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How to Fire a Client

By Kyle Niederpruem posted 03-18-2019 09:33 AM

In the 18 years I’ve been doing PR (and all related services), I’ve had a parting of ways with a client just twice. By parting, I mean outright firing – or terminating a contract early. In both instances, you do what you can – turn over files, maintain your work ethic to the end and wish everyone well.

In my experience, you know in the first two to four weeks whether you can deliver what you’ve been hired to do – and whether it will meet your professional standards. If you’re stubborn, and don’t wish to recognize the root causes as to why it’s not working, you can hang in as long as you can and suffer the consequences.

But in today’s mobile economy, you need to move on. Here’s how to go about it.

Here’s an interesting blog post by Nick Reese. He offers helpful scenarios for those too traumatized to figure it out – including email scripts to ending it. Many of you will recognize the truths here, especially in the comments section. If you’ve been doing this long enough, you’ll see versions of your own stories here.

More scripts here from The Hartford – followed with advice about distinguishing between the type of problem clients and problem behaviors. Is it just a tedious lift to educate people – or are they truly abusive to you? The distinction may not help you. But it may calm you momentarily as you’re thinking through your options.

Then there’s this advice from the Harvard Business Review – noting that it’s always easier to keep a current client than cultivate a new one. Easier, yes. But not necessarily good for you. Diversity in your client pool and newer challenges keep you brain fresh to an extent. The more you do and the more you’re out there – the better options you’ll be able to offer your client.

Now, in the end – it’s tough to say good-bye no matter the reason. But I’m old enough now and semi-wise enough to know when to end it, when never to start it, and how to fold in a bit of parting advice to help them on their way. A recent IPA PRSA webinar reminded me of remembering your own value. Yes, you still have to pay the bills. But pay them on your terms – and never let a relationship be a regret.

How about you? Let us know your best practices and how you moved on.
1 comment



03-26-2019 07:35 AM

Nice to hear I might have this need some day. Thanks for sharing your resources and advice so generously Kyle.