By August 30, 2016 Read More →

Do you need to sack a client?

Sack a clientWhat freelancer doesn’t work hard to please and retain their clients?

Especially when we constantly hear that it’s much easier and more profitable to keep the ones we have than go out and find new ones.

We dread losing a client, not just for the lost income, but for fear of what they might tell other people about our personality and skills. Will it be the thin end of the wedge?

But occasionally we have to go beyond even that scenario and contemplate whether the decision to sack a client is actually the only or best course to take.

Situations when you might need to sack a client

1. Taking too much time.
Susan is a web designer and took on a project that was supposed to last a month, to set up a site at a price reflecting that time period. ‘But they kept changing their minds and putting the date back,’ she says. ‘They were micro-managing me and constantly sending emails. I was trying to work on the site at the same time as managing their questions and finally it was too much.’

After three months she decided to cut her losses and take a reduction in her fee, handing over the site not quite completed in a state that another designer could finish.

Sack a client - taking too much time‘Yes, I lost out financially, but it was making me ill and it was worth it to get back my peace of mind,’ she recalls.

‘I was afraid of being badmouthed in the local business community, and I kept asking myself if I was to blame. It knocked my confidence, but fortunately I managed to end it amicably and there is no embarrassment now when we meet.’

2. Not taking your advice.
PR consultant Ruth Badley had a client who was paying for her advice but not listening to it. That may not appear to be a problem, but the situation began to threaten Ruth’s reputation.

‘He thought everyone should work to his deadlines not their own,’ she says. ‘I got him an interview with a publication but it became clear he wasn’t going to deliver, and he didn’t authorise his senior colleagues to do it instead.

‘I was afraid it would ruin the contacts I had, so I wrote him a long email listing every attempt I’d made, what had gone wrong, and what I’d need in order to continue working with him. I never received an acknowledgement.’

3. Working for less than you’re worth.
Ruth also recalls her very first client, whom she met at a networking group, and to whom she offered a special rate. ‘That should have been for a specified time and then reviewed,’ she reflects, ‘but I was lacking in confidence and didn’t want to lose the work.’

She was thrilled with the results she got for the client. National print and broadcast journalists featured the story, and Ruth says now that ‘I got carried away by my success and by supporting her. I began to feel resentful that she was paying much less than the going rate, and then she also began to ‘forget’ to pay me.’

Sack a client - peanutsRuth was now getting other clients who were paying the full rate so she decided that once she’d been paid up to date she would stop working for that client.

Have you been in other difficult situations where you felt you had no choice but to sack a client?

In a future post we’ll look at how to sack a client in order to have the best chance of a positive outcome for both parties.

Posted in: Making money

2 Comments on "Do you need to sack a client?"

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  1. Kerry Law says:

    Good to see a post on this – freelancers shouldn’t feel bad about being in control of their work relationships. A couple of poor experiences mean I now try and avoid ‘sacking’ a client as I can spot the signs before we begin (e.g. micro-managing, not listening, time demands etc). Unfortunately, I’ve had to ‘sack’ a client due to consistent late payments – the resulting loss of income is worth it for the time I’ll be able to spend on prompt paying clients and their projects in the future!

    • Thanks, Kerry, those are useful signs to look out for. It’s tempting to overlook them in the hope that somehow one will be able to educate the client into better habits, but I think this is usually wishful thinking.
      The late payment habit is sadly one you can’t spot in advance, but once it happens it’s important to tackle it straightaway and not just hope it gets better.