How do you tell a client that the relationship is over?

When do you realise that your professional relationship is over. How do you to breakup with a client? Is it when they’ve been rude to you once too often, they’re not happy with the way you work or the results that you achieve, they micro manage you or are continuously critical of your style of working. They may simply drain your energy. When you no longer enjoy the relationship you have with a client or customer, it may be time to say goodbye but break-ups are not easy!

How do you start the conversation or do you just ‘fire’ them without warning (check any existing contracts you have with them first if you decide to go this route).

Here are a few tips and ideas to get the conversation started:

Write to them and ask for an update meeting to discuss projects /your current project.

Ask them how they think things are progressing (via Zoom /telephone/face to face) and listen to what they have to say. Let them speak first.

Voice your concern that you find it difficult to work in the current situation (don’t go into too much detail) but ask if they are happy about the way you work together. Assuming they may be critical of you or your results, they may be unhappy too.

Don’t get personal

However, if they say everything is fine and they are happy about your working relationship together (and they just don’t see it how you see it) then you need to be brave and say it is not working for you. Explain why (without getting personal) and suggest it may be prudent to find a new supplier that they could work with (have an idea up your sleeve of who could replace you on the project). You can offer to recommend another professional to take your place. Try not to leave them high and dry as this will harm your business reputation.

Stick to your guns!

They may be shocked and try to convince you to continue, to give it another try, to see how it goes. If you want ‘out’ you have to stick to your guns. Nothing saps your enthusiasm or motivation more than somebody that is draining or negative. It will be twice as bad if they talk you around and you feel resentful too! This is where resilience comes into play, you need to be strong, and leave.

If you do not deal directly with any key decision makers then you may be ‘shooting the messenger’! Maybe their boss is a nightmare; giving them a hard time and you are the next in line for a ‘kicking’, but to be honest, the relationships at the client end is not your problem, so try not to be pulled into their office politics.

A bad relationship is a bad relationship and it is best to exit. Try not to let the loss of income cloud your judgement (and stay). I’m a firm believer that if you make space, a new client will appear!

Be kind

Be careful how you end the relationship (try not to lie or embellish the truth to get away) but be honest without being harsh and end the relationship as professional ‘friends’ wherever possible. Thank them for working with you. You never know where you may bump into each other again. It’s a small world!