Should You Ever Fire a Client?

Our last blog talked about having successful client relationships - but what about when that does not happen?

I was talking to a good friend of mine who has his own PR business.  He was telling me about a client who hired him for his years of expertise.  He told me the client rarely takes his advice, despite his proven track record.  The client insists on doing things their way, and when it fails, my friend is the one at fault.  

I said to him, "Give me an example."  My friend proceeded to explain that the company had a great opportunity for some publicity recently.  He came up with a great angle to pitch the story to the media, wrote an awesome press release (which he shared with me - it was awesome) and the client said they wanted it re-written and to take on a different angle, one which was more of a promotional angle (which never works with reporters).  My friend explained to the client that this would most likely not be effective and why.  The client still insisted on doing it their way.  Well, you can probably guess what happened - none of the local media picked up the story or even bit.

He went on to tell me the client is always past due on their invoice, constantly changes their mind on what is a priority and does not respect his scheduleEverything is urgent and when he jumps to do it and gets it done, the client waits to move forward on it.  One week the client says how great of a job my friend is doing and the next week the client is disrespectful and condescending.  All-in-all a rather frustrating experience for my friend that takes a lot of his energy and confidence, and is demoralizing.  My friend continues to tell me this client has his bargain basement rate.

I asked my friend, "Have you tried talking to your client to express your concerns respectfully?"  He said he has a couple of times, if it is received well, things may change for a week; if it is not received well, he'll get ignored for a week or two from the client.

When I asked my friend why he keeps them as a client, he tells me he needs the steady (but often late) paycheck.   I sympathized.  I once had  exactly one of those clients.  I came home from the office every night after working with the client all day and belly-ached to my husband about the client.  Probably three hours a week was spent doing this.  I couldn't sleep at night - sometimes waking up in the middle of the night trying to figure out how to "fix" the situation, wasting more of my valuable time.  It stripped me of my confidence, exhausted me, ruined my morale and literally prevented me from growing my business.  I too, needed the steady pay check from this client, but when I realized what it was costing my business, I took the leap and gave my client notice.  I've never looked back, as my business continues to grow.  That was more than two and a half years ago.

Does anyone have advice in this matter?  I've done some research and found some interesting articles on this:

http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/small-business-entrepreneurs/2008/10/24/you-dont-need-the-aggravation-when-to-fire-a-client.html
http://www.ehow.com/how_2242303_fire-a-client.html

 Please feel free to share your suggestions.

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#1 Jon Johnson on 8.12.2009 at 11:06 PM

One of the best things we have done was to fire troublesome clients that just drained our energy and were not going to be successful.

In some cases when we confronted the client and wanted to let them go they respected our work more and stepped back and permitted us to our job.

Fire away and spend the new energy you will have on finding the right client.

 

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