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Firing a Wrong-Fit Client: When to Part Ways and How to Do It

Written by Etienne Turner on 31, August 2020
Firing a Wrong-Fit Client: When to Part Ways and How to Do It

Deciding it’s better to part ways with a client than trying to salvage the relationship is a lot like figuring out the proper moment to fire an employee or give them a chance to change.

You try to find out all you can about the person in the beginning, but you can only learn so much through the vetting process before you have to jump in and take a risk. However, over time, a person’s true colors will come out—and the picture may not be as pretty as they led you to believe.

In this article, you’re going to learn three reasons that justify firing a wrong-fit client and what you need to do when it comes time to say goodbye.

Should I Fire a Client if There’s No Profitability?


When your client is upside down in terms of money coming in and the work you’re putting out, they’re a drain on your resources. If they’re paying for a level 2 service and receiving level 4 results, that increased workload is not only unprofitable, it’s putting your other projects in jeopardy.

The client needs to pay more for the work or the scope of the project needs to be altered. If neither can happen, it’s time to part ways. You’re not making enough money for this client to be worth the extra time and effort. If you were earning more revenue, you could justify the add-ons.

A client is hurting your business if they are taking more of your time than you planned on giving them and trying to get you to do work that isn’t in their contract. You will find more profitable clients if you drop them.

Should I Fire a Client if They’re Having a Negative Impact?


You need to pay attention to your team’s well-being; they’re the reason your agency exists in the first place. Ending a business relationship with a client is likely warranted if everyone in the office dislikes them.

Sometimes, the client is just not nice. Maybe they’re rude to your employees and you can tell morale is diminishing. If the client is negative or hurtful—even abusive—this affects your company’s culture and values. You don’t want employees to leave because of a hostile work environment.

It’s one thing for a client to be picky or demanding; it’s another thing for them to berate or yell at your team. You must explain to the client that you will not tolerate this type of behavior in an attempt to set clear expectations and realign. If the situation persists, say goodbye.

Should I Fire a Client if They Have Unrealistic Expectations?


Clients should understand you and your team do not work 24/7. Perhaps, in reality, they’re paying for what they’re getting and getting what they’re paying for. But they keep wanting more. Being able to manage their timeline is becoming an ongoing issue.

At this point, you’ve fallen out of alignment somewhere along the way, even if you did your best to vet the client to make sure they were a good fit—and prevent this sort of incident from happening in the first place. Maybe your employees have ethical concerns or don’t like what the client is asking for.

Continuing a relationship with a client who has unrealistic expectations is probably not worth the headache. The work will never be good enough for them. However, if the relationship is profitable, and your team is meeting company standards, you should have a discussion with the client first to discover exactly where the misalignment lies. If you can’t come to some sort of a solution, cut ties.

How Do I Go About Firing a Wrong-Fit Client?

If your situation falls into one of the above categories. It’s time to make a change. First, you need to decide whether it’s possible to discuss the situation and possibly come up with a resolution.

Make an Attempt to Realign

If you think the relationship is worth saving, and the client is not being hostile or abusive, you should make at least two attempts to realign. Give them a call or meet in person to have a conversation about what’s going on and exchange feedback. Then, state the adjustments that need to be made and see what happens.

The client may have a work style that clashes with your team’s way of doing things. They may be dealing with other difficulties on their end, such as lofty expectations from upper management. There may be a way to work this out. Keep this in mind with clients you’ve been working with for a long time.

Announce Your Intent to Move On

If your realignment attempts fail or the client is harassing your team, it’s time to disengage. Before calling your client, check the contract to make sure you’re legally in the clear to sever ties. Next, think about what you are going to say ahead of time and how you’re going to say it.

Stay unemotional, but positive. There’s no room here for negativity.

Example Script

“Due to the recent problems and delays with your project, it’s come to our attention that we’re not a good fit for each other. This isn’t an easy thing to say, but it’s important to have the best partner who will be able to be on the same page with your vision and expectations. We’d like to recommend [This Other Website Company] because they might be better suited for your needs. Thank you very much for your business and we wish you all the best for the future.”

If possible, it’s good to recommend another business that could be a better match for your client in your parting statement. Once you’ve announced your intent to move forward, you need to provide the client with a list of the next steps in the disengagement process.

Proceed with Disengagement Process

Finally, you need to handle the details of disengaging with your client. Make sure you’ve delivered on the work they’ve paid for so far. If there are still pending deliverables, set a timeline for completion and a hard end date. If you cannot complete the work, you must issue a refund.

You don’t want to leave your client hanging in the middle of an important project, but you also don’t want to keep the door open for future engagements. If you offered a referral, give the client the other business’s contact information. Otherwise, you should provide enough warning so the client can find another company in due time.

Firing a Wrong-Fit Client: When to Part Ways and How to Do It

How to Know When It’s Time to Part Ways With a Client

Now you know three reasons why firing a wrong-fit client is justified and what you should do to end the relationship in a professional manner.

If the client offers no profitability, damages your company’s culture, or has unattainable expectations, it’s time to move on and strive for a healthier environment where both parties are equally respected.

If salvaging the business relationship is possible, always give the client a couple of chances to reassess their goals and values and get on the same page with your team. But don’t be hesitant to part ways in a positive light if there is no resolution to be found.

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