One of the unspoken challenges of being a self-employed professional is knowing when and how to fire a client. It takes a lot to reach this point, but when it does, it is completely reasonable and understandable to decide that you are both better off not working with one another.
In this article, we will take a look at when it is necessary to fire a client, what the best practices for doing so are, and how to fire a client when their toxicity becomes too much to manage.
Table of Contents [Show]
How Do You Know When It’s Time to Fire a Client?
Sometimes, client relationships can be difficult. Perhaps it is caused by a misunderstanding or the stress of the project. However, sometimes you will encounter clients who are unreasonable and difficult to work with.
Certain strategies can help when dealing with difficult clients, but if you’ve exhausted all of them, it may be time to give up on trying to repair the relationship. Here are a few examples of situations where the client is not simply difficult but impossible to work with:
⚠️ They Are Too Demanding
Sometimes, clients are so demanding that they take away time that you could spend more productively. This can look like messaging you outside of agreed working hours, becoming irate when they are not attended to immediately, or demanding more of your time than they are willing to pay for. If the client takes more of your time than they’re worth, it may be time to cut them off.
⚠️ They Are Overly Critical
Being constantly bombarded with negative and unconstructive criticism can take a toll on your stress levels and affect your quality of work. If you encounter a client who is never happy with your work, even though you are reaching (or even exceeding) expectations, it could be healthier for everyone to go their separate ways.
⚠️ They Disrespect You
For clients who show no regard for your time, opinion, expertise, or life outside of working for them, it is time for you to walk away. A toxic client relationship can be extremely detrimental to your mental health and can cause you to question your worth. Everybody is deserving of respect, and no client is worth feeling disrespected.
⚠️ They Won’t Pay You
In your initial meeting with your client, you should lay out your rates and how often you expect to be paid. If, for example, you and your client agreed on a weekly payment, and they withhold payment without notice or reason, then you are entirely within your rights to cease your work with them either until they pay you or not at all.
⚠️ They Are Verbally Abusive
There is a difference between showing disrespect and being overly critical and being downright verbally abusive. If your client ever resorts to name-calling, swearing at you, or any other aggressive language, you should not only cease working with them but take the necessary steps to report their behavior.
Naturally, there are many other instances in which you should fire a client. The above examples are the most common, but when you encounter a client that brings more stress than benefits, and you’ve tried everything to salvage the relationship, it is time to let them go.
It is also important not to feel as if you are failing your business when deciding to fire a client. In fact, the Pareto (or 80/20) principle suggests that only 20% of your customers will generate 80% of your income. Focusing on increasing your client retention with respectful and constructive clients is much more important than trying to please those that frustrate you.
How to Fire a Client
✅ Be Honest & Direct
Don’t feel as if you need to beat around the bush when firing a client. Be honest with them about the reasons; clearly and respectfully communicate the issues that have led to the decision to end the working relationship.
✅ Provide Notice
Unless you are dealing with an abusive situation, try to give the client enough notice of your intention to terminate the relationship. This will allow them to make alternate arrangements and avoid last-minute surprises.
✅ Remain Polite & Professional
It is important to remember to remain polite and professional during your notice of termination and in any dealings afterward. Regardless of your difficulties with the client, being impolite will only damage your business’s reputation.
✅ Offer Alternatives
If you can, recommend another person in your industry to take over the work. This shows that you still care about the success of their project. However, if you think the client is not cut out for working with others, don’t recommend people unless you know they can handle difficult clients.
✅ Document the Decision
Keep a record of the decision to fire the client and the reasons behind it. This may be useful in case of any future legal disputes or complaints.
✅ Check Your Contract
Terms for termination of the work should be outlined in your proposal or contract, so be sure to take a look at what those are and what steps you should take. If you draw up your own contracts, be sure to add a section for early termination, and include that clients may not dispute your decision or take legal action against the termination as long as it is done lawfully.
An Email Template for Firing a Client
Dear [Client’s Name], I am writing to let you know that after careful consideration, I have decided to terminate our professional relationship early. This decision was not made lightly, and comes after several attempts to address the issues that have arisen during our time working together. Unfortunately, the issues we have been facing have become too great to overcome, and I believe that it is in both of our best interests to seek out alternative professional relationships. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to work with you, and I wish you all the best in all of your future endeavors. The termination of our agreement will take effect on [Insert Date]. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me. I will be happy to have a meeting to discuss this decision with you further, and I am available to chat on [Insert Available Dates & Times]. Sincerely, [Your Name]
Firing a client can be difficult, but sometimes it is necessary for your well-being and mental health. It’s important to recognize the signs that it’s time to part ways with a client and handle the termination process professionally and respectfully.
By following the best practices outlined above, you can end the relationship in a way that minimizes any negative impact on your business and reputation. Remember always to prioritize your own well-being and the health of your business.