In our previous blog post, we discussed how to avoid engaging with “problem clients”. While we can put all the fail-safes in place, we are almost certain to find ourselves saddled with that client that probably has our entire staff tearing their hair out.
And with the New Year, this may be the time to make some serious changes.
While most clients are totally awesome, and you have done all your due diligence to avoid those that may become problematic, there will still be those clients that may have you consider firing.
Types of Problem Clients
You probably know that problem clients can come in all sizes and the transgressions and problems posed include:
- Rude and/or dismissive attitude toward you and your staff members
- Constant whining and complaining about fees, even though they have demanded countless revisions outside of the contract
- Late payments or demands free work— Constant debates about pricing, invoicing and so on can be very draining.
- Never, ever pleased with the presented product
- Never meets deadlines — Putting projects in constant hold patterns
- No clear outcome vision — Doesn’t really know what he/she wants and the end product
- Generally unreasonable and overly demanding — Calls at 11 p.m.; acts like you are their dedicated employee at their beck and call
Evaluating Whether the Client Should Be Fired
You know that if you fire a client, your income will be impacted. You should also examine whether leaving that client may be unethical, for example, leaving them in a bind prior to an important presentation. The most important factor is whether it will be a breach of contract.
If you dealing with a “bad” client, but would rather not fire them for whatever reason, check out some of these ways you an address the situation:
- Discuss the problems you are seeing, and present solutions
- Raise your rates to alleviate your pain
- Offer a transition period to find a replacement
Follow the Rules
If you do have to extract yourself from a particular client, you should definitely follow some rules in handling the severance including
- Use an in-person meeting; this may be in person or a video conference call. Meeting face-to-face is important.
- Don’t let it become personal. It is a business decision.
- Be professional. Be calm. Don’t engage in anger, and no matter how heated the discussion may get, be polite and professional. You want to walk away feeling that you were the graceful one.
- Let them know what you will do next. This can include delivering all remaining, paid for work defined by the contract.
Here are three different examples and ideas for scripting the exit discussion:
No. 1 — “Shifting Focus” You let them know you will no longer be working in your field. “It has been great working with you; however, after some evaluation I have decided to pursue a new line of work. As a result, I need to focus on reshaping my client base, and unfortunately, I can no longer work with you as of <date>.
No. 2 — “Raising Rates” In this case, you should double (or more) your rates, which will almost guarantee your bad client will be priced out. “It’s been great working with you. I know when you chose us, you had other options; however, we recently achieved some great goals.
No. 3 —“Had Enough” In this scenario, you can say something along the lines of “I have realized there are some issues in terms of our working relationship, and I have concluded it is no longer a good fit. You need to have someone in your corner that shares your expectations and visions.”
Finally, you must realize that this will be a very difficult situation and you should be prepared for any number of things including anger from the client, possible threats of legal action and other such occurrences. However, if you have prepared yourself and have your contract, you will walk away satisfied with your decision.