When and How to Fire a Consulting Client

I’ve been fortunate enough not to have to deal with this situation much. Throughout all the years I’ve been a business consultant, while I’ve turned down numerous projects with a fully booked schedule, I’ve only had to ‘let go’ of two clients. “Fire” is such a strong word, but it’s the way most of us think about it – hence the title of this post.

None of us like to do this, it’s counter-intuitive, but the fact is, sometimes it has to be done.

So first let’s talk about why you should even consider letting a client go and then we’ll dig into how to do it.

Getting Sleepy
If you’re not learning anything new and not enjoying the project it’s time to look at making a change. Your level of interest and passion shows through your work – so either get into it or get out. If you’re in the financial position to pick and choose your work then you shouldn’t be spending your time on projects that you’re not having fun with. This doesn’t mean every minute is going to be a party, but you should be stimulated and constantly learning.

They Just Don’t Care
If your client is always slow to respond, tough to get a meeting with and is showing little interest in the project it’s a sign that they may not value the work you are doing or just don’t care. That’s not the kind of client relationship you want to have. You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and stress – because this is the kind of client you are going to have to chase to get answers from.

Show Me The Money
If you’re putting in tons of work and not getting compensated fairly do something about it. Either simply tell the client you need to bill for additional hours or that you need to increase your consulting fees. If they won’t have any of that it’s time to head for the door. If you’re doing a good job you deserve to be making money from the project.

No Action, No Results
A common problem with some clients is that they take no action. They’ll pay you, they may even tell you they are happy with your work, but when it comes time for them to implement – nothing happens. This isn’t so much a case of having to let them go as sitting down with them and figuring out how you can help them to implement.

After all, if you work your behind off and the client doesn’t follow-through you won’t see any results. And that comes back to bite you later on.

It’s not easy to end a client relationship. But you only have so much time in each day and it’s just not worth spending that time working with people that you don’t enjoy working with.

So here’s how you ‘end it’. First set up a face to face meeting with your client and go over your concerns. Email doesn’t work in this situation. Sitting down or talking on the phone is critical (face-to-face is ideal). Show your client that you are genuinely concerned; tell them why and how they can turn things around.

If they seem to be agreeing with you and understand what needs to be done to make this a successful relationship give it another go.

If the client still seems withdrawn or passive let them know that you want to continue working together but if things continue the way they are you won’t be able to.

How To Say It
Word this in a way that puts the decision making power ‘into your clients hands’ – at least that is what they will feel. That way if they don’t live up to their side of the bargain it’s easy for you to make an exit.

You don’t want to come across as to rough and “it’s my way or the highway.”

In most cases you’ll be able to turn things around. But if your client is causing you more stress than good, even if it’s making you money, it’s often not worth it. Once you end that troubled relationship you’ll feel relieved and so much better.

Plus you’ll then be free to find new clients that you enjoy working with more and add new project income – all in short order.

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