteed to annoy them and get them to talk bad about you – both of which are exactly what we’re trying to prevent at all costs…
Accepting responsibility comes in a number of different forms. For example, if the tension in a client relationship is caused by scope creep, one way of approaching this would be simply by coming clean that their demands aren’t requests you’d be able to accommodate at this time. You may be worried to let them down, but dragging projects on longer is a massive waste of time for everyone involved and will only make the situation worse when they eventually figure out that you aren’t going to be able to handle building their website from start to finish…
- Account For Difficult Clients In Your Process
I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of firing clients, but that’s mainly because in the years of running my agency – I have insofar only once had to fire a client because in this scenario they were making a ton of bad decisions making us look bad.
This is something that I just wasn’t able to account for in our process, but in a web design agency, you can basically account for every type of client. As long as you know how to deal with the requests that come your way and have a way of communicating with clients that are make their requests unclear (such as Atarim), you can make it work.
Try not to give up on clients, because this should really be a last resort.
And that’s where accounting for difficult clients in your process comes in, because once you’ve accounted for them from the start – you’ll know how to tell if a client isn’t a good fit for your agency is they aren’t willing to accustom to your process & how you want to communicate with them. At that point, they’ll already know that they either have to work your way or go through the hassle of finding someone else that they trust & want to work with…
How To Avoid Clients Leaving Annoyed
- Never blame or saying anything that could be misconstrued and offend the client.
- Don’t fire them without bringing their project to a suitable place or identifying recommended next steps first.
- Schedule a call with them to talk to them about your decision to stop working with them, don’t just send them an email and block them – because that is a guaranteed way to annoy them. Make it clear that you’ll still be at their disposal to help with a formal hand-over of all credentials, etc…
As Clifford Almeida of My Web Audit put it so clearly – we know that all clients just aren’t as profitable as others which means we’re simply incapable of helping all clients achieve the same results. If your goal is to help clients, sometimes the only right way forward is to move on and bring a client engagement to an end.
You can’t be the agency for everyone.
The sooner you discover what your ideal client looks like and focus on only working with businesses that match the profile of your ideal client, the faster you can grow. And best of all, the sooner you won’t have to do work you’re unfamiliar with every single time you start a new project.
Letting a client go can be difficult. Clifford fired his biggest client back in 2015. At a point where they had already generated hundreds of thousands of dollars from them, they still wanted everything yesterday and were on rates that had been grandfathered. Clifford’s agency decided that as difficult as it would be, they knew their value and no longer wanted to work under pressure just for money. So – they gave them a notice period and slowly transitioned out.
If you’re honestly able to do great work, you should really only work with clients that actually value what you bring to the table. After firing that client in 2015, Clifford’s agency, Hireawiz Web Design, had a record-breaking 2016 because firing that client saved them time that they were able to use to find better clients, level up their team and better serve existing clients. Even as your agency grows to the size of Hireawiz, although it is rare, this is something that you will continue to come across – as they did just last month even though they boast a retention rate of over 95%.
Do your best to serve your clients to the best of your ability as a strategic partner and the moment you can’t, refer to this post and consider whether it’s time to move on because you’re no longer at the stage where helping them makes sense.