It’s not you, it’s me. Breaking up with a client.

Parting ways with a client happens when your business evolves. One way or the other, some clients on your roster will hold you back from moving forward. 

This is a concept that is tough for any small business. For years, months, weeks, and days, you have invested in prospecting, proposing, figuring out how to work and collaborate, and meeting their needs. It’s no surprise that the idea of letting go of a client doesn’t feel right. But some of the hardest choices are the right ones. 

Reasons to part ways with a client:

LOW-BUDGET There is likely a couple of clients you have from your start-up years that you have continued to work with because you are loyal, despite their limited budget. If after a time a client has grown, then their workload and your original budget might not be in sync. You are likely doing production work and less creative strategy. Your own business growth has taken a different path, so it’s time to either sub-contract a production artist, or pass them on to a newbie creative they could benefit from in both energy and a reduced rate.

NICHE CHANGE After a few years, you have found your preference for a niche to service that has potential and improves your business. So clients who don’t fall into that category need to be removed from your roster so you can make space for the clients your service benefits the most.

CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP Working with a company can have the eventual change in staffing and leadership. Either a company is bought out, or the contact you work with has moved on or been replaced with someone new. Sometimes this works out great, and other times it’s a situation that doesn’t meld with your business.

Reputation is everything these days, so it’s important to respect your client while also valuing your services. 

So now that you have a reason to part ways, the next hurdle is how do you go about it? 

  1. Let clients know about your change in your business model. For those with grandfathered rates, let them know that you will be raising your rates with them to match your other clients. You can do this in steps for those loyal clients. For those who aren’t in your new niche, give them a time period to search for new designers and offer a referral if you have any.
  2. When you are finding the client’s new leadership doesn’t work with your business, be honest. Whether it’s demands, expectations, or personality style — let them know that the arrangement is not the right fit for either of you. 
  3. However you go about parting ways, make sure to be as professional as possible. Going into a project, have a contract that outlines the process. Avoid hassles by spelling out upfront if you will require extra fees for providing the client with their working files. If you no longer want to work with the client, make it a clean break and pass it all their way.

From experience, the anxiety you feel as you go through the process will resolve. You’ll be amazed at the sense of lightness that comes from letting go of what no longer works for you. Making space for what does, and the ability to open new doors is very exciting.

The benefit of an accountability group like Creatives Roundtable is learning from other’s experiences in these situations. As well, a resource of other creative professionals you can refer to when a client no longer fits your ideal.

Written by Crystal Reynolds

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