How to Fire a Client

Feb 14, 2024 | General Musings

How to know, and how to fire, your client as a business owner.
How to know, and how to fire, your client as a business owner.

Letting go of a client is not easy, but sometimes it’s necessary for your business’s growth and your peace of mind.

Building a solid client base is essential for a steady income, so it’s always a tough decision to part ways when someone is causing you more grief than gain.

Whether you’re a business owner or freelancer, chances are you’ll experience this situation at least once in your career and can appreciate the delicacy and complexity of the process.

When it’s time to fire a client, it’s crucial to reflect on the core issues. Is it a matter of respect, misaligned values, or perhaps a continuous undermining of your expertise and contribution? These factors are often red flags and might indicate that the relationship is not sustainable in the long term.

“I did hair for about 15 years and had to fire a couple of clients in that time,” shares Trevor. “One person was perpetually late. The last straw came after I missed an event to get her in – she was extremely late and then extremely difficult. I completed the service and told her at the end this would be our last appointment moving forward because I didn’t have time in my schedule to accommodate her any further.”

Initially, it may feel easier to make the occasional exception for tardiness or missed appointments, poor communication, or last-minute requests, but ultimately these issues can impact your day and live rent free in your head.

If problems are ongoing, they’re only going to build up greater resentment and stress the longer you do nothing about it. Trust your gut.

The Final Snip: How Andrea Reclaimed Her Business by Letting Go

Doing what’s right for you is an empowering step to future growth and success. This was the case for Andrea, a skilled seamstress and owner of Fashion Your Life, who found herself in a professional relationship that was both undervaluing and over-demanding.

For two years, Andrea had worked tirelessly for a client, initially starting as a seamstress but quickly becoming a jack-of-all-trades. She took care of design and development, pattern making and grading, copywriting, editing, business assistance, trade show support, styling, modeling and more – while still managing a laundry list of her own tasks.

The work was extensive, yet the pay was very minimal – a stark contrast to the industry standards and the profits her client was reaping.

“I did not speak up because I didn’t want to admit I was living in survival mode,” Andrea confides.

Andrea’s client was well-aware of her value, often expressing fear of losing her. Yet, when some manageable mistakes were made during the client’s absence on a trip, demands escalated upon their return.

“I have no problem with taking accountability for and fixing my mistakes,” Andrea shares. “In my opinion, they were pretty minor and easy to address.”

Overwhelmed by minor errors, the client unloaded a traumatizing barrage of emotional accusations.

The situation deteriorated further when the client requested that Andrea fix the mistakes without compensation and sew additional garments for free, despite the extensive work she had already done at such a low rate. Both unreasonable and unethical demands.

Feeling manipulated and losing respect for her client, the culmination of these incidents led Andrea to a moment of realization.

She states, “It took me a few days to process what had happened. The thought of doing it made me sick and I knew I’d hate myself while doing it, so I physically couldn’t. I talked it out with several trusted friends and realized I was in trauma response. Once the freeze started to thaw, I knew I had to break up with her.”

Andrea terminated the relationship, orchestrating the return of her client’s materials through a colleague and communicating her decision through an email, setting clear boundaries for future contact.

Her advice, “Listen to your gut, pay attention to the red flags, and speak up much sooner!”

Andrea shares that parting ways with her client was one of the hardest and best things she has ever done. “My business picked up almost immediately after I did that. The energetic clearing was massive.”

Just like Trevor’s story of firing his chronically late client, Andrea’s experience highlights the importance of standing up for one’s worth.

The time and energy wasted on a red flag client is much better invested in relationships that are both respectful and mutually beneficial.

While financial compensation is important, emotional well-being and ethical treatment are paramount!

6 Tips for Breaking Up with a Client

Have you found yourself in an unhappy situation with a client and aren’t sure how to bow out?

You’re not alone. We’ve created a quick guideline to help you navigate this tough decision with professionalism and grace.

  1. Assess the Situation: Review the relationship. Consider the problems and if they’re fixable. If the issues are persistent, such as lack of respect or undervaluing your services, it may be time to move on.
  • Document Everything: Keep a record of all interactions, agreements, and incidents. This can provide clarity when making your decision and serve as a reference if any disputes arise later.
  • Communicate Clearly: When you’ve decided to part ways, do so with clear communication. Draft a professional email outlining your reasons without being emotional or personal. Keep it factual and to the point.
  • Provide Notice: If possible, give your client notice and a clear end date. This gives them time to find a replacement service and ensures you’re not leaving them in a bind.
  • Seek Legal Advice: If there are any contracts or legal ties, consult with a lawyer to ensure you’re not breaching any agreements and to protect your business.
  • Learn and Grow: Reflect on the experience. What can you learn? How can you implement better client screening processes in the future? Use this as an opportunity to refine your business practices.

Remember, your well-being and the health of your business should always come first. If a client is more of a hindrance than a help, it’s okay to let them go.

Trust your instincts, learn from the experience, and focus on clients who value what you bring to the table. The ability to turn a challenging situation around into an opportunity for growth will only set you up for success.