5 Reasons to FIRE offline clients

by guyd
22 replies
Every one is always talking about finding new clients, so I thought I would write a post about what happens when you have hit the ceiling and need to free up some time.

I was speaking to a friend of mine who recently sold his offline business for a very hansom amount.

When asking him what the one piece of advice to give to anyone starting out or looking to really grow their offline service he stated that"

1) Always always always get paid to spec out the work - if they don't pay for the spec then chances are they will be a real pain in the backside when it comes to paying.

and secondly he said:

"Every year pick your worst client and FIRE them in-order to allow growth at the other end of the scale .

So here are 5 reasons to help identify which client to fire

1) Death by Email - We have all been there and had a client that sends out emails like there is no tomorrow. One project I was doing would regularly deliver over 200 + un edited emails containing sporadic thoughts with zero clear actions to follow. Mix this with the people CC'd that feel obliged to respond to any message meant that most of my day would be spent clearing my inbox and deciphering badly formatted emails looking for the important parts. It sucks - fire them

2) Desperate Dans - This is a horrible type of client and ones that I have been very familiar with. Basically anyone that is relying on you to get them rich quickly should be fired and avoided like the plague. They will phone you in the evening and weekends and the more desperate they get the more likely they will slow you and your other clients projects down.

3) Lazy Larry's - These guys officially suck! They want you to do something - you need their input - they delay the whole project and then take weeks to get back to you. Project stalls cash flow can then go tits up.

If they can't be bothered to help themselves then why should you be bothered to help them


4) Project Creep Pete - Can you just do.... how easy is it to add....... can you try this....... how easy is it to do......... I am paying the invoice now can you just do this before I do........ I know I said this but can you do that..... "

Yea sure - always try and deliver a great service to every client every time, focus on keeping them happy but make sure they don't EXPECT you to.

Always under promise but over deliver!

I am the worst person for this, I always go above and beyond and try and match every expectation that any client has.

When I think the amount of time I lost in the early years It makes me sick.

5) Bullyish Bobs - I recently was in a meeting where the client said " when I hit this big red button, I expect the work done yesterday"

My response was:

"If you want something done yesterday then you should have told me as early as possible so I can take a look at it, plan it in, get the job done, get it tested and approved so we can go live with the changes "

Bottom line - these people are the worst to deal with PERIOD - they think that just because they give you work that you are under their control.
Yes they may be one of your biggest clients but they can also be the biggest pain in the butt out of all them.


My final thought - dont think that life is always rosie when working for yourself


A very wise man recently said to me

"Do work that you want to do with people you want to do it with"
a MASSIVE life lesson to learn there

I have been more depressed, stressed and down when dealing with awkward clients then I ever was in full time employment.

But heck it aint half sweet when you get it nailed!
#clients #offline #reasons
  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    Good advice. To protect yourself, limit the scope of what you're doing and clearly define your working process at the start...and get your client to agree to these. Just explained this in the copywriting forum.

    Remember, "Garbage In : Garbage Out"; it's YOUR responsibility to qualify and control the interaction with your clients. If you look honestly at failed relationships in the past, I'm sure you'll admit--as I have been guilty of as well--that your lack of clarifying things, being tough and insisting on how clients must work with you was a major contributor to the final blow-up.
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  • Profile picture of the author Danielm
    Yep, with some people the stress isn't worth the money. The one client where I didn't outline the scope clearly enough drove me batty. I priced it too cheaply based on what they said they were looking for, the next month+ I was getting phone emails past midnight every day, late phone calls, "emergencies", etc. When I finally completed it I didn't offer maintenance, support, upsells, anything... just go away!
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    • Profile picture of the author SpiralX
      Thanks for the reality check... this is a service business. Those are the pitfalls!! So I am thinking to really be careful about what kinds of services I offer from the start...
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  • Profile picture of the author Dexx
    Haha, great list and very good points to keep in mind for "red flags" to watch for

    ~Dexx
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    • Profile picture of the author gecko1
      I had a "Death By Email" & "Project Creep Pete" Combo, had to fire that customer.

      right now I currently have "Project Creep Pete", in the same boat as you Danielm, except the web site project is not done yet. grrrrr...

      Thanks for the share guyd
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  • Profile picture of the author TycoonRob
    I've dealt with TOO MANY Project Creep Pete's recently and I would be happy to fire them all. Alas....the money isn't bad.
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  • Profile picture of the author RentItNow
    Very good advice that most people have to learn the hard way, but there it is for free! Awesome, Guyd. Gotta love this board for a street education without the pain!

    3) Lazy Larry's - These guys officially suck! They want you to do something - you need their input - they delay the whole project and then take weeks to get back to you. Project stalls cash flow can then go tits up.

    If they can't be bothered to help themselves then why should you be bothered to help them


    I have one of these now that will send me random text messages for changes and I only get half the text. When I try to verify what he said, I hear nothing for weeks. So I am stuck either having to make a guess at what his requirements were and execute them, or ignore the random messages. Yeah, time to fire this guy especially when he is slow on payments. Big client but I dont really have the patience for it anymore.
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    I have no agenda but to help those in the same situation. This I feel will pay the bills.
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  • Profile picture of the author swilliams09
    4) Project Creep Pete - Can you just do.... how easy is it to add....... can you try this....... how easy is it to do......... I am paying the invoice now can you just do this before I do........ I know I said this but can you do that..... "

    Yea sure - always try and deliver a great service to every client every time, focus on keeping them happy but make sure they don't EXPECT you to.

    Always under promise but over deliver!

    I am the worst person for this, I always go above and beyond and try and match every expectation that any client has.

    When I think the amount of time I lost in the early years It makes me sick.
    I get a lot of these, both on and offline and the thing that usually stops them cold is these words. "sure, I can do that, let me just adjust the invoice for the new changes you want to make". Then I shut up. After their rebuttals I reply with. " I'm charging you for my time, that may be relatively quick and easy to do, but it's still more time, let me make an updated invoice for you. It's company policy." And I shut up again. Usually they say nevermind, occasionally they actually agree and pay for it.
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  • Profile picture of the author chrisnotes
    Really interesting and helpful. Something I would have never thought of.

    The next question I have is how do you go about letting them go? I am sure honesty is the best way to go. Would you tell them that the original goal/s of the project were just running too far off track?
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  • Profile picture of the author guyd
    The nice way:

    "our business model is changing"

    "its not you it's us"

    "we think you need more of a [FILL IN BLANK] service"


    or be truthful and say:

    "we will never work with you again - you surely are Lucifer reincarnated"

    "go and waste some one else's time"

    "your business model will never work and you will never be successful"

    "I have not had a drink for 2 years before I met you"
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  • Profile picture of the author barbling
    guyd writes:

    "Do work that you want to do with people you want to do it with"
    a MASSIVE life lesson to learn there


    How true that is.

    This is one reason why I almost always get 100% of my fee before dealing with offline clients...I hate getting the runaround when it's time for me to be paid.

    Life is too short to deal with idjuts.
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    • Profile picture of the author DebbieB
      I have fired clients for bounced checks twice in the past.

      In both case they were abjectly apologetic, and one even bought me a gift to prove it.

      I let clients go gently. My reputation is important (very) and I don't want a dissatisfied former-client going around bad-mouthing me.

      So I'm always nice when I say goodbye.

      Debbie
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      • Profile picture of the author guyd
        Originally Posted by DebbieB View Post

        I don't want a dissatisfied former-client going around bad-mouthing me.

        So I'm always nice when I say goodbye.

        Debbie
        100% agreed!
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      • Profile picture of the author Trivium
        Originally Posted by DebbieB View Post

        I let clients go gently. My reputation is important (very) and I don't want a dissatisfied former-client going around bad-mouthing me.

        So I'm always nice when I say goodbye.
        Being civil and polite always goes a long way. It's certainly a lot better than them bad-mouthing you afterwards. Reputations are a fragile thing - you can have many positive reviews, but all it takes is a few bad ones and your reputation is tarnished. Always pays to treat your dealings carefully
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  • Profile picture of the author guyd
    always 'exit gracefully' but remember for every door that closes another one slams in your face!
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  • Profile picture of the author terip
    Whenever I here people get fired, especially in the office, the higher ups don't say that "you're fired!" (unless they really did something bad). They'll just say that their contract with the company ended. It still means the same thing but at least it kind of softens the blow.
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  • Profile picture of the author BarbaraP
    Guyd, thanks for starting this thread. Laughing cause it's all too familiar.

    Today marked one month of trying to get a so-called client on phone or email to gently ask once again for $150 balance. I will tonight close the door, kiss the $ good bye and bid her good riddance - politely of course. While I'd like to pull down her site,
    $150 is not worth the trash-talking she would do about me to everyone if I blasted her or pulled down her site. ^@#* hard to be gracious.

    swilliams09, RentItNow great suggestions.

    Cherio.
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  • Profile picture of the author guyd
    my pleasure Barbara - seems crazy though to not chase the money you are owed!
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  • Profile picture of the author danielkanuck
    Hope i don't ever run into any of these clients. I did have a bakery owner though who wanted to pick my brain before doing business. I let her go real quick because after i screened her, she didn't seem like a client that i would want to take on.
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  • Profile picture of the author guyd
    they are lurking around dan! guess you are just lucky

    I have had a few random calls lately and their opening line literally saying things like

    " I have no money but can you help me"

    " I am looking for someone to help develop my business on a performance basis and was looking at your site..."

    The tougher things get the more tougher we all have to be....
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  • Profile picture of the author Mohamad Latiff
    If I can add another type of client to fire -

    6) Those Who Didn't "Read The **** Manual (or T&Cs in the Contract)"

    I have this client (technically not the client but the lower end staff who liaises with us on behalf of the client) who calls the tech support of my company on a daily basis, at least 2 to 3 times a day, at one point. She didn't bother to read the comprehensive user manual that we sent her when we first started on her project, nor the Terms & Conditions of the contract that stated that we can provide her technical support up to a limited time period.

    Every time she calls, we'd have to remind her to purchase additional support credits but she'd stubbornly say, "This is pretty urgent (because she is over-reacting to some imaginary deadline that her boss imposes on her - typical Singaporean tendency), can you just help me with this first then I'll purchase the support credits later". What the heck?!
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  • Profile picture of the author guyd
    now that sounds like a total nightmare client....

    Just like ones that never read emails properly!
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