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5 Steps to Break up with a Client

Episode 27 | March 1, 2022

Breaking up with a client is never easy. 

But cutting ties with a difficult client is sometimes necessary.

Sticking around in a draining or difficult relationship is much worse than NOT having that uncomfortable conversation.

Positive & negative interactions we have with clients has a direct impact on the work we produce.  Not to mention, how it effects our mental health.

If you’re working with a difficult client, the unnecessary stress and frustration is most likely trickling down into other parts of your business and your life. 

Let’s talk about how to break up with a client in a professional way.

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FULL TRANSCRIPT:

There are many reasons a client might not be a good fit: 

  • They make it difficult to get paid (or worse, they refuse to pay).
  • They’re not sure what they want and there’s no clear direction, and they are never satisfied.
  • They’re over demanding and don’t respect your boundaries. 
  • They’re just disrespectful and treat you poorly.

Sometimes in the beginning of our business we are eager to get started serving others and ignore the red flags. 

I can tell you from experience working with a difficult client does not self correct and their behavior only escalates in the wrong direction. 

Let’s talk about what to do?  Here are 5 steps, or we can call it an action plan to remove yourself from the relationship and move on.

#1 Review the Contract

Having a termination clause in your contract with each client is crucial. 

No one anticipates having bad experiences, but they do happen and now you have some recourse to fall back on. 

Here a few tips to include in your contract.

For example:

Be sure to pay attention to your stated term of notice that is required. 

If you offer a 30 day notice you are obligated to continue working with this client 30 days after notifying them of the relationship termination.  So if you do not want to be tied to them an additional 30 days after terminating the relationship, change this clause.

Clauses about late payments or non-payments.

Scoop of work to be performed.

These are great if there is anything that comes up you can direct your client to review the contract. 

Let’s say your client pays late or doesn’t pay at all. 

Have them refer to the contract and can provide them with a “warning” and state next infraction will lead to termination. 

#2 Whatever you do, don’t ghost them 

Regardless how difficult the client is, or awkward the conversation is, you are responsible to end things in a professional manner.

I strongly believe in treating people how you want to be treated. 

No one likes being ghosted, so don’t do it, it’s unprofessional and just rude. 

We’re so much better than that.

#3 Keep It as Professional As Always

When you make the decision to end the relationship with a client, it could be emotional and might influence the way you handle it. 

However, you are a professional, this is a business relationship and you still need to be respectful. 

Be honest with them for the reasons you are terminating the relationship, but never be disrespectful, rude or impolite.

Spend a little time drafting a framework of how you will deliver the news and how you would like the conversation to flow.

#4 Take Responsibility for The Decision

Deliver the news candidly, without blame. 

Take responsibility for your decision.

Elaborating your reasons may or may not be necessary. 

It could just be a direct, “We no longer feel we are a good fit. I believe you can find someone who will better serve you.”

#5 Create A Smooth Transition

Even if the working relationship is being dissolved, I always strive to make sure that the services provided to the client is as positive as possible through the end. 

Be sure to provide a “transition documents” that outlines any essential info for the client such as logins and passwords for anything you set up, any graphics or content you created.

Bonus: Don’t Set the Bridge on Fire

Leave as professionally as possible, you never know what the future holds. 

Keep in mind how you would like to be spoken about, and the service you want to be remembered for.

Ultimately, the most important things to keep in mind when breaking up with a client are to stay calm and stand firm.

If you truly want to dissolve your business relationship, don’t let them talk you into staying. 

Instead use this extra time to find great clients who will appreciate you and your time services.

Respect your own time and personal goals and follow your heart when you know it’s time to move on.


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