How to Fire a Client and Not Hate the Process

Written by Vanja Maganjic


Working with people is often one of the most fulfilling feelings in the world. We’re sure that when you first started your agency, you were over the moon every time you secured a new deal. However, sometimes your luck runs out and you need to fire a problematic client. 

In order to keep your sanity and have time to focus on other projects, you’ll need to learn how to politely end a business relationship. 

In this article, we’ll explain how to identify a bad client, why you shouldn’t feel bad about firing them, and how to fire a client in a quick and painless way. 

How to identify a bad client

For starters, let’s dive into the different types of bad clients. After all, most of them are bad in more than one way. Some of them you can spot right away, while others might prove to be difficult to spot. But don’t worry, we can help you out. 

Before you start thinking of the best strategy to fire a client, think about their character and weaknesses. If they’re not great communicators, explaining your stance to them won’t get you far. 

Here are examples of the most common bad clients you might run across. 

The one that doesn’t respect your time

This might be the most common type of a bad client. They don’t necessarily understand the difference between hiring an employee and an agency or company. They think that you should be available to them all the time – during work hours as well as before, after and everything in between. 

Not only do they expect you to work on their projects every waking hour (as if you don’t have other clients), but they also tend to forget to inform you of any changes they want to be implemented. If you’re running a digital marketing agency you know exactly who we’re talking about. 

They’ll ask for a new marketing campaign and as soon as you create one, they’ll say how instead of focusing on Instagram and Facebook, they want you to zero in on TikTok. 

Unfortunately, this type of person is also always suspiciously late on sending any materials, approving your sent work, or generally holding up to their deal of the bargain. That brings us to the next type of a bad client. 

The one that is always late with payments

No matter how many times you remind them of their unpaid invoices, they confidently state that they will sort them out as soon as possible. Except for the fact that this never happens. This might be a tricky client to identify before you start working with them. 

There really is no rule on who will be late with their payments, because it happens with the big companies just as much as it does with small businesses. 

All you can do is stop working on the project until they pay off all their dues. That will either set them straight or snowball into terminating the contract. 

The one that has too many people in their ear

You will often work with clients that don’t have any type of knowledge of your day-to-day work. There is nothing bad about a retailer not understanding how a webshop is made, as long as they understand why they need one. 

However, sometimes clients can be easily persuaded by others. When a person doesn’t know a lot about a topic, they can end up receiving a lot of information from different sources without understanding whether it can be helpful to them or not. 

You will recognize this type of a client by the late-night emails and messages about their nieces and nephews who think you should change your approach completely. For example, you could be building a webshop for higher-tier products and receive questions about Why didn’t you design it as colourful and loud as eBay?

This type of bad client relationship can be saved. Sometimes talking to them openly can change the way they communicate with you. If you show them that you’re the best person for the job based on your experience and expertise, they might ease up and stop coming to you with questions about unrelated projects. 

The one that’s all bark no bite

Of course, we don’t want any of your clients to actually bite you. In a perfect world, you would only have clients who are great communicators, know exactly what they want and have reasonable expectations of you. 

Unfortunately, sometimes you end up working with clients who are, for a lack of a better word – bullies. They like to push people around and blame others for their own shortcomings. This type of client will drive your employees crazy and leave them burnt out. 

Although a client like this is using every chance they get to trash you, your company, and your team, they still won’t leave on their own. A client that is all bark and no bite will stick around until you fire them. This may be because they are self-aware enough to know that no one wants to work with them. Whatever the case might be, this type of client relationship can not be saved. 

The benefits of firing a bad client

Before we ask you to reevaluate the situation and think about whether you should go ahead with your plan, let’s look at the benefits of firing bad clients. 

They’re affecting your mental health

The work we do seeps into every other aspect of our life. It affects how we behave in family settings, amongst friends, and more. 

Bad clients tend to put us in a permanent bad mood and that mirrors itself in all of our actions. Being in a state of constant stress is bad not just for the people that surround you, but also for your health. 

Stress can age you and cause a number of ailments, but it can also make you hate your job and cause you to wake up with a pit in your stomach. 

That’s why it’s important to sever those client relationships sooner, rather than later. 

They’re leading to employee burnout

Bad clients don’t affect just you, but your whole team. One bad client can lead to your employees coming to work stressed out, making mistakes, and resenting not just the client, but you as well. 

Research shows that nearly 60% of workers experience negative impacts of work-related stress. If there is anything you could do to help prevent such an experience for your team members, you should. 

Of course, you won’t be able to surround yourself with ideal clients, but as long as you know that no one is bullying your employees and making them think about changing jobs or even careers, you can rest easy. 

They cost you money

Although the first thing that might come to your mind when thinking about firing a client is losing money, we’re ready to combat that argument by saying that staying in a bad business relationship will cost you as well. 

As we’ve already mentioned, bad clients have a tendency to be late with their payments, which can affect your cash flow. When you can’t depend on regular monthly income, you start taking on clients you wouldn’t take on in normal circumstances, expanding the pool of bad clients. 

Moreover, bad clients that monopolize your time, actively prevent you from working on other projects or even sticking to deadlines on the ones that are in progress. This prevents you from growing your business and puts a strain on your other client relationships. 

A bad client can also be damaging to your reputation. If they don’t listen to you and go rogue on your work, it might come across like you’ve done a bad job. This could impact how other potential clients perceive your company. 

All in all, you can see why working with bad clients is worse than firing them. 

Evaluate whether it’s a good time to lose a client

Before you go ahead and sever the business relationship with a client, make sure that it’s absolutely necessary. 

There are three situations in which you shouldn’t fire a client

  • If you depend on them financially
  • When you know it will lead to a breach of contract
  • If it leaves your client without a replacement

When you’re in a situation where you’re not able to fire a client, whether because you depend on their payment or because you don’t want to leave your client stranded, you can still slowly start working on your exit plan. 

Make sure to actively look for new clients and projects while finishing up the current ones. Even if you don’t find a new client right away, the search for one will give you hope and invigorate you to quickly finish up your work. 

Firing a client can be stressful, but our guide will help you at every step of the way. 

The guide to firing a bad client

The most important thing you need to do when thinking about firing a client is to prepare. You need to think about the best strategy, how to avoid any potential problems and what to say if they bring up certain issues. 

Because of all these issues, when creating this article, we’ve decided to focus on two of the least confrontational ways you can fire the client. With these strategies, you don’t have to explain yourself too much, which is a huge plus. 

Before we jump into the guide, make sure to think about their communication style, it will help you decide on which direction to take. 

Fire them without firing them

You don’t actually need to use the words – I don’t want to work with you anymore. All you need to do is tell them that you’re raising your prices. Make sure to give them an offer they can’t help but refuse. 

They won’t have any ground to fight you on, leading you to easily fire a bad client. If you want to be safe, prepare answers to these questions:

  • Will I have to pay more for the last month of your work?
  • Can you recommend someone for the job?
  • Will you give us access to all your previous work and materials?

Make sure to mention the terms and agreements of your deal and what you’re willing to do in order to help them transition to a new service provider. If you’ve previously agreed to a grace period, keep your promise and don’t try to lengthen the firing process by refusing to stick to your part of the deal. 

Tell them you’re changing directions

Another great tactic is to tell your bad client that you’re shifting focus to different types of industries and lines of work. Politely thank them for a great partnership and explain that you will no longer be taking clients who are a part of their industry or need similar services. 

For example, if you’re running a marketing agency and your bad client needed you to work on their social media, let them know that you will be focusing more on PR in the future and that you will no longer be a great fit for them. 

If the situation is right, you can even rely on the old cliché – it’s not you, it’s me. Tell them that they deserve someone who’s passionate about the type of work they need done and include a few recommendations. 

No client will respond to this by saying – I don’t care, I’ll keep paying you even if your work is bad. This is what makes this strategy so great. 

Conclusion

The best part of being a business owner is the fact that you can choose who you want to work with. This includes your employees as well as clients. Once you surround yourself with great people who respect you and know how to communicate their needs and wants, you’ll love going to work and finishing projects. 

Once you fire the bad clients and start looking for new ones, you’ll need reliable proposal software that can help you seal the deal. Make sure to try out Better Proposals with our 2-week free trial and experience the ease of making new business deals. 

About Vanja Maganjic

Vanja Maganjić is an experienced writer with a unique passion for creating content that helps brands connect with their customers. She believes in brands that stand up to the man and thinks that storytelling is an essential part of what makes us human. Her long term goal is to become the cool auntie that gives out family-sized Kit Kats on Halloween.
Categories: Sales Tips