As I have shared before we always operate at capacity with our workload, and this year we instituted a waiting list. On top of that, we’ve been rescuing WordPress sites from major hacker attacks, dealing with private server crashes, computer meltdowns, our own backup system crashing, multiple viruses. Needless to say it’s been abnormally crazy around here!
Then to add to all of that, in one week we fired a client, we got fired by a client, and that client then convinced another he referred to us to fire us too!
Making The Decision To Fire A Client
This isn’t the first client we’ve fired this year. In fact, the theme of 2011 has been to clear out all of the non-ideal clients draining our energy and joy for what we do to make room for appreciative ideal clients who value our contribution to their team and their success.
- We’ve fired clients for being mean and for lack of communication (branding and design is a two-way process).
- We’ve fired clients who required we work solely with their team, but their team didn’t know what they wanted and couldn’t communicate with us.
- We’ve fired clients who treated us merely as a resource who should be at their beck and call, instead of as a respected member of their team.
- We’ve fired a client because every invoice we sent was nickel-and-dimed, and that is not only exhausting, it’s irritating. If you don’t trust us, we can’t work together.
- And now we fired a client and refunded their deposit because they just couldn’t get their act together to move forward (we like to work fast).
Each of these decisions has opened up space in our business to invite in clients we love to work with. When the phone rings and I recognize the number as a client, I don’t want to groan, I want to cheer! I want to be excited about every project we take on and every person we work with and today that’s exactly what we’ve achieved.
Getting Fired By A Client
This also isn’t the first time we’ve been fired … and I’m sure it won’t be the last! I can tell you there has been one single thing in common in every situation where we’ve been fired. The commonality? The client can’t take no for an answer.
Scope Creep is a major problem we face. Scope creep occurs when we quote a project for a specific scope of work, then once we get started, the client keeps making additional requests to add to the project, and the original scope gets bigger and bigger.
Usually Scope Creep isn’t that big of a deal because we create a change order, provide an estimate for the additional work, and move forward from there. But then there are times when the client believes that they should be able to make any request and we MUST obey and provide the additional work at no additional charge. Unfortunately when we say no, sometimes they aren’t very nice, they say some nasty things, and we part ways.
This time wasn’t all that different. Several months ago we completed a client site and just recently they hired a new assistant to manage their site. Unfortunately, this assistant clearly has no idea what he is doing, as he emailed and called us more than 10 times a week for basic WordPress support. Now we are available for our clients to answer questions etc., but this wasn’t even our client!
Every time we answered the phone or responded to an email it was 30 minutes to an hour of our time to explain how WordPress works. Brian saw what was happening, put his foot down about the free tech-support and offered to provide a WordPress consulting package. The client freaked out and told us that not only would they never do business with us again, they would never refer another piece of business to us ever again. Then he called another one of our clients that he had referred to us as their business coach and had them cancel their contract for a second site with us as well!
Now we could have let this bother us and get us frustrated, but as I mentioned before 2011 has been the year of cleaning out the clients who aren’t a perfect fit and welcoming in those who are. This experience was actually a gift! While we enjoyed working with both of these clients, and their WordPress sites turned out beautifully, they didn’t match up with our definition of our ideal client.
Amazingly enough, that same day, two new contracts arrived, paid in full and you just have to love how that works out.
You Have To Change Your Mindset
Getting comfortable enough in my own power and confidence to be able to fire a client who drains my energy wasn’t something I was able to do overnight. At first, Brian had to step in and do it! Being okay with getting fired took some time too! I had to change the way I look at the whole process. Brian and I do our best to get to know new prospects during our “Get Acquainted” interview process to discover if we’d be a great fit to work together. If we’d be a great fit, we’ll provide an estimate. If we’re not the best fit, we’ll provide a referral to someone who might be.
But sometimes people change once the contract is signed! Recognizing this and letting them go with grace and love is a gift to both parties. It’s a gift to them to allow them to have a better experience with someone else, and it’s a gift to you to protect your energy.
When a client fires you, it doesn’t to any good to get mad. (Although quickly venting to a trusted friend to clear out that energy helps!) Instead look at it as a gift to you. They probably weren’t a great fit and they just realized it before you did. Or maybe you knew they weren’t a good fit, but you were hanging on and making the best of it because they were a referral from a friend, or they are a friend. By letting you go, they are actually clearing the way for you to welcome a new fabulous client.
You see, firing a client and having a client fire you isn’t always a bad thing. You just have to change your mindset and they way you look at it.