Earlier this week, we were forced to fire a client. This was only the second time we had to get rid of a client, and it got me to thinking:
- Were there any signs before taking them on that we missed?
- How could we avoid firing a client from here on out?
- What are some reasons to fire a client?
In our research, we learned some industry standards about hiring and firing bad clients.
Although, unfortunately, it has to be done, here are 9 signs that you should fire a web development/SEO/marketing client.
Lack of Communication
Lack of client communication is a big red flag. Deadlines are missed, deadlines extensions are not granted or requested in advance. The client does not respond to phone calls or emails on time and/or may refuse to speak about specific topics with you on the phone.
Simply put, if they can’t talk to you about what’s going on with their project, it might be a sign that they are avoiding you, and you should consider getting rid of them.
Lack of communication may also happen because the client is not well-organized or just overwhelmed with their responsibilities. But if this occurs for over two weeks, firing them could potentially save you more time trying to retain them as a client.
Being Overly Demanding
We’ve all had the kind of clients that are a little demanding, but when they start to take their demands too far, it’s time for you to get rid of them. If the client is overly demanding and unwilling to work with your schedule, firing them could be the best option.
It might also help if you have a person in charge of closing/onboarding/offboarding who is separate from the person who manages current clients. That way, if there’s a firing that needs to happen, you can avoid bias in firing and not have any anger directed at your company or towards other employees.
(That’s why we have account managers to handle all aspects of our web design process and nurture all client relationships.)
In addition, firing someone for being overly demanding could actually benefit them as they realize their demands were unreasonable and will be more equipped to work with the next agency.
Lack of Understanding
This is a tough one for many, but firing someone because they lack understanding can be beneficial in the long run. If you have tried everything and they still don’t understand what it is that needs to happen to have a working relationship, then firing them may not only get them to understand the website design/SEO process better but will also help your team not have to deal with their lack of understanding.
Too Many Requests for Changes to the Project Scope
A client can’t constantly ask for changes to the scope of a project without understanding that these changes will change deadlines and costs.
If they have been asking too many times, firing them could be good because it might help them learn how much work goes into projects and save headaches for their next agency.
Not respecting your work, time, or fee.
This is a big one. It’s also just plain rude not to respect your work or time, and firing someone who doesn’t do this could be the best for both you and them in the long run.
Firing someone for not respecting your work or time can also make the firing process easier because if you’re letting them go due to this reason, it’s likely that they will be more understanding and willing to comply with what you need from them before firing them.
For example, problem clients who don’t respect deadlines might become very compliant with deadlines if firing them is on the table.
You can take the more firm stance of giving them a warning that if they don’t start to respect you and what you need from then firing will be on the table. Many people who are fired for this reason tend to comply with what is being asked of them as they don’t want to be fired.
Abusive language or behavior to anyone at your agency
Abusive language, cursing, and other abusive behaviors should not be taken lightly. If firing them is the best option because of this, then it’s a good idea to do so quickly so that your team doesn’t have to deal with their bad behavior in any capacity.
Digital marketing involves a certain level of trust, and using abusive language towards your agency is an indicator that that trust may not be present.
One of the most common forms of abusive language towards a digital marketing agency (or any small business) is cursing. This can include inappropriate use of words or phrases, swear words, and generally speaking in an inappropriate and unprofessional manner.
Another example of abusive language would be name-calling. If your client starts calling you derogatory names, calling you stupid or dumb, or just making personal insults against you, it’s a good sign that firing them is the best option. It’s not just firing them because they are rude but also because they are disrespectful.
Unreasonable Expectations or Demands
It is always frustrating when a client from hell does not respect the needs of your business.
For me, firing an SEO or web development client was especially hard because it meant I had to give up some of my income and find another project to work on. However, firing them is the only option if someone is making unreasonable requests without providing any benefits for you.
One of our clients would call us up every day and make demands like, “I need you to change this logo right now.” I had no time for that because we are already working on other projects, so they fired us first.
As much as we wish that we could, most agencies can’t just drop what they’re doing and change something in a snap.
If someone is texting or emailing you every day and demanding that you change something, there’s no point in arguing with them; it will just cause more stress for your team and make things take longer than necessary.
The critical thing to remember when firing clients who are unreasonable or too demanding is that you’re firing them for a good reason.
Although we take pride in not being driven by money, it does matter. If an agency isn’t getting paid, then what’s the point?
A client who lacks the cash flow to work with you will ultimately cause more harm than good and end up costing you money. Remember, you have memberships to pay, electricity bills to pay, and, more importantly, personnel to pay.
Before firing difficult clients, make sure that you’ve tried to work with them and fulfill their needs, whether through lowering your price or doing some of their project for free. Most clients who are on tight budgets will eventually appreciate what they’re getting in return. However, if after months have gone by and they continue not to provide any payment, firing them may be the only option.
For example, I once had a client who wanted us to do a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for $500 or less because they simply didn’t have more money than that at the time. They said, “I know this sounds crazy, but can you just give me some pointers on how to rank my website?”
I tried to work with them for a few months and teach them some SEO tactics so that they could rank their site themselves. After all, I wanted to preserve my relationship with the client, even if it meant doing less of the project myself. However, after giving him pointers on how he can do his own SEO and not paying me anything in return, firing him was the only option.
Insufficient Planning by the Client
Insufficient planning is another reason in this category to fire a client.
This is especially common in web development projects where the client doesn’t know what they want out of the project and keeps changing their mind every few weeks or so.
For example, we recently had a client who didn’t have a grasp on their business model. They were unsure of their services.
If we don’t know your services, we don’t know what keywords you want search engines to rank your website for.
If you don’t have a clear vision of what it is that your business does, then there’s not going to be any way for us (or anyone else) to help build your website and rank it in the SERPS.
For a website to rank well, it needs to have relevant content and keywords on the site used frequently in articles or other pages of the site. A vague description of your business will lead you down a path of frustration because there is no way we can help you out if we don’t know what type of content you want on your website.
The key takeaway from this blog post is that firing a client isn’t something you should do without any thought.
It is important to consider why the firing is taking place and whether or not there was any wrongdoing on behalf of the company.
Have you ever had to fire a client? Or what do you do to ensure you only land good clients?
Let us know in the form below.