How to Fire a Really Bad Client That Makes You Miserable

Not all contract partnerships work. Occasionally things don’t go as planned and it’s necessary to evaluate your situation and decide whether or not it should keep moving forward.

Back in 2017, I wrote 4 Reasons to Fire Crappy Clients to help you make this type of decision. If you’re ready to move on, read on.

First, Try to Resolve the Issue

Have a candid conversation with your main client contact and explain your concern. Keep the exchange factual and professional. Talk about how the project isn’t within the scope of your contract or onboarding discussion.

Sometimes small miscommunications or a lost document rest at the heart of the concern. More than once I’ve received a, “Oh, well that makes sense. I forgot to send you those notes/guidelines/spreadsheets. Of course, you didn’t have the information needed!”

If this is the case, thank the client for taking care of the issue and keep working away! If the situation isn’t able to be resolved in a timely, courteous way consider ending the relationship.

Review Your Contractual Obligations

Take a few minutes to understand the details in your contract for hire. Is there a clause about breaking the contract? Is there a kill fee for submitting the project in-part? Is there a fine you must pay to end the relationship early? Do you need to honor a non-compete with the client’s competitors? Do you need to end the contact in person or in writing? Do you need to return an up-front payment?

Give a legal representative a call before contacting the client, especially if it’s a long-term partnership or high-dollar transaction that you’re trying to dissolve. Most initial legal consultations are free and will give you a feeling of empowerment when it comes to communicating in a difficult situation.

Find a Common Finishing Point

If you’re on amicable terms with the client, mutually work together to wrap up the project. This might mean finishing out your obligations through the end of the week, end of the month, or the current item you’re working on.

Although the relationship as a whole is ending, it never hurts to finish with grace. Can you tie up any other loose ends? Do you have documents to return? Although the situation/project/collaboration wasn’t positive, you can still leave on good terms by handling the final interactions with tact.

Remember this: clients end contracts with freelancers based on budget cuts, new strategic goals and shifts in project planning. You can do the same. Ending a partnership is never easy, but sometimes it makes sense financially, morally, professionally or to preserve your mental health.

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