Another of my early Periscopes touched on a very juicy topic – how to fire a client.
It’s not one of those things that any entrepreneur likes to do, but I have 7 tips on how to fire a client that will help you deal with this situation when – not if – it arises for you.
I’ve had to fire a lot of people in my life and firing is not fun – it doesn’t matter if you are the employer or the business owner who needs to say goodbye to a client.
So, how do you respectfully fire a client or severe a business relationship? Your reputation in business is so important, that when you approach one of these delicate situations you must do so with your reputation in mind.
7 Tips On How To Fire A Client
1.) Choose the right client to begin with.
Not everyone who comes along and wants to do business with you is a good fit for you. This is an especially difficult choice to make when you’re in the place in your business when you could just really use the work. If you get that feeling in your gut that this is not the client for you, listen to it. It’s a lot easier to say to someone right at the beginning that you don’t think your business is a fit for them than it is to do that 6 months later when they’ve pushed all your buttons and you need to break up with them. There should always be three wins when it comes to a business relationship – a win for the client, a win for you, and a win for the business. That means the client gets great value, you enjoy working with the client, and the business makes a profit. If those three things are not in alignment, then they are not the right client for you or your business.
2.) Communicate honestly.
Communication is important. Set expectations up front about what you can and cannot deliver. If you manage your client’s expectations upfront, the relationship starts out on the right foot. It also means that if something goes sideways down the road you can refer back to what you clearly and honestly communicated to them in the beginning.
3.) Don’t react with emotion.
If you haven’t communicated honestly and openly upfront, when things start to go sideways they tend to pile up and you become irritated by one thing after another. Eventually, all of the pressure builds up and you want to explode and read them the riot act. That is not the right way to handle the situation. Go away, get calm, and carefully think about things before you handle the situation.
4.) Plan the communication.
Think about how you want to approach the situation, the way you want to say things, and what outcome you want to create. Just doing it reactively is not how to fire a client – that will never go well. Plan the communication in advance so that you can approach the situation maturely, professionally, and with integrity.
5.) Do not do it via email.
This is not the sort of thing you do via email. Ever. You do not fire a client via email. That is not how you end a relationship. That is a cowardly way to handle the situation and you don’t use email to handle serious situations like this. You either have the conversation face-to-face, or you have the conversation over the phone. If the conversation is over the phone, you can have your talking points from step number four handy so you don’t forget what you wanted to say and how you wanted to say it.
6.) Do not burn bridges.
You never know when you might need a recommendation or when someone else will ask that client about you. Don’t leave a trail of debris behind you. End things in a mutually respectful way.
7.) Transition out of the relationship professionally.
Instead of thinking about it as “firing a client” think about it as “giving your notice to the client” because your client is essentially your employer. Set a date for when the working relationship will end, offer to hand off the client’s work to the person they find to replace you so the transition is as seamless as possible. When you wrap up a working relationship with someone you want to leave it as clean, tidy, and well taken care of as possible. When you are firing a client have a transition plan ready before you tell them the relationship is over.
You’re a business owner; you need to behave with professionalism. Even if your client is a pain in the butt – guess what – you said yes to doing business with them in the first place.
That takes us back to step number one – you chose to do business with them, and you chose inappropriately which means you have an obligation to transition out of the relationship appropriately. If you follow step number one, you won’t have to worry about firing people because you will know when you’re bringing the right people into your business.