Who was the first client you fired? And why did you fire them?

10 replies
I might be firing my first client in the near future.

I'd like to hear your stories of when you fired your first client.

How did you go about it? How did you feel? Was there any aftermath?

#client #fired
  • Profile picture of the author arfasaira
    I've fired a client in the past and it was nerve-wracking stuff!

    I guess the simple rule is to have clear boundaries and expectations from the outset and ensure that you are both on the same page at all times. Of course projects can go off-track, but you have processes in place to track everything and keep things on track as much as possible. But, when clients don't pull their weight and do what's expected of them and then complain about not getting results - well let's just say those are clients you can do without.

    These types of clients have excuse after excuse and are basically high drama. They are exhausting to work with and I don't need the headache of working with someone like that. I love working with action takers who know what's expected of them and get on with it.

    I just said goodbye to a prospective client this morning after spending a ton of time and energy putting together reports and proposals to help his business. My team and I put together a video, a presentation, created keyword reports and competition analysis etc etc and all he did was take advantage of the free stuff and gave that information to his existing webmaster (after telling us he wanted to hire new people).

    Imagine our disappointment after completing an in-depth report for his online presence that he was being dishonest about the sites he was using and blatantly lied about another one of his businesses telling us it had no website, when in actual fact it did. And that was information we pulled straight off his main website, buried in the small print.

    I sent him a polite but to the point email first thing this morning explaining that I don't believe we are a good fit for his company and that we wish him all the success for the future. I can tell you now it was a blessing in disguise because had he hired us, it would have been a classic case of him not doing his bit and then placing the blame on us if things went wrong.

    I once severed a partnership with someone who also happened to be a friend. It wasn't a pleasant thing to do since it was my decision, but it was the right thing to do. We both had different visions of what we wanted to achieve and how we wanted to grow, so it made no business sense to continue with the partnership.

    We're still friends though!

    The bottom line is that things don't have to get heated - as long as you have a contract in place and stick to keeping it professional at all times, you'll be fine. Plus, it shows you have integrity if you can handle situations like this with grace and ease and not get caught up in the anger or frustration you may be feeling.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Andrews
      Originally Posted by arfasaira View Post

      I once severed a partnership with someone who also happened to be a friend. It wasn't a pleasant thing to do since it was my decision, but it was the right thing to do. We both had different visions of what we wanted to achieve and how we wanted to grow, so it made no business sense to continue with the partnership.

      We're still friends though!
      This individual would be me. And yes, it was the right thing to do. Both of us approaching business from altogether different angles meant from a business point of view, we were not going to be a compatible partnership in the long term. Still good whilst it lasted and many valuable lessons learned!

      I will say though that most definitely Arfa and myself are still extremely good friends and keep in contact often.

      She knows if she needs anything, anything at all - I'll be there for her. I'm proud to call her a very good friend and just hope sometimes when she asks for my advice (as she does from time to time and vice versa) that she finds my advice valuable.

      You couldn't hope to meet a nicer lady than Arfa Saira. And as a copywriter in the health niche undoubtedly she's one of the best.

      Just don't call on her at 9pm for a cup of tea.

      Back to the subject in hand...

      Some clients are just a complete and utter waste of time. Better to be shot of them and to make the firing process as quick and painless as possible.

      If anyone leeches your time, takes your expertise for granted, wants a free ride - if you haven't filtered them out in the early stages first and midway through a project they start playing up with some antics - ditch them immediately.

      I actually did just this with one client this week who midway through his copywriting project after exchanging a total of 40 plus emails and halfway through writing his sales copy suddenly without warning pulled the plug and did a chargeback on me only a couple of days after making his payment.

      Still wanted me to write the copy for him (without being paid now anything upfront) his sales letter literally stopped midway through one sentence as soon as I noticed what had happened.

      On the spot I fired him instantly - contacted Paypal and had the money paid back in to my account for the time already invested in his business. In this instant of doing the chargeback against me our agreement became null and void. Period.

      There's no point wasting your time with these kinds of people. As I said above which fact Arfa Saira and OutOfThisWord also alluded to... if you haven't filtered them out in the early stages and they start playing up, just ditch them instantly Andy.

      Smoking hot,

      Mark Andrews
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      • Profile picture of the author OutOfThisWord
        That's another red flag - 40 emails.

        Any marketer that is a good manager doesn't need to send 40 emails to make or understand something.

        Furthermore, another red flag is someone who can't proceed until they talk to you on the phone. In today's global marketplace, you have to be able to state your project and manage by email, text, etc.

        Good managers have a clear vision and make good clients.
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        • Profile picture of the author MrFume
          I had to drop one of my first Website customers, a lady who sells her skills as a Psychic-not the ultra commercial kind, an actual psychic-although i did not experience any proof of this-anyway, i agreed to set up her hosting, build a wordpress site with a theme she liked, and tweak it get it working with a Paypal button to enable sales. Mine Gott, i received dozens of emails daily-formatting issues , how to get text appearing in strange ways..small problems that stumped her-I pointed her to online training videos, still got too many requests, i upped the price of support, no-good, had to tell her i could no-longer work on her site.
          Ah well, we move on eh?

          The whole basis of what we do as human beings is based on Communication, nothing would be possible otherwise. I work with communication, publishing on the Web, digital media.
          Digital Media for a Noisy World

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  • Profile picture of the author JRVogt
    I fired my first client after I found out that he was trying to manipulate both me and the graphic designer he'd hired to complete his website. Despite a contract that specified payment along several content completion milestones, he kept pushing for work to be done right away and then move to the next section, always claiming payment would be made eventually. He just "wanted to wait until the designer could implement my content" to ensure it fit the layout properly and could be fully approved. He kept talking about what a lazy [racial slur] the designer was, etc, trying to get me to be sympathetic. Of course, the designer was being treated the same way, as I found out after, being pushed to do his work outside of contract terms while the guy "waited for that lazy [insert derogative of choice] writer" to submit content.

    He quickly became incredibly verbally abusive should you ever disagree with him or try to get him to actually stick to the contract (heaven forbid!). Also liked to cast about tons of racial slurs and let you know in detail why all his employers were worthless, clueless losers, etc...Didn't take long to cut him loose, and fortunately didn't get that far along in the work.

    Yeah. Never put up with that sort of thing.
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    • Profile picture of the author OutOfThisWord
      Don't mull over it, get on with it.

      There are so many new websites going up and small business is still most of all biz, so you don't have to deal with any nits.

      Your job is to over service the smart players so you grow along with them, and manage away the bad actors who aren't likely to be in business several years from now anyway, meaning your continued waste of time will also turn into an unpaid creditor.

      And you have numerous ways to fire them.

      You can simply raise your rates and if they still accept, then raise your rates and demand more up front.

      You can tell them you are currently all booked up and can't get to it now.

      But more important than dealing with firing clients, learn to recognize train wrecks way down the track...

      ...clients always needing something urgent,

      ...clients promising more work in the future, as soon as you make money for them now,

      ...clients without clear deliverables,

      ...clients that want you to guarantee success, when even the copywriters charging $25K often only deliverer a winner 35% of the time.

      Just like you learn to spot something unique about a product or service that you can turn into a galvanizing benefit to the prospect, learn to spot people who are are bad bets.
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  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    Sometimes it becomes apparent, despite all the right reasons, it's just not a fit anymore.

    If/When that happens, take the high road. Whatever that means in the moment.

    - Rick Duris
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  • Profile picture of the author Jennie Heckel
    Hi All,

    As a suggestion... (I learned this the hard way when I first started out as a copywriter over 14 years ago...) Now I require a questionnaire be filled out before a call to discuss a project or get a quote.

    You can cut off at the knees a lot of "time wasters" by just requiring that they fill out an in-depth questionnaire BEFORE you will discuss the project with them and give them a quote.

    Because how can you give them a quote without seeing an in-depth review of their product/marketing/deliverable specs?

    This helps eliminate many problems with mis-understood deliverables and over booking too.

    I find out that if they don't want to take the time to fill out my questionnaire then they don't know the "significant value" of it. So, they are not a client I want to work with anyway...

    I get a lot of "time wasters" from my main sales letter copywriter website quote page.

    To combat that...

    I send them my questionnaire and ask that it be filled out BEFORE I will discuss the project with them on the phone/or skype... The lazy time wasters that just want a "ball park quote" won't bother me!

    I find this ends much of my frustration/time wasted with lower end clients who are too lazy to give me the answers I need to a good job for them.

    This quickly filters out those that already know the high value of the information I am asking for on my questionnaire (from those that won't be bothered to do it.)

    They trust me more because of the in-depth questions they see. They know I know what I need and why. Generally, they want to take the time they need to do a good job filling it out as that is a reflection on THEM too.

    They know I need those answers to do the best job I can for them (and in order to give them the high converting copy they need)... But even more importantly, it quickly separates THEM (as a GOOD CLIENT) from those that are not.

    If you make filling out the questionnaire a requirement, you will see the quality of your clients significantly rise.


    Because you will get higher quality clients that are willing to invest in the time to fill your questionnaire out and give you what you need. They then understand why they need to take the time to do a good job of it even if the questionnaire takes a week or so for them to get the answers for you. Then THEY VALUE YOU and YOUR TIME MORE because of it.

    More importantly, you will come across to them as a much more professional person, one they WANT to work with and will WAIT to work with if you are booked for a while and YOU SHOULD BE!

    The right answers will help conversions, the wrong or missing answers make your job to write copy that converts for them a lot harder!

    Once you make a questionnaire a requirement you also know how sloppy they are if they do a poor job of answering the questions. Many times if they do a really bad job I just email them and say "it looks like we are a poor fit" because you did not take the time to give me the answers I needed to do a good job for you.

    Generally that's the last I hear from them. But sometimes they will email me and ask to go over the questionnaire on the phone to fill out the questions they did not know how to fill out well. That tells me this client CARES AND WANTS ME TO WRITE FOR THEM and that's the client (even if they are new to this) I want to work with.

    Once you make a questionnaire a requirement for a call, you will be making bigger paydays and will be spending more time doing what you love (writing)... And less wasting time writing copy/or doing "phone calls with tire kickers and time wasters" you don't get paid for.

    Many times when clients get my questionnaire they tell me that some of the questions made them stop and think about why people would buy what they are selling!

    And I've even had clients say they need me to wait to write the copy, because they want to add or edit products/bonuses to be sure that they have a product that WILL SELL BETTER!

    Then it is a lot easier to write copy that converts!

    Good luck to all!

    Jennie Heckel
    ******* WSO & JV ZOO COPYWRITER -- VLS & SALES LETTERS PROVEN TO CONVERT ******* Get Higher Profits From Launches That SELL! Proven Copywriter with 17 Years of Copywriting Experience. Contact Me Via Skype: seoexpertconsulting Copywriting Website: http://www.VideoScriptCopywriter.com

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  • Profile picture of the author sethczerepak
    The first client I fired was actually our biggest client at the time. Lost over $200 a year in revenue from them, but it turned out to be a good decision. They were asking for endless revisions, some of which contradicted the original terms and which they fussed about being charged extra for. Their project manager was also disrespecting my writers with passive aggressive remarks. I was literally about to lose half my writing team because of those turkeys...so I canned them like tuna and felt almost instantly better.
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  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    I heartily agree with Jennie's screening process and making sure you want to work with them to begin with. Watch for the signs they leave as you negotiate with them.

    Also, and this goes for any business relation: when anything they do is non-standard and favors them, then it's a definite sign that they are not a fit for anybody.

    I fired a marketing client after about two months and it became evident that he was not going to pay for services and I was not liking the person he is. He wanted me to do a lot more additional work for the same original monthly fee.

    The early sign was that he put law suit kind of threatening language in the confidentiality agreement.

    Other signs were:

    That shortly before firing him, I found out he was suing a big name marketing firm which has a good reputation in our industry.

    That he would call after 9 PM for non-urgent things and one time he called from a restaurant on his cell phone and was at the same time being verbally rude to the server...

    I lost money refunding him and paying my people for the work they did do, but I was very relieved and happy to be done with the jerk. And, he started off being very charming and likeable. (Don't they all.)

    Not worth the emotional and financial drain, so don't hesitate because the relief will be worthwhile and allow you to be more helpful to other clients.



    "If you think you're the smartest person in the room, then you're probably in the wrong room."

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