When to Divorce a Client

When to Divorce a Client

Have you been in a business relationship where there was a serious disconnect between you and a client? An issue may have arisen early, perhaps even at the beginning. Or perhaps a small problem grew over time and became the white elephant in the room. Whatever the circumstances, things have come to an impasse. You’ve discussed the situation and have taken steps to make some necessary changes; yet it seems the situation never really changes.

So, what are you going to do? Calling it quits on the relationship appears to be the only solution: you will save time and money and stress if you end it now. While divorcing a client is never easy, it is sometimes the right thing to do for the health of your business, your reputation, and even your sanity.

Here’s how to tell when you should take this important step:

The client has adjusted the expectations for what they want you to deliver, and these expectations no longer align with what you do or want to do.
When dealing with a client, nothing is written in stone. Project deliverables are amended, the scope of the work increases or decreases, and in many cases these are changes that your company can’t execute effectively. It’s at this point that trying to implement the new work can become highly problematic, whether it is because you don’t have the right staff to deliver what is needed or that the work is truly out of your comfort zone. Unless you want to re-engineer your business, the best solution might be to help the client identify a new resource to do the work. This provides you with an opportunity where you can both be a hero and protect your business.

The client is rude and unprofessional with you and your staff.
In business things can go wrong and mistakes can be made. (We’re human, after all!) But these faults are no excuse for a client to react badly. Rude and unprofessional behavior including cursing, throwing temper tantrums, harassment of any sort should not be tolerated. Bring the situation to your client’s attention and seek to get changes. If it appears that your client has no intention of changing, you must decide if you can handle their behavior. Take the high road and apologize for the error; but leave the relationship so you’re not caught making it up to the client.

The client is too demanding and you are losing money for every day that you work with them.
Some clients simply ask for too much. They monopolize your time with little or no return. No matter how clearly you have delineated the parameters of the relationship, they keep ramping up their demands to the point of making it difficult to complete their requests. A needy client is not a good client. Better to quit the relationship and seek new clients who let you do what you’re best at.

The client keeps asking you to change your pricing or you have to nag them to get paid.
Getting paid a fair fee for your products or services is part of the game. Having a client expect to get something for nothing on a regular basis, or be so late with payment that they provide you with unnecessary collection work, is a client that should be evaluated. It is not okay to negotiate payment amounts mid-project, but be sure that you have something in writing. If the client is having trouble following a payment schedule or understanding the terms of service, you may need to consider a business divorce.

It is important to address any problematic situations with a client early when they are noticed. They should receive adequate notice if you’re considering a split, and you should keep the door open for them to work with another of your resources. A healthy split can often benefit both parties in a business break-up.

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