You may be thinking: “How can I fire a client? They’re essentially my boss!” Many freelancers are still stuck in this employee mentality where they act like whoever pays them gets final say on everything.
However, when you go to work for yourself, you are the boss of the company. Keeping clients happy is very important but if it’s at the expense of your stress or the cost outweighs what they’re paying you, then there’s no reason why you have to continue working with a client.
Good reasons to fire your client
When do you know if it’s the right time to fire your client? This will be down to individual circumstances, but here are some top reasons to consider it:
Repeated missed or late payments
As a freelancer, this is unfortunately a common occurrence. If you haven’t experienced it yet, you probably will. Sadly not everyone takes freelancers as seriously as they should.
If you have a client who always pays late or ‘forgets’, it’s clear the client doesn’t respect your business much. One time might be a mistake but if it’s consistent, it’s only going to get worse and it could harm your business’s progress due to cash flow problems.
Scope creeps are those clients who regularly ask for extra work for free. It’s important to make it clear that you’ll only do the work you’re paid for. Sometimes clients won’t even realise they’re doing it.
However, this isn’t enough to stop all clients doing it. If someone keeps asking for free work and gets angry or threatens to drop you if you don’t, then cut your losses and say goodbye before it gets out of hand.
Those who refuse to sign contracts
A good client would be thrilled to see that you’ve got contracts in place because it protects their interests as well as your own. For clients who don’t want to put anything in writing, this is a good sign they aren’t planning to pay.
Good communication is key to any successful business relationship. If there’s a lack of it, the work can suffer as each side misunderstands what the other wants. This often leads to unhappy clients and stressed freelancers.
Try outlining a contract in the beginning so you’re on the same page but if it’s a case where the client is being vague or keeps changing their mind, it’s best to avoid working with them again.
You have better paying clients/work elsewhere
While this might not be your clients fault, you can still drop your lower paying clients if you know you can get better rates from others. Many freelancers who increase their prices will only do it with new clients and will eventually replace those paying lower rates (who can’t/won’t pay your new rates).
How to you fire your client
So you’ve decided to fire your client, but how do you do it? It’ll be awkward, especially if you’ve never done it before but just remember your reason for doing so and stick with your decision. Here are some ways to make the process a little smoother:
Never burn bridges
If the relationship goes sour, always make sure that you are the professional here. No matter what the client has done, remain calm, professional and polite (even if they don’t deserve it).
Retaliating can cause the client in question to become angry, intent on putting negative posts on your social media accounts or leaving bad reviews.
Whether you’re firing the client because of their behavior or because you’re looking for higher paying clients, make sure you leave in a respectful way. Leaving on good terms means get back in contact during quiet periods to ask if they’re interested in your services in the future.
Voice your concerns
If there’s a problem, for example with poor communication or missed payments, make sure you’re voicing your concerns before you drop them as a client. This gives them time to adjust their behavior and could be just the thing to help the situation. If they hear you’re dropping them out of the blue, this increases the risk of hard feelings and bad reviews.
While this isn’t a job, that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. Give your clients notice, especially if they’re relying on your work regularly to boost their business. Without you, they could see a halt to their own production and profits which isn’t a fair position to leave anyone in.
Similarly, draw clients’ attention to a notice period for yourself. Clients who work with you regularly should ideally give you about a month notice before they drop you. Otherwise you may struggle to replace that income in time.
Put things in writing
Having a phone conversation about ending your working relationship may be preferable. However, don’t just rely on that, make sure you put it in writing too for your own records and theirs. Include dates and details so that they can be referred to in the future if necessary.
Finish any outstanding work
Even if there’s bad blood between you and the client, try to finish ay outstanding work. Ideally you want to tie up any loose ends and leave in the best way possible. If you don’t, this could cause frustration from the client and negative reviews which could harm your business in the future.
Have you ever had to fire a client? What’s your main reason for wanting to cut ties with a client? Please share your thoughts in the comments.