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๐—ง๐—ผ ๐— ๐—ผ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ ๐—™๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐˜„๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฑ, ๐—™๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ฎ ๐—–๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

โ€œToxic business relationships can suck the life out of your company and prevent growth.โ€ โ€“ John White

To cross monkey bars, to move forward, first you have to let go.

The same is true with a bad client โ€“ you may feel like you have to hang on, but really, youโ€™ll stagnate, fatigue, and eventually fall.

๐—ช๐—ต๐˜† ๐˜„๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—น๐—ฑ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐—™๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ฎ ๐—–๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜?

Firing a client can be part of recognizing the worth of your business. Youโ€™ve clarified you growth plan, and a disruptive client can upset those goals as well as your team, attention, and resources.

You want to be sure to determine your limits and then that the client has clearly crossed the line. Here are some considerations.


ยท Acts morally or ethically challenging (from dishonest to harassing)

ยท Behaves in ways leading to disruption and even stress

ยท Ignores your expertise or argumentative instead of collaborative

ยท Overall, severely impacts your vision and plans


ยท Pays egregiously late

ยท Argues over fees already agreed

ยท Expects work well beyond scope

ยท Overall, makes you spend more time on billing than actual work


ยท Micromanages your efforts which disrupts process and costs time

ยท Acts indecisively (e.g. asking for more work rather than decide)

ยท Communicates poorly or refuse to deliver what's needed from them

ยท Overall, makes demands which can never be satisfied

If there is a problem, first directly lay out the challenge, the impact on your business and the consequences, such as increased costs or termination. Sometimes, people really donโ€™t understand their impact and this approach may alleviate the situation.

Ultimately, if a client is more disruptive than valuable, then you need to act. The next post will cover how to fire a client.

๐—›๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—™๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ฎ ๐—–๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ฆ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—ผ๐˜๐—ต๐—น๐˜†

Once you know firing the client is the right move, you want to treat them with respect and to be mindful of your reputation. Consider these steps:

ยท Review agreements to know the formal terms ยท Ensure the timing is right (e.g. not right before a major deliverable) ยท Make a call or video chat, then follow up with a formal email ยท Stay calm, rational, and respectful and find the right time (e.g. not before a board meeting) ยท Offer objective reasons (e.g. over the last 6 months, weโ€™re actually losing money on your account) ยท Resist escalation if the client gets angry, instead focus on next steps ยท Suggest a replacement really helps (e.g. if you know a business that works better with that type of client) ยท Finish any outstanding work and leave transition notes if needed ยท Reach all parties soon to cover transition (donโ€™t assume the main contact relayed the message precisely) These steps cover your bases and treat the outgoing client with professionalism while reaching your desired outcome.

๐—›๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—”๐˜ƒ๐—ผ๐—ถ๐—ฑ ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—›๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—”๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป

Dealing with a toxic client and then having to fore them are both exhausting experiences. Now, channel your learning and emotions to improve your engagement process and to avoid a repeat.

ยท Qualify better. Screen out clients who will not be a good fit. For instance, if you have net 30 payment terms and theyโ€™re fighting for net 90, thatโ€™s a bad sign. Definitely check references.

ยท Set expectations. Ask tough questions around deliverables and record those responses. If a client canโ€™t define success before starting, they may be more likely to challenge your progress later.

ยท Test them. If you will need responsiveness to complete a project, demand some basic information up front. Their response now reveals how it will be working together later.

ยท Revise pricing. If you offer a project rate or retainer, include examples of exceptions (such as fast turnaround or meetings outside normal business hours) where extra demands warrant extra fees.

ยท Review lead sources. If many bad clients originate from the same channels, you know what to do.

Also, beware of long-term promises without short-term commitment. Value flowing in one direction is a bad signal.

Itโ€™s incredibly hard to let go of a client. However, consider the future and realize the cost of time, money, and headaches with a disruptive client.

๐™’๐™๐™š๐™ฃ ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช ๐™›๐™ค๐™˜๐™ช๐™จ ๐™ค๐™ฃ ๐™ซ๐™–๐™ก๐™ช๐™š, ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช ๐’˜๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐™›๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™ž๐™ฉ ๐™›๐™–๐™จ๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ง.


Photo by madsmith33 who can be found here:

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