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Firing Web Design Clients

When to Fire a Web Design Client


Firing a client may seem like a bad idea, but in harsh economic times, one of the most effective ways to improve your bottom line is to get rid of clients that cost you the most money.

Fire Clients that Cost You the Most Money

A client that costs your business money is a client that you can't afford to have in the long run. It's one thing to choose to work for free, but when paying clients monopolize your time you can end up spending more money than they are paying you.

Look at your client base, and analyze:

  • How much time do you spend on email with them? Do they email you once a week, once a day, or once an hour?
  • How much time do you spend on the phone with them? One hour a week, a day, all day long?
  • How much time do you spend doing "little changes"? These are the minor updates that all clients ask for and are not typically contracted. One or two per project, per week, per day?
  • How much time do you spend on administration for them? Do you have to invoice them all the time or hardly ever? And do they pay their invoices on time or only with prodding (or not at all)?

Once you know how much time you're spending on non-paying work for your clients, you can look at how much they are paying you. If you are charging by the hour, then most of the above work would be billable. But if you charge by the project, these seemingly little things like email or phone calls can add up quickly.

Fire the client that costs the most.

Specific Situations Where You Should Fire a Client

If you find it too difficult to determine which client is costing you the most money, there are some specific situations where you should fire a client, even if they are paying you well:

  • They lie to you or ask you to lie.
    A client who lies is not someone whom you should work with. Your business relies on its reputation, and getting a reputation for lying will lose you customers. And if you allow yourself to be lied to, then other customers will see you as a pushover and try to take advantage of you. Plus, a client who lies to you will assume that you lie to them as well.
  • They don't pay their bills
    A client that doesn't pay their bills is just a waste of your time. Sure, if they were to pay you what you're owed you could make a lot of money. But until they pay you, they are just a deadbeat and you should move on to someone more reliable.
  • They are abusive to you
    Everyone gets angry at times, but you don't need to be the butt of jokes or insults, tolerate bad language, or be yelled at. Clients that don't respect your professionalism should not be tolerated. This includes clients who are nice to you to your face, but then bad-mouth you to others.

How to Fire a Client

While it may be tempting to yell at a client or send an obnoxious email, the best way to fire a client is to be as professional as you can be while terminating the arrangement.

  1. Make sure that you have no outstanding obligations to the client.
  2. Review your contract with them to determine what, if any, termination details you agreed on.
  3. Meet with the client in person.
  4. Courteously explain that you feel s/he would be better served by going to another Web designer. You can have a written statement to this effect as well.
  5. If possible, give them a referral to another designer that you think might better suit their personality.
  6. Send them a final invoice, due on receipt, of any unpaid balance.
  7. Organize all your paperwork and information on that client and file it in a secure location.
  8. Let them go. Do not talk about them or bad-mouth them. If you are asked for references for them, it's best to keep your comments short and factual. Such as "I worked with them from 1999 to 2001."

The key to firing a client is to remain professional. Don't let it get personal or be disrespectful. If they get angry or threatening, just walk away.

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