Today's topic is never a fun topic. But, if you are running your own Facebook Ad Agency you will face this at some point in your career. So let's go ahead and talk about this difficult topic now so that you are prepared when it does happen.
Today we are going to talk about:
The 3 Signs It's time to Fire that Difficult Client
When You Need to Terminate that Difficult Client
How to Terminate them.
As someone who used to run a digital media company, I can tell you that I have had my fair share of these types of situations. Not a lot, but enough that I remember them well and want to save you the agony of not knowing how to do it the right way.
Whenever you have a client that comes on board, and especially when you first start, some of them you wont mesh with. One of the key signs is when you dread talking to, meeting with or working with them. This was always one of our first warning signs. Maybe you are questioning starting your agency. Let me stop you right there! Starting your agency was not a mistake at all! You just have the wrong client and it's time to let them go.
The Warning Signs It's Not Going to Work with a Difficult Client
There are several warning signs that Ben and I had both come across when we ran agencies.
1. Personality Conflicts
Let me say that not everyone on the planet was meant to get along. Some people, no matter what, are just not going to get along. There are personality conflicts. And in that case, it is no one's fault. Those things happen. Even if everyone involved is awesome, sometimes things just don't mesh. I have a pretty laid back, easy going personality and I had a client who was not that way at all. Just having a normal conversation with her always put me on edge and I didn't enjoy the work. At that point, it was time to move on to a client that I actually enjoyed seeing.
2. Time Sucks
This is when one client is eating up huge chunks of your time. If you are like we were when we started, you are only a 1-3 man (or woman) show and there are only a set amount of hours in the day. You can not have one client who is paying the same amount for your service as all the other clients but you are spending more time on them. That is not a viable business model. If this is happening to you, you will know it pretty quickly. A majority of your clients should only take you a few hours a week to communicate with and a few more to do the actual work. If any client is taking up more than that, they are on the edge of being a difficult client. You will need to determine if you want to keep them as a client or not.
A great client will actually be just the opposite of this. They are going to be busy running their own business. They will want you to do yours and get people into the door. They won't want to spend a great deal of time discussing it. They want results plain and simple. If they spend a lot of time talking about the details it is most likely because they do not understand what you are doing for them. Or they don't think they are getting the value of what they are paying for. So they try to get that value by taking up your time talking to them. If that's the case they will try to get value out of you else where hence the next red flag.
3. Constantly Changing the Plan
This one is the biggest red flag of all. Your client is constantly wanting to change what you are working on. There are two scenarios that come into play here. They either do not understand what you are doing. Or they don't trust that you will be able to deliver what you say you will. Now, you were hired for a very specific reason. You were hired because you are the expert. You may not always feel like the expert, especially when you are first starting out, but trust us, you are the expert. You are the person who has the time to dedicate to this project. Your the person who has the time to research this project even if it's something you don't know about. And last but not least, you have been trained. Especially if you're reading this and have read our other posts, you know your stuff. If you question your skills we recommend you join AdLab Premium and get access to lots of other experts who will be there to help you along the way.
The second that they start trying to dictate the conversation is when things start to go the other way. Your client does not understand what you are trying to do. Or they are not patient enough to go through that initial process of dialing something in. When this starts to happen it is getting close to time to let that client go.
If you use a client service agreement that will help avoid this issue altogether.
When to Terminate a Difficult Client
I have always held true to this and I hope you will too, I always finished out my contracts. I gave my client my word that I would do this work and I keep my word. In the back of my mind, I know that in all my contracts there is a project completion date so I know that I have a way out at a certain point.
Now I would ever terminate a contract early if my client asked me to do something unethical or unlawful. Those two are immediate deal breakers for me. Although it has never ever happened in my career. But, I knew that if either of those came up that I would hold true to myself and end the contract immediately.
Ben points out that there may be a time that you hate your life because of working with a difficult client. If you ever come to that point in your career, you always have the option of ending the contract early and giving them a refund. That is a decision that only you can make though. Doing this leaves your clients in a lurch because they have to go find someone else to do the work that you were to do. So 99% of the time, finish out your contract. The professional thing to do is always deliver on what you said you were doing to deliver.
How to Terminate a Difficult Client
1. Keep the Same Type of Communication
This part is important so don't gloss over here. When you terminate a client, communicate with them the same way you have always communicated with them. If you have always been the person who has walked into their door and talked with them in person DO NOT send them an email stating you are ending the working relationship. You walk in the door and do it in person. If you have only communicated by email then it's fine to send this communication the same way. Stick with the way you have always communicated with them and you are good.
2. Let Them Down Easy
Next, you will want to end this working arrangement as smoothly as possible. Even if your client was an awful person to work with, you never want to put that on them. You always take it on yourself. And what I mean by that is maybe you say to your client that “I am my own boss. I set my own schedule and my schedule is getting a little too full and I am needing to cut back on some work. I won't be renewing the contract when this current project comes to completion. ” You don't want to be too over the top. You could work with this client again down the road. The key is to always put it back on you!
3. Give them a Referal
When you end your working relationship, your client may have no one else that they know of who does what you do. Recommend someone who you know that they can contact who could pick up the work where you are leaving off. Make sure to reach out to the person you recommended as well. Let them know that you may have someone contact them. You never know when they may return that same favor. If you do not know anyone personally, do a little research and find someone that you can point them to. You don't want to leave them with no one to turn to when you're finished.
4. Always Leave the Door Open
Tell your client that they can contact you if anything ever changes or if they have questions. Keep the communication open. Because you never know when something may change or down the road you may need something from them. They could always refer you as well. I had a client that it did not work for whatever reason, but because I took care of them after our contract ended, they ended up being a great referral source for our company. And a few of them came back to work with us again and that go round was successful.
When you let a client go the way we laid out, things turn out pretty stinking well. Now, occasionally you'll have someone that is not great, and they are going to want to end with fireworks. You gotta be okay with that. That happens sometimes. Yet, we don't want the fireworks ever to be because we didn't do our best to try and end things in a professional manner. And when all else fails this old motto holds true, treat others the way you would want to be treated.
Our challenge to you right now is to check your current working relationships. What are the ones that make you cringe when you have to talk to them? And do they fit into any of the criteria above? If so, it may be time to start the process of ending that relationship.