Yes, you can fire clients! If you’re self-employed you have the freedom to pick and choose the clients that you work with. Of course, if your finances are stretched or job prospects are few and far between, you might not be a in a position to fire clients at will, but if I client become truly unbearable, it’s nice to know that you have the freedom to show them the door.
Of course, you have to keep in mind, that if they’ve paid you to do a project, you’ll either have to finish the project before you fire them, or give them a refund. And if you fire them while they still owe you money, well it might mean you have a difficult time recovering that money.
When should you fire a client?
- They are rude/offensive/abusive/disrespectful
- They don’t respect your boundaries (eg. they continue to call you at 11pm on a Friday after you’ve asked them to contact you during office hours)
- They ask you to work for free, refuse to accept pricing increases or withhold payment
- They ask you to break the law or engage in unethical/immoral behaviour
- They otherwise breach terms of your contract
3 ways to fire a client
Increase their pricing
If you’d be prepared to tolerate a difficult client if they pay you more money, this can be a win win for both of you. You’ll be financially compensated for dealing with the difficult client, and they’ll get to keep using your services. Otherwise, increasing pricing is an easy way to get a difficult client to walk out the door without you having to ask them to.
Politely tell them you can no longer work with them and explain why (politely!)
Tell them the truth in the most professional and non-confrontational way possible. Something along the lines of “unfortunately I can no longer work with you as you have violated the terms of our contract by…”
Make up an excuse to explain why you can no longer work with them
You could tell them that you’ve changed your business model and are no longer able to provide the services that they require, you could tell them that you have to reduce your business hours for personal reasons and no longer have availability to work with them, or you could tell them that you have to take a temporary leave of absence but hope to work with them again in the future. I generally don’t condone telling clients lies, but this kind of softly-softly approach can be beneficial if you don’t have the courage to tell them the real reason you don’t want to work with them, or if you want to keep the door open in case you want or need to work with them in the future, or if you’re worried about the negative backlash that might arise if you’re truthful with them.
NEVER be rude when firing a client
While it might be tempting to lash out at your client and tell them what you really think of them, it’s never a good idea, because you never know what kind of negative consequences your outburst will have. Your client will likely tell his networks what happened (completely skewed so that they sounds completely innocent) and you might lose clients (or future clients) as a result. You might find yourself wanting to work with the company again in future (because for example the client has left the organisation) so you don’t want to burn your bridges.