How to Fire a Nightmare Client (With Class and Dignity)

Denise Duffield-Thomas (Business Heroine Magazine)

Confession time: Have you ever taken on a client that you knew was going to be a pain in the ass, and then they actually were?

Now, we’ve all been there, sometimes a bit desperate for cash, maybe you’re a little bit unsure about who you should be working with and you’ve taken on a client against your better judgment. Then suddenly they’ve turned into a complete nightmare.

Don’t worry, you can totally get out of it.

Let’s talk about how to fire a client with class, dignity, and without feeling too much like a dick.

Now, this is not just beginners who have made this mistake. I have seen lots of women in varying stages of their business do it. So maybe cash flow is a little bit tight or maybe you feel bad about saying no, so you take on that client against your better judgment.

How do you know if they are a nightmare client? I think you know, right?

It’s those people who constantly overstep boundaries and they’re never happy anyway no matter how much you are bending over backwards and maybe the project is just going on and on and on.

A nightmare client is really anybody that when you have an interaction with them, you feel shitty, and you come away feeling like crap – your energy is drained, or you’re just not enjoying it.

Trust me, no amount of money is worth that.

So here are a few tips on how to fire them.

Define Your Boundaries

The first step is to really know in advance how far you’re willing to go for this client and what the deadlines are. This is called boundaries, people. Boundaries are our friend in business.

If it’s way too late for boundaries and you never set any at the start, don’t worry, it actually isn’t too late.
I would suggest that you send them an email in writing to say, “Hey, I know we didn’t come up with a deadline…” Or, “We didn’t really set some parameters around this project together but, let’s do it by this date and here is what I’m going to deliver.”

And then if they come back with more changes, then you can go back to that email, even if you didn’t have an original agreement and say, well this is what we decided.  You have to now spell out what’s going to happen, otherwise this person is going to be in your life forever and you do not want that.

So, pull up your big girl panties, send that email off today.

Admit It, and Be Finished

If it’s a where you’ve done all you can, it might be time just to cut it and just say, “You know what, I’ve really tried to help, I really don’t think I am the right person for you.”

It might be that you have to give them a partial refund to get rid of them. That’s okay.

It might be that you have to eat it, finish what you said you were going to do with them and just cut them out of your life completely.

Trust me, it will be worth it.

Some people might have also burnt a lot of other people in the past. So maybe they’re already burnt through five coaches or five designers or five creatives and honestly, people are not going to worry too much about what they say about you if they’ve got a reputation for doing this kind of thing.

Learn from the Experience

Lastly, what I want you to do is to really learn from this experience.

Go back and make sure that your agreements are water tight. Make sure that your boundaries are really enforced. As soon as the next client starts to overstep them, you can say, “Hey look, this is how we work together.”
This can be difficult when you are feeling desperate for cash, because you just might still be tempted to take on any old client. But remember this feeling and how sucky it is to have a client who disrespects you, and who isn’t fun to work with!

Have you fired a client? What did you do? What did you say?



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