How to ‘fire’ an unwanted client

The relationship isn’t working for you, because the client is not cooperating. Here’s how to have an exchange that severs ties graciously—and might even get your counterpart back in line.

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Fair question. It’s not easy, but there are two guiding principles for this to work out well:

1. Be up front and crystal clear about what you are doing, and why.
2. Be scrupulously polite, and always leave the door open.

First, before you sit the client down for a good firing, you must decide whether there are any circumstances under which you would do business with this client again. Usually such scenarios are possible, so it’s crucial to leave the door open for the relationship to be picked up again—if the circumstances are right.

If the client has been obnoxious or dishonest, you might decide never to do business with that person again (a liberating feeling, I promise.) In that case, you can kill the thing stone dead, right there and then—but still politely. None of us needs an extra enemy.

So, how to do the deed?

1. If possible, sit down with your client face to face. If that’s not possible, then speaking over the phone is the next best thing. Email? Never works. Always ends ugly. Don’t go there.

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