There is lots of material out there written about how to maintain a healthy client relationship, but very little written on when to let go of a stubborn or uncooperative client. Of course, the first thing you want to do is try and resolve any issue that might be steering you towards terminating your client relationship. However, when your client’s demands or habits go from occasionally being difficult to interfering with you or your employee’s health and wealth, it’s time to really look and see if they are a perfect fit.
So, when exactly do you fire your client? First, let me mention that life is too short to invest your time and energy in maintaining an unhealthy client relationship. In fact, doing so may be harming your business more than you can imagine. So if you find yourself in any of the following five situations, it’s time to fire your client.
- If your client has unrealistic expectations
One of the ways to keep your clients happy and measure your success is by setting realistic expectations. Make sure that you are being very clear at the beginning, during and after projects and service on what the expectations are. This will help prevent this situation from happening in most cases. Now, if your client has unrealistic demands, take a moment and think about them before you promise things that you just can’t possibly deliver. Doing so will damage your credibility and disappoint your client when it’s time to deliver the goods and services.
So if your client tries to bully you into committing to goals that are just not possible to achieve such as unrealistic results, budget or deadlines, do not give in. In this situation, chances are you will always end up on the losing end because they will be problematic to keep.
Additionally, they will be constantly unsatisfied and will keep pressuring you to meet unrealistic demands, and will eventually drain your resources. You need to reserve your best for respectful, patient and positive clients that come your way.
- If your client doesn’t listen to or value your professional opinion.
This can be tricky especially if you are in a consulting business where you are paid to offer advice and strategies. Sometimes you encounter situations where you know what it takes for a certain project to be successful, but your client insists that you do it their way.
Of course, you will first try to explain to them the consequences of their methods and give them a chance to change their mind. If your professional advice hits the rock, do not accept or stick with a project that you know is destined to fail because the client is unwilling to change. Their refusal to change will only serve to associate you with a failing project, have you blamed, and it might even get you fired; if you are not the boss of course.
So if your client is not willing to take your advice and being difficult, politely decline their offer and refer them to your biggest competitor. Trust me it works; the troublesome client will keep your competitor busy as your get to work with ideal clients. 🙂
- Your clients are unresponsive and indecisive.
If a majority of your work is based on a milestone model where the client has to approve one section before you move to the next one, it might be difficult to make progress and meet your deadlines if they haven’t responded in a while. Failure to respond despite your efforts to get in touch with them is a clear red flag.
The first thing to do before you fire your client is to pause the project and let them know that you have done so until you hear from them. If you notice that this is a recurring situation from your client and is causing you to lose money, time and drag down your productivity, you should definitely consider firing them.
- The client doesn’t pay or is slow to pay
Every now and then some clients seem to “forget” that you are a business owner with bills to pay, and they think that they can get away with not paying for your goods and services. Other times, they might pay too late due to financial challenges and disorganization within their company.
Consistently failing to pay on time is the first red flag for bigger problems down the line. If this happens too often, you should arrange for a meeting, find out what is causing the delays and assess whether you should terminate the project. In my opinion, you shouldn’t stick with a client who delays payment on three consecutive dates without a genuine reason.
- The client creates scope creep
A scope creep is basically when a client changes the project details (or specifications) by adding more deliverables without agreeing with you in advance. This is the most common scenario; luckily, it’s also the easiest to solve. Like with the first situation, the first step is to re-evaluate your project contract with the client. I like to do small things and just fit them in, but they know that I’m just taking care of them. If this gets more and more, be sure to communicate about it before you get frustrated and you can work something out.
Most people will understand when you tell them that you are doing a bunch of extra work and that will need to pay for that. If they broaden the scope of the project and ask for more deliverables, explain that what they are asking for is not what you agreed upon. Offer to broaden the scope of the contract agreement for additional compensation. If they don’t agree to this, then it’s might be time to let them go.