3 Things to Consider Before Firing a Client
I know what it’s like. I once had a client that when I saw their name in my inbox or their number on my phone, I would literally cringe. This client took up so much of my time and questioned every move that I made. They weren’t happy with anything. I knew it wasn’t my abilities, because I’m good at my work and my other clients are happy.
But this one? This one was preventing me from moving my business forward, so they had to go.
I met with my team and we decided that we would focus on a new type of client for our Technology School. It definitely wasn’t an easy decision because we knew that other people’s businesses (our clients) would be impacted.
I’m proud of how my team and I handle letting this client go. We thought about many things and developed a quick plan on how we were going to break the news.
If you’re in the situation of deciding on firing a client, I want to share with you three things to keep in mind when doing so. You have to make the right decision for your business and you may upset people. But you can keep the job done and still feel good about yourself when you consider these three things.
1. Take a look at your contract
You most likely have a contract for your work with this client. (if not, consider getting one!)
Most often, termination clauses are added to specify things like how much time you should give as notice, reasons for termination, cancellation fees, and how the cancellation needs to take place, for example, 30 days written notice.
Be sure to follow these requirements to help you avoid any problems. I typically like to do these kinds of things in writing in an email or letter, but a phone call would go a long way as well. Whatever you do, don’t fire a client in a Facebook post or message or in a comment within another platform. You may think this sounds ridiculous, but I’ve seen it happen. It’s completely disrespectful and unprofessional.
The definition of integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” And this to me, is one of the most important pieces in business.
When you’re honest with a client, you will gain their trust and respect. Now I’m not saying that you should go to the client you’re firing and say “You are a terrible client and I cringe when I see your name,” even though we may like to. Take a more professional approach and let them know that you are taking your business in a new direction or you are unable to provide them with the time that they need and deserve.
I’ve only fired a couple of clients in my years in business and one I’ve told you about one but the other was pretty much the same. This client had a great business that would help a lot of people if he could grow. On every single move, he would consult with his “tech wizard friend” (who was just simply better at using a computer than my client) and they would pick apart my work. After consulting with his friend, this one client was upset that the font wasn’t big enough on his Facebook page. Unfortunately, I had to waste too much time explaining that I have no control over the font size on Facebook. (I still shake my head thinking about how this “tech wizard” wasn’t aware of this minor detail.)
Even though that may sound like a petty thing, this type of complaint was too frequent for me to do my best in helping him. So I wrote him a professional email letting him know that I noticed he is having trouble trusting me and my skills and I think it would be best for him to work with someone else who he did trust. I let him know that he deserved a trusted advisor and I wasn’t able to be that for him for whatever reason. This client fought to keep me on board, but the damage was done in my opinion. I needed to move on and so did he.
3. Think about the impact on your client’s business
If a client isn’t right for you or your business or they don’t quite fit in with your goals, then it’s the right choice to let them go. However, there’s something you must do first. And that is to look at the impact that your decision will have on the client.
You see, your objective as stated above, is to maintain integrity at all times and letting a client go without warning or offering to assist them in the transition is not doing so with integrity.
Let me give you two examples:
One of the clients I decided to let go was a high paying client. I told you that they took up way too much of my time, would question every move I made, and after consulting with my team, we wanted to pursue clients for a different program. It absolutely made sense for me to let them go.
When I took a look at our contract, thought about how to maintain integrity and how this decision would impact their business, I decided to offer them a 30 day notice, and provide them with an Exit Manual with explanations on how to continue the work we were doing (of course, on a smaller scale) until they were able to secure a new contractor. This notice allowed them to get over the initial panic or negative feelings, and still give them time to find someone else to work with. And I maintained integrity by providing them with the same great service until the very last day. I even made time for them after our contract was terminated to answer any final questions. Of course the client was upset that I was leaving, but there was nothing I could do about that. I could only maintain integrity and offer my assistance to “lessen the blow.” And I went to sleep just fine that night knowing I did that.
On the other hand, I once had an assistant who wasn’t quite the right fit. I had some issues with her work and she seemed to be very uninterested in helping me. The quality of her work suffered greatly during the last couple of weeks of working with her. It was my intention to stop all work and have a meeting with her to discuss the issues. When I presented her with this meeting request, she quit on the spot. Was I surprised? No. But here’s the thing: She did not follow her own contract which stated 14 days notice of termination. She did not act with integrity; instead she reduced the quality of her work beforehand. She also didn’t consider the impact on my business. She quit in the middle of a project and she did it in a comment in our collaboration tool.
Am I upset about it? No. I was given the opportunity to find someone better. I learned from it. But these types of things show who people really are. And I don’t want people thinking negatively about you.
Firing a client is sometimes what we have to do in order to move our business forward and reach our own goals. And that is perfectly fine. But there is a right way to do this. Keep these three ideas in mind when letting a client go and keep moving forward!