Firing a client. This is a topic I've been wanting to talk about for a while. As you all know, I love my clients. In fact, I often like to cross boundaries and become BFFs with my clients. But sometimes it's not all puppies and rainbows. Sometimes, as a freelancer, I consider cutting off my pointer finger and faking it as a watermelon accident just so I don't have to work on a certain project. It's usually when a project is in its 20th round of revisions that I feel like I've clearly picked the wrong profession.
My experience with this is somewhat limited but I'm going to share what I know about firing a client.
IT STARTS WITH CHOOSING PROJECTS THAT ARE A GOOD FIT.
The best way to not have to fire a client is to only take on projects that are a good fit.
Here are a few ways I determine a good fit:
• Is the client respectful and enthusiastic about their project?
• Is the client familiar with my work?
• Does the client have a budget?
• Will the end product contribute to my portfolio?
• Overall gut feeling - that's usually my instinct talking
THEN YOU MUST MAKE EXPECTATIONS CLEAR FOR THE CLIENT.
Oftentimes, I am working with clients who have never worked with a designer before so it's important to clearly explain the process. I make expectations clear by providing the following:
• A clear outline of the scope of the project
• A clear timeline of the project - this usually includes action steps the client will need to take in order to keep the project moving (like approval on a design, final content deliver, etc.)
• Final deliverables - what the client will get when the project is complete
• A clear estimate
• A contract (I like to think of it as a prenup) - my contracts state things like I own the source files, any work done after 2 rounds of minor revisions will be billed at an additional hourly rate, cancellation policies, etc.
FIRING A CLIENT.
I never go into a project anticipating it will go south. And 99 times out of 100 it doesn't. And if it starts to go sour I quickly try to remedy the situation - see my post on managing your client for ideas on how to turn things around and make them better.
If I've done everything I can and am seeing no end in sight I will fire a client. This has only happened two (and a half) times since I've been freelancing and while it's never been fun it's always been a huge relief. But I will say this - when I fire a client I always blame myself. It's easy to feel superior and play the blame game when there are sites like Clients From Hell around but I always assume partial responsibility for either A) taking on a client or project that wasn't a good fit or B) failing to properly manage my client. Letting a client go is a decision that takes place in a grey area and is not to be taken lightly.
HOW TO FIRE A CLIENT:
• First, make it clear to your client that you don't think it's working out. I prefer this part of the process to be more casual - like with a phone call. Sometimes you'll discover that the client means well and just didn't know any better. If things don't start looking up from there (and usually they will) you can proceed to the firing.
• You will want to take a clear & objective look at the situation. Clearly state, in a notebook or in text edit, the scope of the project, the fees and deliverables associated and the describe all the steps that got you to the point where you are now. Note where you could have handled things differently and note where it was beyond your control. Be concise. Be objective. Be honest. Pretend like you are a lawyer gathering the facts.
• Then take a look at your emotions. How does this project make you feel? Listen to your instinct and trust it.
• Now the hard part. I prefer divorcing a client via email. I know it's a little impersonal but it's the easiest way for me to stay objective and concise. It also makes for a good paper trail. There is a delicate balance between assuming your part in the project going awry and also having a firm stance on why you can no longer work on this project.
• The money part. This is why it's good to have a solid contract (with a deposit). I always make sure I am monetarily compensated for the amount of work I completed. Make it clear to the client with a final invoice how much they owe you for services rendered.
• Thank the client. Just because a project goes doesn't necessarily mean your client is a bad person.
• Learn from it. The few times I've been in this situation I've learned LOTS about project & client management. Try to never let this situation happen again. Update your contract accordingly.
• Don't Tweet about it. It's tempting to find commiseration via social media but it's not kind or respectful to trash you client on the internet. It only makes you look bad.
Have you all ever had to fire a client? Do you have any more tips on how to go about it?
Other Freelance Matters posts:
• Managing Your Client
• Estimating & Billing
• Project Management
J & K started this blog project to document the remodel of their 1929 historical home in the heart of Oklahoma City. It has now turned into a documentation of life, food, fashion, freelance, inspiration, design, adventures and details around the J & K house.
Kathleen works as an award-winning brand consultant and designer specializing in small business branding at Braid Creative & Consulting. Jeremy is a software engineer and is the left-brain to Kathleen’s right.
You can contact Kathleen at
jeremyandkathleen (at) gmail (dot) com.
All photos and graphics by Kathleen unless otherwise stated. Feel free to use them with permission or credit.
Anatomy of an Outfit
Sometimes I like to get dressed and take pictures of myself. For all of my outfit posts click here.
Freelance Matters: A series about how I tackle freelance issues such as estimating, billing, to-do lists and how to fire a client.
Trekking to Everest
In October 2010 Jeremy and I trekked through the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp. It completely changed my life. Read about the entire adventure, day-by-day, here.
Braid is a creative & consulting business I own with my sister. We do branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs. On the Braid blog I share branding adventures, how-to articles and advice on the creative process. If you need a little brand therapy of your own visit Braid or subscribe to the Braid blog RSS feed here.
What We Eat
We like to eat really good food - at least 3 times a day. Sometimes I blog about it - click here for recipes and yummy ideas.
J & K: Blog Archive
- ► 2012 (182)
- Baby Crazy. Maybe.
- Branding Matters
- State Fair Zen
- The thing about Oklahoma is...
- Week / End
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- Peaches and Cream.
- Tiny Tower: A Photo Essay
- Week / End
- I want to make babies with Pinterest.
- Freelance Matters | How To Fire A Client
- From the Weekend.
- New Camera.
- Week. End.
- Anatomy of an Outfit: Boots, Bangs and Sequins
- Liz's House: For Sale
- Branding Adventures
- Meet Braid
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- Eva Black | Spaces
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- The Equals Record
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- Yellow Brick Home
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- Bringing Design Home
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- The Oklahoman
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