How Do I Professionally Break Up With A Client?

client relations gone sour

Breaking up is always a hard thing to do… both personally and professionally. Even though we might grit our teeth at them in private, ditching them is rarely an easy thing to do in practice.

There are a number of reasons why you may want to break up with a client professionally. Maybe your client doesn’t pay on time, or they’re suddenly making jobs bigger than they originally were, expecting you to work out of hours; for free!

When conflicts happen, the day becomes more stressful and mental well-being takes a hit. If conflicts keep happening, potentially there will be repercussions and burnouts.

Relationships with other clients may be impacted and timelines may have to change. Sometimes you have to weigh up the pros and cons of working with a particular business. if the cons outweigh the pros, consider breaking up with the client that causes issues.

Here are some problems that cause business relationships to break up, followed by a solution at the end.

Why do businesses break up with clients?

Business relationships can become toxic, more often than you think. But, It’s often easier to solve issues directly than go through all the hassle and expense of losing work. Prevention is always better than the cure!

#1 My client doesn’t pay on time

If you’re constantly sending out payment reminders, you know how frustrating this issue is. The process of recovering invoices absorbs valuable time that you could be spending on other tasks.

When a client doesn’t pay on time, it’s stressful. A missing payment can interfere with life outside of work. No one should worry about whether they’ll be able to pay the bills at the end of the month. Ask yourself this question, Is this client really worth the headache?

But before you break up with them, ask yourself whether there are any changes you could make, which would make them more likely to pay on time. For instance, rather than creating your own invoices, maybe use an invoicing app like QuickBooks, which will send your client regular reminders to pay. You can also use QuickBooks to manage all your incoming and outgoings, plus your yearly tax return!

Remember to ask the client if there’s anything you can do to help them process payments. For example, would it be better if you invoiced on a certain day of the month? Do they prefer you to invoice for individual tasks or everything together? What specific details should you include on the invoice to help them process it quickly and easily?

Companies often have systems in place which have to be followed, so anything you can do to help facilitate their way of working, will ultimately help you get paid sooner.

Ultimately, you could invite your client onto Upwork, that way you don’t have to deal with the stress of invoices or worry of not getting paid.

#2 The client doesn’t know what they want

Clients who don’t know what they want can become a nightmare to work with. They constantly change their minds and keep suggesting new ideas. Sometimes this is the worst type of client.

When this happens it’s important to be firm, ask lots of questions, and be very objective. Clients who don’t know what they want will appreciate the experience you are bringing to the table and are likely to use you again. If you can survive the first project, they will likely trust you more for the second and your job may be easier.

Usually, being assertive and confident will allow you to fulfil the needs of the client. A sit-down meeting is vital and so is understanding their business model, core values and overall strategy. Write everything down and get an agreement on each part, before moving on to the next. After the meeting, send an email on everything that was discussed so there no going back to the drawing board. The faster you send the email, the fresher it will be in the client’s mind to accept.

#3 They keep adding in extra tasks

It’s important to re-write the brief at the start of the job, so both yourself and the client can agree on what you’re delivering and the price for the work. If they keep adding just “one little extra thing” to the list of tasks, make them aware that you are aware of this extra work and you may have to charge extra.

This happens a lot in business, and every freelancer can relate to this type of client. You can either push back against the request (and change the relationship dynamic a little) or agree to it for an easy life (and possibly lose time and income).

90% of the time, you should pick the first option, but remember not to be rude. There is a fine line between rudeness and assertiveness. Sometimes, business needs to change, so be adaptable.

Working on hourly projects instead of fixed-rate projects is better suited for jobs that you think will develop into something else. If the brief changes too much, you have full rights to charge extra, especially if it takes longer to do. Usually, clients don’t make as many changes when you charge hourly.

How do I separate ways with a client?

If you’ve experienced one or more of the issues detailed above, and cannot fix the issues. Eventually, you’re going to reach a point of no return, where you just need to kindly separate ways without giving the impression you are not running a reliable business.

Here are a few tacks that you can take when splitting up with a client.

#1 Increase your price

Every year you work, you are more experienced and knowledgeable, nothing is wrong with a price increase. It’s also usual practice to add inflation to your price each year.

if your price is too low, many clients will not take you seriously, or trust the advice you give. Ask yourself the following question; do you want to work for this company for the price you are currently charging? If the answer is ‘NO’, increase your rates.

#2 Finish outstanding work and make a clean break

Maybe there’s no amount of money that would convince you to stay working with a specific client. If that’s the case, you simply need to have a clean break.

If you specialise in a certain industry, the news gets around fast, and it’s likely you will come across certain people in the business at a later date. So if it’s possible, try and stay professional, finish off any outstanding work and wait until you’re paid, before telling them that you’re fully booked for future projects.

Maybe all you need is a few months away from the company or particular client due to burnout. You may feel like working with them again at a future date. So don’t burn bridges.

It’s a good idea to be vague when splitting from a client. mention that you’ve taken on a big contract which means you cannot serve them to the best of your ability. You could also say that you’ve made changes to your work/life balance and are reducing the hours you work.

Here’s how I find new clients and land bigger jobs.