So you need to fire a client.
In full disclosure, I've failed as many times as I've succeeded in this particular department. Dealing with human beings can be a messy business, and even if you do everything right, it can unfold into something *very* wrong. Proceed boldly but be ready for some pain. Enough of that ... read on.
Here are some excerpts from real calls.
Hi, it's Nate. Just need to have a quick chat about something. <OK> Yah, I'm not going to be doing anymore projects for you. <Why?>. I think another company will be able to do a much better job for you. It's not that I don't like making some money, I just *firmly* believe that you would get a lot more miles per gallon with someone else.
Now comes the really hard part ... handling their response.
Here's some scenarios plucked from my own experience:
Did you see the recurring theme there?
I didn't blame them for anything: It's a bad fit, and they can do better with someone (or something) else.
If they get really pissed, then I would recommend going in strong and firm. For people that get emotional in business (yes, I'm one of them) it's sometimes easier to treat this like a break-up.
Above, we stayed in the "it's not you, it's me" break-up, which will help some folks move on and even respect you for keeping their best interests at the forefront. (And, yes, I've generated referrals from that category).
But when you are dealing with a drama queen, or asshole and stage three clinger, make it firm and final. All of these are hard to deliver, but remember what's at stake and why you made the decision in the first place.
I don't want to work with you anymore. We don't agree on - well - anything, and I feel like you are nearly as frustrated as me. I'm really sorry it didn't work out. Bye. <hang up>
I cannot justify continuing this when I have clients that don't flip out on me. I'm really sorry. Bye. <hang up>
Once you have the break-up call, do NOT rebound back to that (or another) shitty client. Use that extra time (and sanity) and deliver some better service to your remaining customers, and once that's done, go get some new customers.
Firing clients is a messy business, but necessary for a small biz owner. It even applies in retail (the obsessive, 'buy then return' crowd). In fact, I first learned about firing clients from a pub owner in Bury St Edmunds, UK. A former football (soccer to Americans) coach, he adopted a similar strategy in the pub.
"Every month I would cut the bottom 5% from the team, and recruit new talent to back-fill. Now with the pub, I cut the bottom 5% of customers. Just tap them on the shoulder and say "Hey Mate. I don't think this place is for you"
That small biz owner quadrupled his customer base over a three-month period, and filled his 500 year old pub with awesomer, classier, better-behaved customers.
But he also clung to the age-old adage, "Where the women are, the men will follow"
Let's save that thorny topic for another day.
Until then ...