Ending Good Client Relationships

There’s no lack of advice when it comes to firing clients. You’ve probably stumbled on hundreds of listicles covering the topic or have your own set of deal breakers. This article isn’t about intolerable client behavior. Instead, it’s about knowing when it’s time to move on from a client engagement. The relationship doesn’t need to be negative or go up in flames for it to end. Sometimes, it just makes good business sense for freelancers to move on to other client work or for clients to find alternative resources for communications. Here are three examples.

1. The Program Has Run Its Course

You’ve run out of steam after several years and the activities don’t change. There’s something very comforting about familiarity, especially when it comes to attending the client’s user conference or driving the annual product launch. These can be highly lucrative client engagements, but only if you and the client are continually coming up with fresh ideas, are adding value, and improving performance. If you or the client are bored after several years, are struggling to get through routine tasks and results are decreasing, it might be time to have a conversation with the client. One or both of you might realize that the best thing by the client and end the relationship. It’s better to leave with positive results and a reference than risk your reputation.  

2. The Company Has Grown to Need a Larger Agency

In the second situation, the marketing team and the organization is quickly growing and a freelancer isn’t enough to cover the increasing client demands. This can happen when a hot start-up takes off, and it’s not a coincidence that the freelancer was a significant contributor to that success. Instead of losing the business entirely, proactively approach the client with the idea of partnering with a team of freelancers or a traditional agency that can offer more staff, resources and a global presence. This keeps revenue coming in for the freelancer, while also providing the client with the consistency and extended team needed to meet the demands of their growing company.

3. Irreconcilable Differences

In the last scenario, the freelancer and client like and respect each other, but can’t come to a consensus on how to approach and execute the work. Every once in a while, you’ll find a client that you genuinely want to work with and you seem to be on the same page during the new business vetting and pitch process. Once you start working together, however, you discover that you really aren’t compatible when it comes to the day-to-day activities. For example, you’re both great writers and can clearly communicate a message, but have different styles of writing. Or perhaps have different philosophies when it comes to pitching media or determining the value of coverage. These are situations where it’s better to bow out of the engagement rather than trying to get each other to change.

Client relationships aren’t meant to be forever. Of course, you want to keep great clients as long as possible, but there are times when it’s in the best interest of both parties to end the contract. Remember, when you do the right thing by the client, the client will do the right thing by you. In these instances, it could lead to future referrals and a solid reference.

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