I read a great short post by Ramon Ray titled “When To Fire Your Client. 5 Questions To Ask. From Seth Godin.”
I guess it jumped out at me because I was in the process of tying up some loose ends with a client and letting them know that I didn’t think we were a fit.
Now, I get clients only two ways – through referrals and from an interview Carol Roth did with me several years ago. I don’t advertise or do a lot of launches or much marketing, so I’m very conscious of my need to maintain a great reputation.
As a solo practitioner, a few bad stories floating around could have devastating effects on my business.
It can be helpful to dissect the situation and figure out exactly what’s not working between you and your client. Once you know what the issue is, you can decide what the right solution is.
Were they a good fit initially?
You should consider whether this client was a good fit for you in the first place, or whether you were overly optimistic (or desperate) when you agreed to work with them.
Sometimes a prospect catches me when I am celebrating a big client win. At that moment, I feel like I can conquer the world, and my judgement about whether I can work with this person may be off.
Sometimes the bank account is a little low and the thought of the ping of PayPal is irresistible.
Is this a temporary situation?
If they were a good fit and you are currently having issues, are there some outside circumstances affecting the relationship? Are you or your client going through something that is adding stress?
If this is a temporary thing, maybe it’s best to buy a little time and see if the tension clears.
If you’re having a bad day or week, don’t let that muck up your relationship with your client. Sit with the decision for a bit and see if you feel differently when a little time passes.
Can you exit gracefully?
The knee-jerk response can be to light a match, burn the bridge, and walk away like Bruce Willis at the end of a movie.
However, that’s Hollywood, and not real life.
Burning a bridge can feel amazing in the moment, but days / weeks/ months later may feel really crappy and possibly even embarrassed by your behavior. (You may want to read my post “Triggers for Bad Decision-Making.”)
What I can tell you from experience is taking the high road is the more difficult path, but you will never regret it.
Please take the time to wrap up whatever you were doing together. Even make an effort to put a bow on the deliverable. Have a polite and respectful conversation. Share whatever helpful advice you might have. Offer to connect them with someone who would be a better fit.
Note: Your nightmare client is always someone’s dream client.
If some part of this mess was your fault, own your side of the street and don’t blame shift.
The benefits of doing it this way are HUGE. And while you might repair the situation, or figure out a new way to work together, don’t count on that.
No, do your conscious uncoupling because it’s the right thing to do, and even if you’re incredibly pissed off, look at it as building future good will, saving you from a PR problem, or giving you a deposit in the karma bank.
Truthfully, you might get all three – bonus!