Previously, I wrote about how to know when it’s time to Breakup With A Client. In this article, I’ll help you understand the client breakup and how to do it. Hopefully, the reasons to breakup with a client will allow for the client breakup to be amicable. I hate burning bridges, but some people leave you with no other choice. It’s important to note that sometimes, during the client breakup process, you’ll identify solutions that may allow you to correct the relationship, rather than break it off. Because of this, we’re going to cover this in a series of steps.

Before you go into these steps, ask yourself one question “Am I ahead of the problem?” If you don’t know the answer, treat it as it is is already too late. The longer you wait to address a client breakup, the messier and harder it can become. I like to take notes about the clients each time I interact with them. It helps me gauge if their behavior starts changing, or if mine does. Even before someone becomes your client, if possible, have a really good idea of what they’re like. The earlier you can spot a change in dynamic, the better. A client breakup should be sooner rather than later in most cases.

  1. Is There A Fix?
    1. What is the problem? Is it a product, methodology, personality, etc.?
    2. Is the problem on your side, or the customer’s?
    3. If it is on your side, can you reasonably fix it? Do you want to? (It’s OK to not want to change certain things in your business, if you are passionate about them.)
    4. Is it cost efficient to fix?
  2. Communicate The Reason For Breaking Up
    1. Do this in-person or over the phone. Be sure you’re in the right frame of mind, with a positive attitude.
    2. Clearly state the problems you have identified.
    3. Explain why they cannot be reasonably resolved. Allow for feedback if they provide a solution.
    4. Prioritize the needs of the client in your verbiage. The decision must be what’s best for them.
    5. Keep your emotions in line. Don’t allow yourself to get engaged if they get argumentative, angry, or mean.
  3. Offer Resolution
    1. Have you both fulfilled any contractual obligations? A client breakup doesn’t have to mean you cease immediately, unless circumstances and behavior warrant it.
    2. If you are giving a notice of a specific period of time for services, layout the remaining work and the timeline.
    3. Discuss any financial resolution if it’s needed. Do you need to collect a payment, or do you owe them a refund?
    4. Point them in the right direction. Is there someone else better positioned to help them? A resource they need? Help them get where they need to be.
  4. Leave opportunity on the table (unless it’s warranted to severe all ties)
    1. Be clear that you want to work together in the future, if that is the truth.
    2. Present any potential future services, products, etc.
    3. Ask if you can follow up with them to see how the progress is going. Maintaining that relationship could pay off.

A Client breakup doesn’t have to be tense, or awkward. It’s all about how you frame and word the conversation. There will be cases in which a client breakup may not be so polite, or amicable. Sometimes it isn’t mutual and they may not understand why you need to breakup. The stronger you manage your relationships going into business with someone, the better you can manage a client breakup if it’s necessary.