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Before you break-up with your client, do this

Before you break-up with your client, do this.

Before making a final decision, take the time to step away from the fraught situation and truly think about it. Unless a relationship is abusive, really consider the decision so you feel good about it. There are two points to consider:

  • Is there a way you can do good work for this client and not feel dissatisfied yourself? There may be an honest conversation or attitude shift that will facilitate this.
  • Is there an amount of money that would make you okay accepting this particular client’s challenges?

If financial compensation is sufficient, the exchange is easy. Let the client know that you’re changing your rate to x. Don’t explain and defend the rate even if asked, this is a take it or leave it situation. Remember, however, that if the client decides to accept your new rate, you must be as professional and engaged as you are for your other clients.

If you decide to move forward with the break-up, you may be tempted to be petty. There are no consequences at his point, so who cares?

Resist those impulses, because future you will feel best about the situation if you take the high road. Even relationships that have gone awry deserve a good conclusion. To this end:

  • Keep the break-up as simple and respectful as possible. You don’t owe this individual a detailed explanation, however, a simple line such as “I’m changing my focus”, “I’m going another way” or “I need to take a step back to focus on other work” will make it easier.
  • Express genuine gratitude for the work you’ve been provided and what you’ve learned during the course of the relationship. Indeed, you’ve likely learned from the adversity.
  • Finish any outstanding work quickly and to the best of your ability. When in doubt as to whether you “owe” the client this or that, think about what would make future you feel best. Default to doing more rather than less.
  • Resist any requests to provide referrals or replacements. If this individual is so difficult you can’t make it work, you don’t want to pass that on to others.
  • Forego any temptation to give this individual advice about how to work with service providers in the future. If this person is so difficult you can’t work with them, it’s unlikely that your advice, even if delivered constructively, will resonate.

My final piece of advice is to consider any red flags that you ignored in the beginning. Here’s a list of things that I and others have encountered in the past. No client is perfect, but in hindsight it’s often easy to see that the signs were there early on. Use these as a guidepost into more constructive relationships in the future.

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