Feel Overworked? It’s Time To Fire Your Client!

There is no proper way on how to fire a client, but you can take strategic steps to cover yourself. When you fire your client, you want to do it in a polite way, without burning a bridge.

Recently I came across the situation of having to fire a client. In fact, I knew that I needed to fire the client for 2 months prior to firing them.

I was being bossed around with the job scope, being overworked and underpaid for the services that I provided. Side hustling is not fun when you are dealing with rude clients!

Why I Wanted To Fire My Client

The simple answer is that my client was not respecting my time. When you are operating a digital marketing agency, strategy is the key to long-term success. My clients are made aware of this in our first meeting together.

Understandably, clients want to see results fast, which is understandable, but this should be at their expense, not yours.

Defining Your Job Scope

As a preventative measure to not getting to the point of firing your client, you should make your client aware of the job scope. The job covers what you will and won’t do under the current agreement, including the communication style and timeframes that are needed to execute tasks.

The client I fired was calling me at 10:00 PM on weekends, which was outside of our job scope. We work not working on any emergency campaigns or anything of that nature. The occasional time I answered, he would ask me questions that were also not related to the job scope.

“How do I log in to my Facebook account?”, “Can we send a newsletter out tomorrow morning?”

Website Design versus Social Media

When I first signed the client, I pitched him on social media and email marketing services. It was too expensive, and we decided to just go with the website design package. Despite the client choosing the website package, I was still receiving questions that would be for other services, at “emergency” times of the night.

Now, I don’t mind going the extra mile for clients, in fact, I usually do. However, you should only go the extra mile when clients are thankful or have been long-time customers.

Being the nice guy

Scope creep is when the client adds on additional features, services, or add-ons to an existing agreement that is not authorized. 

When you are the “nice guy” or the “yes man”, you will find yourself in cases that involve scope creep. This is because clients will test their pull and as you say yes to tasks, they keep adding more and increasing their pull.

For this client, I ended doing all the graphic design and ended up being her texting buddy, receiving 1-2 text messages regarding anything “tech”, as I then became known as the “tech” guy.

“Hey Matthew, my speakers aren’t working, can I call you for 2 minutes?”. This is how it was every day. Because of my nature, I naturally offered to help everywhere  I could, and always going the extra mile. I did not charge her more the first time, and perhaps it was my fault that this whole situation happened.

Economies of scale with scope creep

You will not be able to scale your service-based business if you offer add-on services without receiving more compensation. Your time gets more limited, but your income stays the same, which prohibits you from hiring new employees and growing the business.

I let this situation get to this point because I didn’t know how to fire a client and the thought of it was scary. I ended up getting busier with more clients and didn’t have enough time or energy to continue on this path.

The relationship kept going for another month until it got out of hand, where I had to step in and learn how to fire a client the hard way. I am writing this so that you don’t have to learn the hard way and can know how to fire a client without burning a bridge.

How to know when to stick with the client

In any scenario, you will have the work itself and the client. Don’t get caught in a stressful environment without recognizing what is causing the stress.

In many scenarios, it may be that the work is difficult and requires a large learning curve. When that is the case, it is best to stick with the client although the rate may not be what you’re looking for, due to the time you are putting into learn. This will set you up for success when you get another client in the same scope of work.

Consider hiring an assistant

If the work requires a large learning curve or you feel that you are not providing your client with the best work possible, then consider hiring.

Freelance marketplaces like Upwork are a great place to hire virtual assistants to help on specific projects. Additionally, you can go to niche-specific Facebook Groups and post a job there. You will receive qualified applications from both routes.

If you feel that the project is not the issue, but rather than the client, then it is time to fire the client.

firing-a-client

Firing a Client Can Come With Consequences

There can be several consequences that you wouldn’t expect from firing a client the wrong way. The obvious consequence is loss of sales and future sales from your client. However, that client could do more damage than just paying you for months to come.

Bad word-of-mouth is a lot stronger than great word-of-mouth. When someone talks bad about a service, they will usually pass that information on, even without using the service themselves. Building a great reputation takes years, destroying it takes seconds.

Is There a Proper Way To Firing a Client?

Absolutely there is! There will never be a guarantee that the client will not be upset, but the least you can do is position your relationship as a professional one.

Here are tips on how to fire a client

1. Have you really tried your best?

Before any actions towards firing a client are taken, I suggest self-reflection. Ask yourself, have you tried your best and exhausted all resources? If the answer is no, go back and try your best. Do not neglect your clients because the work is difficult. If the answer is yes, then continue to the next step.

2. Is the client losing your money or making you unmotivated?

When you feel frustrated, you can imagine bigger problems in your head. We can even create situations in our heads that haven’t even happened! Drill down to the problem, what is the root cause?

Is it because you have to take 1 extra phone call per month that is not scheduled? That is a small issue most clients will understand, and we won’t necessarily need to fire the client.

If the client is making you lose a significant amount of money and/or time,  then that is a problem we need to deal with.

3. Confirm the problem with the client

At this point, the client is most likely not aware of the issue. Schedule a meeting with the client to discuss the issue at hand. In the past, I’ve solved issues in regards to pricing, job scope, job creep, and client communications. All problems can be solved if dealt with properly!

Be confident when you speak, this will help them to understand the seriousness of the matter.

4. Offer a solution

Don’t go into the meeting guns blazing without offering a solution to fix the problem. If the client is happy, they will conform to your new rules and want to continue the working relationship. There are costs associated with spending time going to a new vendor.

There is also an emotional cost that your current client will have to face if they work with someone else. They won’t know if they like the new person and that rapport takes time.

Proposing the solution on how to fire a client

Let your client know what you are experiencing and if they understand it. Offer the solution that you feel is best.

The solution could any of the following:

  • Discussing scope creep
  • Decreasing of reporting
  • Redefining the scope of work
  • Decreasing the scope of work
  • Increasing the monthly retainer
  • Decreasing communication/support
  • Working with someone else on your team, but overseen by you
  • Terminating the working relationship for now, with the possibility to start it again later

5. Leave sufficient time

It is always best to finish your last month’s billing before ending or changing the project. More importantly, if you have mutually decided to end the contract, allow the client enough time to find a new provider. Offer them support with the transition from you to the new provider.

Remember, your goal is to leave the client happy with a seamless transition. You can still get happy client referrals from them if you fire them properly.

The Best Method on How To Fire a Client?

You may feel scared to fire a person, whether it is in person or on the phone. They are scared that the emotions will get those most of them and they will not be able to do it. If you feel this way, know that you are not alone.

My personal suggestion is to have an in-person meeting to discuss everything. However, when you are working remotely this can be difficult or expensive. If you cannot visit in person, the next best option is to schedule a phone meeting to discuss the issues and send a well-worded email.

Never fire a client via email without following up with a phone call.

First Phone Call Summary

The first phone call is to discuss the issues that have arisen and your frustrations about continuing the work agreement. You will understand how they feel about this discussion and make a decision.

If you have changed anything to make the working relationship work, send an email follow-up with the new job description, the work you’ll be performing, and the new rate.

If you have decided to part ways with the client, send an email follow-up with a summary of the call and the decision to part-ways on a date.

How To Fire a Client Email Template

Here is an email that I’ve used to fire a client in the past. I don’t recommend that you copy and paste it, but rather make it your own.

“Dear ____________________,

Thank you for your time earlier. Reflecting on our relationship, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with you for the last X months/years/etc. Despite the challenges, it has been a great working relationship and we’ve both grown our businesses tremendously.

As you know, a lot of difficulties have been coming up in my business in regards to scalability and client work. The service industry is a tough one to be in and we can only do our best!

As discussed, our last day of the working relationship will be [DD/MM/YYYY]. That does not mean I won’t still follow you and offer any suggestions where I see fit! Of course, we are going to continue to support you and your business in any way we can. Ultimately, we both grew and the needs of our services and clients pulled us in many different directions.

I had previously mentioned a few other vendors who could continue the service we provided that we could help onboard and get them set up. The 3 businesses as well as their contact information are below. Should you wish to go with them, let us know and we will help!

Once again we appreciate your business and hope to work together in a similar capacity in the future.

Best Regards,
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How To Fire a Client Summary

There is no way of firing a client that will make you feel great. As freelancers, side hustlers and service-based business owners, firing clients is often the worst part of the job.

If you are a freelancer looking to scale, read our post on The 6 Best Freelancing Secrets. Don’t forget, some clients are just going to continue being haters, know how to deal with haters as clients.

If you are debating about how to fire a client, need some help, or want to practice your script, join our Free community with Hobby Hustlers just like you!