One of the toughest things about any type of service business is that you are always going to be at the mercy of your clients. The quality of your clients will always have a direct correlation to the quality of your business, which can make things tough if you find yourself working with a collection of difficult clients.
However, one of the positive things about running a service business is that you are always free to fire those difficult clients as you replace them with ones that are easier to work with. And while it might seem intimidating at first, firing difficult clients will breathe new life into your working days and give you new motivation to keep going.
If difficult clients are dragging down your productivity, then it might be time to think about letting them go. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty details of how to fire difficult clients with minimal collateral damage.
Symptoms of Difficult Clients
You might be thinking about getting rid of a difficult client, but thinking about it and actually pulling the trigger are two very different things. So, with that in mind, you should always take some time to confirm that a client really is as difficult as you are making them out to be.
While you are doing that internal analysis, always keep in mind that there are four types of clients that are completely unacceptable in any circumstances.
Overly Critical Clients
The first type of client that must go immediately is the overly critical client that nitpicks just about everything you submit to them. Sometimes, these clients even push beyond being critical and are downright insulting.
Clients with Unclear Expectations
Another type of client that you need to get rid of is the client who just doesn’t know what he wants. In many cases, these clients will have a grand idea, but they expect you to fill in all of the blanks for them despite the fact that they are constantly changing their minds.
Slow Paying Clients
The whole point of working with clients is to earn an income, so if your clients aren’t holding up their end of that arrangement, they aren’t really helping your business. Everyone deserves to be paid in a reasonable amount of time for completed work, and any client that isn’t on board with that needs to go.
Rush Order Clients
The final type of client that needs to be fired is the one who expects rush order work at regular prices. These clients are almost always in too much of a hurry for their own good, and they often try to offload some of that urgency stress onto you, which is not an acceptable business practice.
If you find yourself working with any of these types of clients, or clients who are unnecessarily difficult for other reasons, it is time to let them go. Let’s move forward and talk about how to do that as professionally as possible.
How to Fire Difficult Clients
Once you determine that it is time to fire a difficult client, you need to put together a plan to do so quickly in the most professional manner possible. In order to make that happen, we recommend keeping the following four principles in mind.
Check Your Emotions
Difficult clients often make us feel like they are taking advantage of our good nature, which can lead our minds to connect all kinds of negative emotions to them. You definitely don’t want to let these emotions get the best of you, and you never want to burn a bridge professionally, so make sure that you have your emotions in check before proceeding.
While you have to keep your emotions under control and you don’t want to burn any bridges, you also have to be honest with the client about their behavior. Don’t sugar coat anything for them. Tell them exactly why you don’t like working with them and then wish them well in their future relationships.
If you are able to keep your emotions in check and be honest with the client, there is a good chance that they will see the error of their ways and offer to adjust your working relationship. In almost all cases, this adjustment won’t last long enough to be worth your time, so stand firm on your decision because there are better clients out there.
Give Plenty of Notice
One sure way to burn a bridge is to stick a client with no notice, so you definitely don’t want to do that. Every business relationship is different, but make sure that you offer to work out a reasonable amount of time to give the client a chance to find a replacement for your services.
Once you officially go through with firing a difficult client, you will feel a massive weight lift off of your shoulders…until you realize that you still have to collect whatever you are owed from them.
How to Collect From Fired Clients
If you are able to follow all of our tips for firing difficult clients, you should still be able to have a rational conversation with them about settling the balance on their account. However, if things don’t exactly go according to plan, you might have a more difficult situation brewing.
Either way, you deserve to get paid for work you have completed. Let’s go over a few pointers to help make that happen sooner, rather than later.
After you pivot from firing a difficult client to collecting from a difficult client, you should still continue to follow all of the tips we discussed for firing those clients. No matter what the situation, you want to remain professional at all times.
Send Updated Invoices
Even fired clients can’t make payments if they don’t know how much they owe you, so be sure to always send out an updated and final invoice after you sever ties with a client.
Be Willing to Negotiate
In many situations, especially ones involving clients that were difficult to collect from when you were working with them, you will have difficult clients who refuse to pay the full amount owed. Every situation is different, but it can often be worth the reduced aggravation to negotiate a partial payment to settle the account.
If worst comes to worst and you can’t get anywhere with a fired client, the best thing that you can do is partner with a reputable commercial debt collection agency that can handle the collection on your behalf. This will allow you to focus your attention on the clients you enjoy working with and avoid the aggravation of collecting from clients that didn’t make the cut.
No matter how well you handle the situations, firing difficult clients is never going to be easy. But when you replace those difficult clients with ones you enjoy working with, your entire business will change overnight, and that is definitely worth the effort.