Want to fire a client -- What do I say?

I want to fire a client for a variety of reasons (mostly having to do with the last three times I’ve billed him the check has been “lost in the mail”).

I’d like to do this nicely, but I’m having a hard time with the wording and method.

Should I do it via email? Certified letter? I want to make it clear that I will not be accepting any more new projects or maintenance work, period, end of story. I just don’t want this guy in my life anymore. I’m pretty sure when I fire him he’s going to come back with a lot of whining and anger. I want to be clear and firm and not have to listen to the drama.

If anyone has done this successfully, would you be willing to share details of how you worded the “letter” and how you sent it?

Thanks in advance!

What i used to do with another business i owned was raise prices so high they would not want me to do the work for them.

Send them certified letter with new prices.

I don’t think you really need to sugar coat things too much, i would just remain professional. Give them your reasons, and say that it’s in our best interest (you) to terminate the relationship. And i would thank them for their support of your business and wish them luck going forward.

If he says somethign to change your mind, then make your payment terms 50% upfront & 50% upon completion. And don’t give off any work until payment is received. that is what i’ve done to remain in control, and it weeds out those clients who can’t put it on their priority list to send you a cheque or co-operate with you on the project. people participate more when they have money into a project.

I agree, be upfront, honest and direct. Have a friend phone up and tell him you died. :wink:

If he’s a late-payer (or not paying at all) it should be easy enough. Send him a simple email saying that due to payment issues, you’ve decided it would be in your best interest to terminate the relationship. Thank him for his business and wish him luck. That’s it.

Before you do this, be sure to change any passwords or other access he has to your systems, and return any materials that he might claim are his. Make a clean break, and don’t fall into the trap of having him suck you into a long e-mail dialog about ‘what happened’ etc. If he response, wait 24 hours then send a simple, polite message reiterating the first email’s point.

Always call or meet them in person to deliver news like this. You will be respected. Don’t be scared - they are making it very difficult to do business with them so you’ve got to do “what you’ve got to do”.

Sending an email / letter won’t give them a chance to ask “why”, “is there anything we can do to continue…” etc… Even if you insist they will ultimately respect you for sorting it out rather than “running away”.

Let us know how it goes.

**ALSO - if you would consider keeping them on board - offer to keep doing what you do for 100% up front. I’ve had a few clients like yours and they are completely cool with paying 100% up front. After a few months (which you’ve hopefully been doing business) they should be comfortable enough with you to pay up front. 50/50 is a “safety net”. 100% is a “pain in the @#$ net”.

I very strongly disagree with this advice. First, when you are terminating a client you want to do it IN WRITING so that your words are preserved and can be used as evidence in any kind of dispute or legal action. A phone conversation, unless recorded, is difficult to remember word-for-word and easy to dispute. Do it in writing!

Also, why do you wnt them to ask ‘why’? There is no good that can come of that, and it just sets the stage for an antagonistic dialog that can make things worse. It doesn’t really matter if they get to ask why, or they ‘respect’ you - just say what you have to say and move on. It’s foolish to encourage a dialog with a client you want nothing to do with.

That’s like breaking up with a girl over instant messenger. My father has built a multi-million dollar business over the last 27 years and does EVERYTHING by phone. You don’t need anything in writing to “fire” a client. You just need to stop doing business with them. If your agreement with them requires something in writing send over a termination agreement after you break the news. Clients should ask “why” so they don’t do it to the next guy and for the sake of industry you should tell them “why”.

Would you quit your job over email? Would you fire an employee over email? Yea it’s the easy “non confrontation” route but a cowardly one.

Well, if you are going to go against the widey held policy of most lawyers, attorneys, and business consultants of ‘get it in writing’ that is up to you :slight_smile:

Building up a multi-million dollar business over the phone is possible, but for the vast majority of businesses and the vast majority of circumstances, the ‘get it in writing’ concept applies.

Say something like this:
“Due to the large number of requests I am receiving, I am now only taking work on retainer. This means that I must receive money for work before the work begins. I apologize for any inconvenience this causes, but as a result of the high work load, I have to reorganize my work based on pre-payments received.”

Well, I agree to a point. If it was any other client than this one, I would go the phone call route.

HOWEVER, this guy is IMPOSSIBLE to reach by phone. I’ve learned through experience that the only way to get him to act (i.e., to pay or respond) is to send certified letters. Also, documentation is a HUGE issue with him. I have to keep written track of every little conversation to protect myself, prove he’s said what he’s said, etc., etc., etc., or risk being victim to his flakiness. I’m not “scared” to confront him, I’ve just dealt with his pattern of looniness too long to risk doing this via phone. He’s on chance 15 at this point.

So, I’m done. I don’t WANT hime to “do anything to continue” or explain “why.” It’s lost on him and he’s had multiple opportunities to straighten up at this point.

Don’t know if this makes a difference to the discussion or not, but he runs a Web design business himself. I subcontract for programming work.

Why say anything at all?

Next time he asks you to take a job, just don’t take it. If he describes a job to you, tell him it doesn’t sound like something you’re interested in right now. Or tell him you’re really busy, you’ll get back to him later, & don’t call him back. Don’t return his calls or emails.

You made it sound like the main problem you have is payment, so I was wondering what you thought about getting paid on retainer in advance. I actually have a customer like him too. He always comes through, but there is some drama at times and money is sometimes slow but dependable.

From experience I have noted that when you drop a client suddenly they realize your worth and will do anything to stay on. I have raised rates, been unavailable even set some harsh payment options and they suddenly accept them, so then you have to keep them on, what can you do they accepted your terms. So if you really want fire them definitely you need to let them know that you are just not interested.

I disagree with meeting them. That gives off an unclear message, it would seem to me that the service provider is planning on negotiating which gives off the impression that they don’t really want to fire them but would rather negotiate a better position. If you simply want to drop them, just let them know that you are no longer available due to previous issues and leave it at that.

In most cases bad clients need you much more than you need them.

Was he just a late-payer, or did he never pay you? Would be easy to stop working for him if he never paid you at all :slight_smile:

I think this is a bad idea, and lying about the large amount of work you have is also a bad idea. That won’t get the problem solved, and it could ruin the reputation of your business if you suddenly start ignoring someone.

Just tell him why you no longer want to work with him, say exactly why, and then say you don’t want to work with him any more. Simple as that. They might beg for another chance, they might accept it and move on.

who cares about his feelings
if he hasn’t paid up a few times, I have no sympathy for him and you shouldn’t here.

just tell him that he needs to pay up or he’s done.
if this is a web site sort of deal where you’re completely controlling it, just take the site down. if you really want to be obnoxious, put some links on his site to yours

Send him a simple email saying that due to payment issues, you’ve decided it would be in your best interest to terminate the relationship. Thank him for his business and wish him luck. That’s it.

I agree.
Revisions – he probably gets all his emails fine, just finds them easier to ignore or “lose” than registered mail. If it makes you feel better send it registered mail but I agree with Sagewing.

You don’t want to have a dialogue or leave any doubt as to why your doing this. It’s not a conversation, it’s you communicating your decision.
Saying things about your workload is not going to help because then he has an unclear idea of the relationship.

After sending mulitiple invoices and payment requests to a long term client, I finally sent a “final notice” and got no response. At this point I believed he knew where the relationship was heading so I just sent him a simple termination notice.

It was short and “sweet”. :shifty:

This is a note to inform you that I have terminated my participation in (your) project.

This includes:

  1. I have detached the ftp account
  2. E-mail account (me @ site.com) deleted
  3. Removed Site.com from my Google Analytics Account

I see no reason to go into the “whys” and “wherefores”. Just let your client know that you are cutting the cord and tell him what you have done to terminate the relationship.

I once “fired” a client over the phone and it was a ghastly, time consuming conversation which ended in emailing him anyway to be sure he completely understood that “poof” I was gone.