Breaking Up With A Client
One of the biggest perks of owning your own business is being able to say “no” to doing certain kinds of work.
But what happens when you’ve already been working for a client for awhile, an over time the scope of the projects change to the point where you find yourself working on and doing things you didn’t want to be doing?
It’s normal to feel guilty for dumping a client. They have been paying you, you’ve been working with them for awhile, maybe they are a really nice person, or you really like their company and what they’re doing.
That’s all fine. You can like a person and their product without wanting to work for them. I like Build-A-Bear and bought one for my niece, but I don’t want to work there. I like pizza, but I don’t want to work throwing dough.
I recently found myself in a situation where I had been doing writing and editing and documentation for a client, but over time it really turned more and more into sales and marketing research and working on business development, which was not what I wanted to be doing with the bulk of my time. I had to break up!
There are several things to consider when breaking up with a client, in the same way that you would have things to think about when quitting a job in the corporate world.
- Are you making enough money from your other clients that you can stop working with this one?
- If not, do you have another client lined up?
- Do you want to keep the door open to possibly work with the client again in the future?
- Are you in the middle of a project?
- Do you want to give them notice, giving them time to replace you?
- Are they paid up through now?
It’s not wrong to want to stop working with people. You have your own business specifically so that you can do the work you love. It would be one thing if it was the difference between eating that week and working with that person.
But you wouldn’t be asking the question if that were the case.
It is OKAY to break up with a client.
There, I said it. Now here are tips and a script for to how to do it.
Most importantly, stop feeling guilty. You have been doing the work you were paid for, you’ve been responsive, helpful, useful, and easy to work with (assuming you are those things!).
- Ask your client in an email if they have a moment to talk. Breaking up is best done over the phone (I am assuming that you are not physically working with this person, if so, do it in person).
- Set up a meeting time.
- You are the one setting the agenda for this call. When you get on the phone, start with something like this: “It has been great working with you these last few months, and I have really enjoyed getting to know you and your company and products. The work we’ve been doing has been interesting.”
- That was starting with something nice. Then go into something like this: “What I’m working on now is really not what I want to be doing, and I appreciate the work, but this is not right for me at the moment.”
- Next, talk about timing: “I know this current project has another 4 days, and I am going to continue and finish it, both because I am already working on it, and because you have already paid.”
- Make sure to talk about any missing payments. “I am happy to stay through the end of the month if you’d like, as that is how we typically bill for these services. Do you want to stop and pay now at a prorated amount, or would you rather me stay through the end of the month and pay the full price, as our contract states?”
- Offer to train someone new or be flexible with ending, if you want. “I can stay for another two weeks or so at my current rate if you want me to train my replacement, or I can end today, whichever works best for you.”
- End with a compliment: “I have enjoyed working with you, and I hope we get to work together again in the future.”
This is just one way to say each of these things, but these are the high notes you want to hit. Start and end with complimentary things (a compliment sandwich!), talk about timing for ending the work, and make sure to discuss any money you are owed.
While it’s normal to feel a bit bad when breaking up with a client, remind yourself that you have nothing to feel bad about. You did the work you were paid for, and they certainly won’t look out for your best interests. Bosses and clients don’t, that is your job.
This is your job, your career, your life. You have to learn to say no to working with people you don’t want to work with, learn to break up with current clients, and figure out exactly what it is that you do want and work towards that.
I’m not saying it’s easy, but at least this part, this breaking up with someone part, I can help with.
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