What Are You Gaining from the Difficult Client?

Some time ago I was working with a new client developing a new project – not only did he break me down and negotiate a ‘bargain’ price for this service that was initially going to be massive, but he absorbed excess time, clogged up my phone line – day and night – drained me emotionally and was quite crippling. Firing him would have been the best thing to do but instead I persevered because that’s my service guarantee.

If this story sounds familiar, like most SMEs or solopreneurs, you have the same fear of not being able to survive without the income from this particular client. But perhaps we need to look at the “big picture”.

So, What Are You Gaining from the Difficult Client?

You might think that the work you have been getting from this particular client is the only thing between you and the poor house. Sure he pays his bill and even manages to pay it on time most months for your services, but there is far more to an acceptable client for your business than getting paid on time.

You are of course gaining experience in the services that you are providing, but at the same time you are also getting a hard lesson in patience and anger management. But again you have to look at what this client is putting you through to gain so little.

Well, What Are You Losing?

First you are probably losing your sanity. When every change you make to his product requires hours on the phone, dozens of emails and tweaks beyond reason, your blood pressure spikes a bit higher and your sanity slips a little bit more. More importantly, when you look at how much time you are spending with this one client that could be spent with several others, you are losing money! “This wasn’t in the quote” you say.

What Will You Gain / Lose if You Fire this Client?

Imagine how much more money you could be bringing in if you replaced this one very difficult client by sending him off to find service provider with two or three new clients who actually like your work and trust you to do a good job, without micromanaging you at every step of the way. This should make it much easier to see that there comes a time when you have no choice but to tell your challenging client that it is time for them to seek another company.

How Do You Fire This Client?

If you have never had to fire anyone, let alone a client you have been working with for a lengthy period of time, it is not the nicest but sometimes necessary process. The best approach is to send your client a professional and non-emotional email explaining why you feel that they might be happier seeking the services of another service provider ensuring you are complying with your service agreement with that client. Despite your best efforts, the two of you do not seem to be able to work well together and that you simply do not feel as though you are the right company to meet their expectations without playing the blame game.

When you handle the situation without flying off the handle, both you and your client can feel good about moving on and you can soon replace them with new clients that want the services you have to offer.

It’s never pleasant, but in the name of efficiency, it is often necessary. Have you ever had to face this issue? How did you tell them?