I once had a client - I'll call her Becky - who had a penchant for long, drawn-out phone calls and email exchanges that frequently got in the way of my doing actual work. I tried all sorts of mitigation strategies, but at a certain point it became clear that my income from her business was far outweighed by the opportunity cost of doing business with her. It was time to let her go.
Have you ever had to "fire" a client? What was the final straw, and how did you finesse the end of your business relationship?
Yes, I have and it hurts. But sometimes it is best for the business to remove the clients that tend to overreach and stress you out as it can make room for an amazing client.
I had one client who used to call me at 10:30pm at night and 5:30am. She never honored the boundaries, (unfortunately I gave her my cell phone number) and she would always completely make a mess of the file, despite my educating her on how to work in it (this is back in the desktop days). Always demanded in person meetings. I actually really liked her as a person, but could not work with her.
She was a client for years (right up to moving to QBO) . I had to pull the trigger as it was never a good fit. When we finally parted ways, she refused to take me off of the file “in case she needed me in the future”. This was back before we could remove them. I had to contact the Diamond team at Intuit to remove her. I had to block her from my phone because she would still call me after we parted ways. I wish her well and hope the new bookkeeper is a better fit.
Wow, thanks for that story, @lynda. It really sucks when you genuinely like the person and have built up a relationship over years, only to realize that despite your best efforts it is definitely not a "good fit."
Even if it's not a difficult decision - you know you're doing the right thing for your business - that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't an emotional one.
@JenPM, @Anonymous, @Anonymous - do you have any stories to share?
When I started to think of needing to change up my clients as needing to "fire" a client, it really changed my business. At the time I was kind of letting clients walk all over me. I didn't have any established protocols of my own and was still feeling like very much a novice in the field. Realizing that I could fire a client meant also realizing that I had power! That I wasn't an employee, but an owner of a service! It gave me the change in mind-set I needed.
Flash forward to now and I still use that language to ensure I am in the right head-space when thinking about things and then when discussing next steps with a client that isn't right. I also use the idea that a client needs to be 'released' ... basically to go on to someone that is better for them.
@Anonymous, I love the idea of "releasing" or "letting go" a client who might not be a good fit for you so you can both move on to more successful professional relationships.
You also bring up a really good point about mindset. Self-employment offers the opportunity to choose the people we prefer to work with, and that is very empowering. On the other hand, that power can be difficult to leverage for those who are just starting out. For me, it was a big deal to reach the point in my career where I wasn't afraid to turn down work, knowing that there would be another client or project not far down the road.
I guess what I'm saying is, it's one thing to get to that place in your business journey; it's another thing to feel comfortable there!
"What are some proven and professional methods to disengage with [difficult] clients?? My business is growing and I would like to focus on the great clients and find more of them! It's no longer necessary to accept late payments, or the "I'm so busy" line as to why the client isn't holding up their end of the engagement. I don't mind cutting clients loose, but I would like to do it in a manner that is professional and will protect me as well!"
Good morning Emily,
the letter is not 'my own'. It was shared by a colleague/peer in a FB group. I don't want to claim credits for it.
Yes! Some clients get in the way of ]their own progress because of their mindset. If they do not believe they can succeed, are perpetual negative even when good things happen, or are harboring anger no coaching or product will help. Success starts in the mind.