Working with a client who doesn’t meet their end of the bargain can be frustrating. It can also have negative consequences for your business, your other clients, and your mental health. Knowing some ways to avoid these clients can help. But it’s important to know when it’s time to end a client relationship, and how to do that politely and professionally.
You may think that the only way to end a client relationship is by burning bridges and never speaking to them again. But there are much better ways to do this, and they’ll keep you from damaging your reputation as an ethical person in business. Let’s explore how to know when it’s time for this transition, and what steps should be taken so that everyone involved can have a smooth experience!
First, let’s look at the signs it’s time to say goodbye.
They don’t pay on time.
No freelancer likes to chase invoices down. Nor do we want to struggle with the cash flow. Sometimes, it just makes more sense to replace them with a new client. We can attempt to be a little flexible, but when it becomes a pattern, it won’t change.
They require a lot of handholding.
While being attentive and guiding your clients is key to a good relationship and client experience, it can go beyond the norm. If they don’t respect your work boundaries or worse, any at all, it may be time to move on. (those should be laid out in your contract, btw.)
They ask you to do things outside your skillset, or outside the scope of the project on a regular basis. Now, scope creep is a part of the freelance and solo world that’s unlikely to go away anytime soon. But much like the clients that have invoice issues from #1, if it becomes a pattern, it’s ok to put your foot down.
You’re not getting feedback or updates from them.
You have no contact with them for months at a time and then they call you up asking for something that should’ve been done weeks ago. And believe that it should be done immediately. Or when they do decide to give you the feedback you need to move the project along, it’s unconstructive and unhelpful.
They micromanage and tell you how to do your job.
They may have hired you for your expertise, but it doesn’t seem that they want to listen to your advice or recommendations. If they don’t really respect your expertise, it probably won’t change anytime soon.
So you’ve taken time to assess whether this client is just a bit of a challenge or a downright terrible client. You’ve got your ego in check, to make sure you aren’t just reacting out of frustration or anger, and you still know that it’s time to fire the client. All that’s left is the matter of doing it tactfully.
Here are some approaches to try:
You don’t ever want to burn bridges and blame the client, but this is something you should address head-on. Don’t be a jerk, don’t leave them in the lurch mid-project, and above all be polite.
1. You’re changing business directions/services
In this approach you let the client know that your business is changing directions and no longer able to provide the service for them. Give them a date far enough in advance that they’ll have time to find other options.
2. There are changes in your personal life
Similar to the above, you let the client know that changes in your personal life leave you unable to provide work for the client. Again give them a date, preferably with adequate time for them to find your replacement.
3. Changing your prices or processes
While I don’t find this method as effective as the others, but you can tell the client that because of the growth of your business the process for the delivery of the services or the price has changed. The cost of the service is double, triple, etc. the prior rate. Or the delivery terms a something far different and that won’t work for the client at hand. I mention that this isn’t the most effective method, as the client could just go along and accept your new terms.
Freelance clients can be a blessing or a curse. But a toxic client can be draining. And the decision to fire them can be taxing. Before terminating a relationship with a client, consider how they affect your business, the quality of your work with other clients, and life outside of work before coming up with a plan for termination. If all else fails, try one of these 3 strategies to end a client relationship politely!
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