Whether you're a small business owner, project manager, or freelancer, deciding to fire a client is never easy or pleasant. Numerous factors may have contributed to this challenging choice, and you might have persevered despite red flags due to financial incentives or an initial liking for the client. However, when the relationship becomes strained and no longer serves the best interests of all parties, it's time to take action.
Collaborations and associations with other businesses can undoubtedly benefit your brand. Still, no amount of money is worth the toll on your team's well-being and happiness when a partnership isn't working out. In this article, we'll guide you through recognizing the signs that indicate it's appropriate to terminate a relationship with a client. We'll also provide insights on how to handle it professionally and minimize any potential damage.
Deciding to end a relationship with a client never happens in an instant. It’s usually a result of several events and occurrences that one or both parties find unfavorable until there’s no other recourse except to fire the client. If you ever find yourself in the same plight, you might wonder which actions to take and how you should end client contracts.
Below are some of the reasons you may consider before you part ways with your client and a few tips on how to fire a client that you may find useful. It’s important to take your time and think things over carefully before finally terminating client agreements.
Respect in the workplace is very important as a solid foundation for any cooperation. When there is respect between client and company, there is much room for innovation, a wealth of motivation, and a sense of drive to accomplish anything. Keep in mind that respect goes both ways. If you start noticing your client second-guessing your decisions, undermining your work, or treating you and your team like underlings, it’s time to make a stand. Showing late or unprepared for a meeting, shooting down your ideas, or taking too long to reply to your queries are some of the actions that you need to look out for.
The same goes for when you find yourself losing respect for your client. When you catch yourself making fun of them, intentionally pushing aside work for them, or just lacking the urge to talk to them or see them, you might be slipping. Remember that your team sees you and what you do and takes all of them at face value. If you don’t want to start a breeding ground for bullying, rudeness, and overall unhealthy work culture, nip it in the bud and address your issues with the lack of client trust and respect.
Some people have trouble when it comes to boundaries, especially in the workplace. For example, one designated task can lead to another and then one more until you find yourself overworked and underpaid, feeling like you want to crawl underneath your desk and hide from your overpacked to-do list. This is why you must make your stipulations and set your boundaries early on to minimize the chances of overstepping, leading you to want to fire a client.
Setting boundaries is extremely important for freelancers, especially when you’re working remotely. Clients may have the idea that they can call you anytime or ask you to work even on a Saturday when you would most like to rest instead. As a freelancer, you’re a business-owner and you should be assertive enough to set limits to what should be asked of you by a client. If your client refuses to acknowledge these, cut your losses.
Some clients may think it’s fine to demand meetings at the last minute or extend your work hours beyond the usual. Although this may not be considered a major offense, it can be an inconvenience when you have a lot of things going on at one time, and you’re working towards meeting a deadline. Boundaries should also be set when it comes to the overall project scope and the amount of work that’s expected of your team. If you don’t work on weekends, mark it and let your client know, and if they continue to push your limits, get together with your team and decide if client boundaries are unreasonable and the client relationship should be ended.
No one likes to be micromanaged, but at the same time, we’d all like some direction, client feedback, and reviews to serve as a direction for how we’re doing. It’s good to check in with them from time to time to make sure you’re on track with the deadline and goal, as well as to minimize the chances of major changes halfway through the campaign.
Your client may go radio-silent here and there, but they should always be contactable when needed. If they happen not to be the watchful, breathing-down-your-neck type, set touch-base sessions during your project setup meetings so you can both plan for these. You don’t want your clients to go missing on you and end up surprising them with a letter to fire a client.
Manage client communication issues by choosing a communication channel or mode that they also favor. Some people prefer email, while some appreciate some face time, even though it may be virtual. Make allowances for these and get yourself software that will make keeping in touch with your clients smooth, efficient, and clear. Should they still prove to be difficult to reach at times, think about whether or not you have to fire a client.
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It’s a cliché, but some clients like to think they know everything because they’ve had experience in financing, managing, and negotiating on projects. However, they’re coming to you, and you’ve agreed to work together on a project. There has to be a give and take. Questions, concerns, and recommendations should flow in a continuous, circular manner, 360°. Failing in this regard will make all manner of interaction useless and unproductive.
Each interaction with your client has to have a purpose – an issue or a concern needs to be addressed and sorted out. When your meetings with your client often go around in circles, and you notice that your client refuses to listen, you must consider whether they are worth your time and effort. Perhaps you’ll get better results with other patrons or customers instead.
Signing a new client and starting a new project can always be highly exciting but like any other relationship, the one you share with your client can cool down over time as well. Like it or not, you will sometimes find something that ticks you off or rubs you the wrong way. People can sometimes lose their hold on their tempers or reach the end of their patience, and it’s only a matter of time until you find yourself disliking your client and vice versa.
No one likes being mean, especially being intentionally mean. So, when you catch a behavior that you don’t like, call it out right away. Let your clients know that they can do the same as well. If they persist in being rude, unkind, or callous, construct your letter to fire a client based on the failure of the client relationship.
Client expectations, as well as goals and targets along with deadlines, are outlined in the project agreement before any work even gets done. These expectations may be dependent on the set budget and time allowance, as well as the overall project scope. However hard one might try, clients sometimes forget these arrangements and make demands outside the budget, your time, or the project scope.
Another cue for you to fire clients is when they start making unreasonable demands. Phone calls at all hours, demanding for work to be rushed and finished well before the set deadline, or making acquisitions that go over the budget are some of the scenarios that should be observed closely. Call your client’s attention to these instances and ask them to avoid repeating the same behavior. You can also encourage your team to resist unreasonable demands. If your clients push back and continue with the practice, you should be empowered to take the next step.
Being late for payments, delaying the workflow, and not committing to a project plan clearly indicate that your client doesn’t value you and your work. Hence, more signs for you to fire a client. They are not afraid to show you when they dislike your recommendations, demand more of your time, or haggle on your rates in the middle of a campaign.
If you allow this to happen repeatedly, you will find your energy, motivation, and appetite for success zapped out of you and into a black hole. The same goes for your team. Learn to value yourself and the quality of work that you can produce. Make a stand with the client or move on to better client value and profitability.
8. Ending client contracts over indecision and nitpicking
When a project or campaign is underway, decisions need to be made quickly so they can be implemented immediately. If it seems like your client is unsure of what they want, how they want it, or when, it impedes the progress of your goal. Call your client’s attention right away and let them know that a sense of urgency is needed to ensure efficiency and timeliness in completing the project.
Another sign that it’s the right time to fire a client is when they start to pick apart everything you do or say, especially when those very same things were non-issues before. If it feels like they’re looking for a reason to aggravate you or get rid of you, trust your gut and fire your client.
Whether you’d like to admit it or not, business relationships always come down to the money that comes in and out. Remember that the time and effort that you and your team spend on a client should be proportional to the money they invest in you. If you cannot produce results, make decisions, or complete the project itself to yield profits, it may be time to cut ties.
In the lifespan of a project, there should be a period where you and your team will sit down to evaluate whether you’re making money or losing some. If you’re forecasted to be at a loss, you need to go back to the client and make recommendations for how things can be improved. You should be able to come to an agreement that assures mutual profitability. Otherwise, look at your options and sever ties as soon as possible.
No amount of money should be enough to make you sacrifice your company’s values, integrity, and reputation. If a project feels shoddy and looks like the client has shady dealings, it can lead you and your business in hot water, it’s better to halt a losing venture. There are other companies you can work with and clients you can partner with that will bring in the money without causing you any legal troubles.
For example, you’re a construction company, and you have a client who is developing a housing project using substandard materials. You can foresee the construction issues and legal ramifications from day one. Don’t turn a blind eye.
Terminating client agreements should be the last option. Before electing to part ways with a client, take a closer look at the reasons why you want to and honestly analyze your conduct. To take accountability for your actions, ask yourself the following questions:
Have you done everything you can to make the relationship work?
Are you being overly critical?
Have you caused any of the problems you’re facing now?
Were you straightforward with your client from the beginning?
Have you given the client enough time to readjust and correct themselves?
In the spirit of being fair, it’s only right to give your client at least one chance to correct their behavior and conduct themselves accordingly. More often than not, people perform better when they know they’re being observed. Set a review date to check that both parties are now happier and more satisfied in the partnership.
You can only do so much to repair a professional relationship with a client. After you’ve approached them with your list of their areas for improvement and nothing has changed for the better, you’re left with no other option but to fire a client. How do you do it properly? Is there even a way to do it properly? Below is a list of steps that you can follow:
Check your contractual obligations to make sure you’re legally allowed to end the engagement when you want to
Stay professional, maintain your integrity, and keep kind
Plan the flow of the conversation
Prepare your resources before your last meeting
Have “the talk” with your client
Document every interaction
Finish the project, if possible
Plan the exit and transition plan to wrap things up
Ensure proper handoff (either to the client or the new partner company)
Thank the client and give them a referral
When delivering the news, be sincere and get straight to the point. There’s no use in beating around the bush when both parties know the collaboration is going nowhere. Don’t forget to document everything and store all of your evidence properly and safely.
There are lessons to be learned after you fire a client, and one of them is that there’s always room for improvement when it comes to how you manage your relationships. Let go of any bitterness and use the fresh opportunity to review your methods, spot areas for improvement, and revamp what needs revamping.
If you haven’t yet, upgrade your client management system with Bitrix24. You’ll find everything you need to ensure your partnerships will never fail again with tools that allow you to track your project progress, communicate with clients (even multiple ones) effectively, and safely store all pertinent documents. Sign up today and enjoy the benefits of our all-in-one solution for all of your needs.
Some of the most common signs that indicate a deteriorating client relationship are:
Professionally and amicably ending a client relationship involves a deliberate process. Begin by scheduling a meeting with the client to discuss the decision, plan what you will say, and document the meeting for clarity. Use professional language, maintain a steady tone, and keep tempers in check during the conversation. List the reasons for ending the client contract, be assertive about your decision, and ask for feedback to improve your services in the future. Always conclude by expressing gratitude and thanking the client for their partnership.
The following steps should be taken to ensure a smooth transition when parting ways with a client: