When and How to Fire a Client

by tmhr consulting

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I just had a very difficult discussion with one of our development partners. He had called me because he wanted some advice and help with one of his customers. At first he was asking me to help him with this customer because he was having a very tough time trying to deal with his demeanor and demands.

When to Fire a Client

how to fire a clientI talked to him for a little while to get him to calm down so we could have a conversation. He was quite upset. I asked him to explain what was going on, a little bit of history about the project and client and why he was having such a difficult time. It turned out that he had been trying to do a few favours for the client but it seemed as though every time he tried to help them out they just wanted more from him.

First Tip: Fire a client that does not value your time nor the value you bring to a project.

So the first thing I asked him to do was send me a copy of the some of the recent emails that have gone back and forth between himself and this customer. He was asking me if I would be willing to be the go between. I don’t mind helping him out because he has done a great job for us in the past. But I do not want to take on a client that is un-reasonable.

Second Tip: Fire a client that does not or is unwilling to understand how long tasks take to complete or is constantly asking for impossible completion dates that cannot be met.

Once I read through the email correspondence between the programmer and his customer I knew exactly what and who he was dealing with. I sent him a quick email and told him that I did not want to get involved with his customer and that he should fire that customer right away.

Third Tip: Fire a Client who does not listen or is not willing to work with you as equal partners.

How to Fire a Client

So what I did was explain to him how to fire a client. Here is what I told him:

  • You must do the firing either in person or on the phone.
  • Explain to them that this is just not a good fit between your two companies.
  • You cannot continue to work for them because of that.
  • Provide them with some alternative resources for the skill set they need.
  • You need to be positive, professional and unemotional.
  • Explain to them that you wish them luck in their endeavours and thank them for their time.
  • If they become abusive, swear or unpleasant of any kind, initially tell them that it is not appropriate and if it continues your will be forced to hang up.
  • If it continues, hang up.

Fire by Email as Last Resort

If you have to hang up, then and only then fire them by email. Use the same positive, professional and unemotional approach in your email.

You will know when it is Right

You will know almost immediately if you have done the right thing. Once you have completed the firing of the difficult client, you will notice that the large lump in the pit of your stomach is gone and you have huge sigh of relief.

I have fired a number of clients since we have been in business. It is not something I enjoy doing but sometimes it is very necessary for your well being and your company’s.

By the way I do even have one client whom I fired that still recommends me and has provided a referral since.

So have you ever had to fire a client yourself? Why? What did you do? How did it go?


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