How to Fire a Client (The Right Way)

Firing a client may not be a pleasant experience, but sometimes it’s necessary. Just like you take special precautions when choosing to work with an individual or company, there are important measures to consider when ending that working relationship, too.

For starters, professionalism is key. It’s important for you—and your business—to stay calm, rational, and even polite during this entire process. Additionally, control your emotions; don’t show anger, frustration, or sadness. Remember, this is a business decision—period.

Once you’ve decided to terminate a client—for whatever reason, as that’s your prerogative—it’s best to review the contract you have on file. Make sure you do everything according to the contract’s terms, so as not to potentially face any kind of legal or damaging repercussions later on down the road.

Next, before informing the client of your decision, have some sort of plan or outline in mind. Whatever you do, don’t call up the client and fire them on the fly; be prepared to give reasons and answer questions as to why this outcome is happening. Additionally, before you even make that call, send an email to the client asking to reserve some time to chat. The email can be slightly vague, but the phone call should be direct and informative.

Though it can be tempting to fire the client and then be done with them that same day, remember you want to be professional and avoid burning any bridges. As such, you should consider giving the client sufficient notice or time to transition off. The client will need some time to find a replacement for you and your services. This may take a few weeks or a month, depending on those services. Yes, you’ll want to be fair to the client, but also be fair and reasonable to yourself. Try and pick an end date that works for everyone and stick to it.

Perhaps one of the best ways to end the conversation is to offer the client a referral letter. This gesture helps show that there are no hard feelings between the two of you and that you genuinely want nothing but the best for this client moving forward.

Finally, be honest and open with your client. Of course, you don’t have to give every single detail as to why this working relationship is no longer working. It could very well be that you and this client are just not a good match—that simple. Yet, your client deserves to know at least some idea as to why or how you made this decision. If you address their flaw(s)—in a nice, professional, constructive manner, of course—it may be something they can work on for the future.

In today’s climate, it’s hard to predict where someone will be five or ten years from now—even just one year from now. Therefore, it’s best to handle every business decision with as much decorum as possible. You never know where your career path will take you or who you may come into contact with again. After all, most industries are small, so don’t do anything you might later regret.