Should you break up with your client?

Confident Businesswoman Sitting Arms Crossed At Desk

In a recent session with a client the topic of saying “thanks but no thanks” to their clients came up. There were a number of things happening that made them think twice as to whether or not they actually wanted to work with them. This started me the thinking about other conversations I have had with clients on this topic as well as my own experience and I realised that there are a number of situations where breaking up with a client is applicable.

1. The client are slow to pay or don’t pay at all. After the excitement of landing a new client (more so for service based businesses than product however the topic is still applicable to both), and the honeymoon is over, reality sets in. Good work is done. Hours and hours given to said client. However when it comes down to it they are not paying your invoice. They ask for you to do more work despite the previous invoice not being paid – what do you do? Many clients have said that they keep working in a show of good will. Others refuse to work until paid. This is a dance that one needs to feel their way through as to what is the right thing for you and your relationship however one word of warning: by continuing to work un-paid for too long devalues your worth – with the client and yourself. You deserve to be paid for the good work that you have done. There comes a point where you need to be aware, are you getting paid your worth or are they taking your for a ride?

2. The client is well known. Having a well-established, well-known client can be great for business whether a new or existing one as it creates credibility and makes you attractive to other potential clients. This is a big pull to have them on your client list and testimonials, however at what cost? One of the biggest challenges both my clients and I have faced when working with well known brands is that sometimes these clients use the fact that they are such a big brand and they know that they can push you down on price, based on the sheer volume and size. One client was doing 1,000s of transactions with a big name client however the profit margin that was negotiated was so low that not only were they not breaking even, they were losing money. Initially my client said that they wanted to keep them on and saw the loss as marketing spend but after a long period of time came to the realisation that it wasn’t worth it and dropped this big name client. Despite the rational to keep them onboard because it would attract other big clients, there was a word on the street to the low margin rates that were agreed to, so other potential clients started to expect the same. It just wasn’t worth it.

3. Lack of alignment. Personality and product – we like doing business with people and with organisations that align with our values and what we are trying to achieve. Whether you are a start up or you are hungry for a new client, we can make allowances for someone or a company that may not align with us with the justification that we need the income. That may be true but in the situations that I have seen with my clients and myself when there is a lack of alignment we lose our heart in the process…meaning we don’t enjoy the work, the relationship with the client and often the outcome is that the quality of work isn’t as good and you are not that engaged. It may be worth having them as a client for a while as you need the money, or their brand associated with yours – but this needs to be a conscious decision. If you have too many clients that do not align to your brand, your vision and values what does that say about you and your brand? Furthermore, it can attract similar brands and people to your business and perpetuate the cycle – and you end up doing work that you don’t enjoy and working with people that you don’t enjoy doing business with.

At the end of the day we take on clients for a number of reasons but there comes a point where we need to have the confidence and awareness of our self-worth to know when we need to break up with a client or say no thanks even before you take them on. Furthermore, business is about people. Surrounding yourself with people that align with your values means that you will be more engaged, create and produce better work and grow your business even faster. It is understandable that when starting out a good client is a paying client however once you are more established there needs to be a level of discernment and awareness as to who we say yes to being our client. Who we work with says a lot about who we are, our values and what we like to achieve. What do your clients say about you?


I invite you to a free 45 minute discovery call, where together we can go through how grow your business b having the right clients. This is a real coaching session. Click HERE to book.

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