Home Ever had to fire a client? It’s rare

Ever had to fire a client? It’s rare


marketingIt’s not easy to do, but sometimes you have to just yank the Band-Aid off, deal with the moment of intense pain, and breathe. That works with actual Band-Aids and metaphorical ones in the world of business in the form of those 1 percent clients.

We’ve built more than 500 websites for clients in our five-plus years of offering web design services. Twice we’ve had to break ties with clients because the relationships just weren’t working out on either side.

Five hundred good clients, two that we’ve had to fire – that’s 99 percent good, 1 percent bad. Yeah, we’re fortunate. Doesn’t make it any easier, though, when you do have to fire a client, because doing so means you’re foregoing whatever amount of time you’ve invested in the project, and thus the invoice that would remunerate you for that time. A relationship has to have gone completely sour before you’re willing to give up a few hundred dollars or more of your work time.

In one recent case for us, things were bound to go sour, in retrospect, even before the project got under way. In this case, the clients had no idea what they wanted their website to look like, which came to be clear and obvious after a two-hour conference call at the outset of the work that ended with us not having a single clue as to what the client was trying to accomplish with the new site.

We looked during the conference call at a number of websites that the clients said they liked in terms of design, but no one was even remotely like the next, and when this observation was made from our end, the answer back from the other end was that we would be able to figure it out as we went along.

Turns out that we weren’t able to figure it out as we went along, at least not to the liking of the clients in this case, and after several drafts, it was apparent that the project was going nowhere fast. Decision time loomed. We could do another conference call, we could meet to hash it all out in person, or we could all agree that it was just time to move on.

That last option was the one that we suggested, and as hard as it was to do, in one sense, because that’s several hundred dollars of our time and money that won’t be translated into money toward our bottom line, in another sense it was also easy to get done. It had become abundantly clear that the clients felt trapped by the looming invoice, and probably also that they still really has no feel for what they want from their new site.

What is now several hundred dollars in invoices would easily soon go into the $1,000-plus territory, and who knows from there as iteration after iteration of the site was cranked out, dissected and improved upon?

The lesson for a client is that to be a good client, you need to know what you want before you go into a web design project. Speaking just for this one web designer here, I’m a pretty smart guy, but I can’t read your mind, and the job of mind-reading is made exponentially tougher when you’re not even sure yourself what it is that you want.

The lesson for us and others as service providers is basically to pay attention to the surroundings. As I suggested above, I had a sense after the initial phone call that the clients in this example really didn’t have a handle on what they wanted, and that as a result we might have a hard time getting the project moving forward in any appreciable manner.

Trust your instincts: that’s the message, early, late, whenever.

Chris Graham is the president of Augusta Free Press LLC, a web design, graphic design, video and audio production and marketing firm based in Waynesboro, Va. Online at www.AFPBusiness.com. Email AFP at [email protected].



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