Everyone in business will tell you that it’s time to fire a client when the work exceeds the pay. Well I’m here to tell you that there are five rules to follow when deciding when to fire a client and they have nothing to do with the client.
Rule 1. Establish your target client.
When you begin building your business every consultant or advice agency worth a dime will tell you that before you begin you must determine your target market. Well the same advice applies when establishing your target clientele. The beauty of owning your own business is that you now have the authority to create the clients you want to work with.
Rule 2. Decide how you can help your clientele.
The beauty of business is that sometimes the best efforts just don’t pay off. When this happens and a project or client becomes something that is never ending, you have to determine what you wanted to provide that client originally and how you fell short. That’s right; you have to determine what you didn’t or couldn’t do. Everyone speaks about difficult clients as though the clients sought them out specifically to taunt or complicate their professional lives; the reality is you may have attracted this client all by yourself. In order to remedy the situation you have to take a professional inventory and figure out where you veered off course.
Rule 3. Is your client someone you would like outside of business?
It goes without saying that sometimes to pay the bills, you work for someone you wish would you didn’t have to. But when you think about the reasons you started your own business and what you wanted to accomplish, you realize that you left an employee situation because you had to do things you didn’t want to do and communicate with people you didn’t want to know. Think of your business as a marriage between your personal self and your professional self; in order to find that elusive balance, you must tailor your clientele to be your definition of the perfect professional friend. Whatever your standards are if the client you are considering to fire doesn’t meet them, get rid of them.
Rule 4. Learn something about your profession from the situation
Firing a client can seem like the perfect solution, but if you don’t find the weaknesses in your professional approach the circumstance will continue. The difficult client will never be the same person, but the effect will. The situation will drain your professional resources and personal resources as you try to remove the client from your company. To avoid this situation you have to learn about your weaknesses within your professional toolkit. Maybe you need more training or more formal education, whatever the circumstance if there isn’t a professional lesson for you in this difficult situation you aren’t ready to move on.
Rule 5. When It’s Over, Let Go.
If you don’t follow any of the other rules, this is the rule to live by. When the situation has broken down and you have taken all you can out of the situation, completely leave the situation and move on. This rule sounds easy enough, but business owners in particular have a hard time letting difficult clients go. In order to let go of that difficult client you have to recover from the situation and not feel the need to rehash it at every business meeting with colleagues. You have to learn to see the positive side of the client and the situation. As a professional you must acknowledge your responsibility in the breakdown of the relationships and accept the consequences of situation.
In the end, professional relationships are no different from personal ones. Professionals have to make an informed decision about the value of the relationship and how much of a commitment they are willing to make. The key to that elusive perfect client turns out to be very simple: effort.