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How to Fire a Client (The Right Way)

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.

There are certain situations when firing a client makes more sense than sticking with them. So, in this guide, we’re going to take a look at some situations where you should consider firing a client, others where you shouldn’t, and review some tips about how to fire a client. 

Let’s get started!

When You Should Consider Firing a Client

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.

But, in some cases, there’s just no other option left. Here are some situations where you should consider firing a client. 

Unrealistic Expectations

When you first start working with a client, it’s important to set the record straight for what both parties expect to gain out of the transaction. For instance, your client may require a new website, but have you discussed the number of pages or the turnaround time?

Unrealistic expectations can cause serious issues, and it’s important that you talk to the client and let them know about your delivery schedule and production deadlines. If the client continues to set unreasonable and unrealistic expectations, you might want to consider firing them altogether. 

Scope Creep

Scope creep is a serious problem that affects many contracts. This is a situation where a client wants something else but continues to add more requirements, all while paying the same amount.

This can lead to disagreements and miscommunication, and it’s just not worth the trouble. If the client can’t stick to the original scope of the project, you should absolutely consider dropping them. 

Insulting And/Or Aggressive Behavior

This one’s a no-brainer: as a true professional, you simply shouldn’t do business with people who throw insults or exhibit aggressive behavior. It shouldn’t be tolerated at all, and it’s a wise idea to drop such clients at the earliest. 

Late Payments

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 to be done instead of being able to see in a single place that all of their requests have been taken care of

Client’s Constant Dissatisfaction With Your Work

This one ties in with unrealistic expectations, but in some cases, it’s likely that you and the client might just not be able to hit it off. 

If you feel that no matter what you do, the client is dissatisfied with your work, you should consider firing them eventually. Your efforts would be better spent elsewhere, and it’s best not to waste each other’s time.

More importantly, if you know that the client is constantly dissatisfied, despite your best efforts, it’s likely that they’re looking for something other than what you can offer. In such cases, firing the client is the best idea. 

When NOT to Fire a Client

But, not all situations warrant a client firing. Here are just some situations where you should consider sticking with the client instead. 

Bad Communication

Lack of client communication is no reason to fire them. 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.

healthy client agency communication with Atarim

Atarim makes it easy to collaborate with clients as it allows them to pinpoint what work they want to be done, and leave comments on elements on the screen. This makes it easy for clients to collaborate with developers, all through a centralized platform. 

Stress

If you’re thinking about firing a client due to elevated stress levels, you might want to consider other alternatives first. For instance, you can ask them for an extension on the deadline. 

Or, you can consider outsourcing the work instead. Unless you feel that you’re completely not in the right state of mind to continue your work, it’s generally not a wise move to cancel the contract.

Poorly Structured Contract

Poorly structured contracts are a problem, but they can be fixed. If you feel that there’s something in the contract that leaves you with more exposure or anything you want to change, the best course of action is to contact your client.

Discuss your concerns with them, and if things are going smoothly, there should be no reason why a change in the terms of your contract isn’t possible. This is hardly a reason to cancel the work altogether!

How To Fire a Client Nicely (3 Simple Steps)

But how do you fire a client the right way? Here are three simple steps to consider. 

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 you’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. 

  1. They’ll accept that you want to move on and allow you to do so in good faith (rather than in spite, which is what we’re trying to avoid here). 
  2. 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 ever 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 about letting 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 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 if 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 their 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 say 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.

Conclusion — Firing a Client Can Make You or Break You

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. 

In some cases, firing a larger client could disrupt your business plans, and affect your revenue projects. But, in other situations, getting rid of a troublesome client can free you up to focus on more opportunities!

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