The five warning signs it’s time to let go.
I was talking with a business owner who hated working with one particular client…I mean hated it! I listened to all the reasons and then heard, “It’s not worth working with them. They’re fired!”
When I first opened my private practice in 1999, I was excited to have my own business. I would be able to deliver even higher quality service, decide with which clients I would work and have have flexibility in how and when I worked. Unfortunately, no one ever explained that the concept of finding the ideal client could only be appreciated after the fact.
In my mind, if you wanted more out of your life and worked hard to get it, you were the client for me…or so I thought. Within a few years, I found myself working with four types of clients: 1. Clients I couldn’t help, for one reason or another; 2. Clients I couldn’t help but they still wanted to work with me; 3. Clients I could help and were making progress; and 4. Clients I could help and exceeded their goals.
After sitting down and thinking about the different types of clients in my practice, it became clear that I needed to refine my ideal clients…how I screened them and how I referred them to someone who was better suited to help them.
When I fired my first client, I was devastated. I really wanted to help her, but I knew that we had gone as far as we could and there was nothing else I could do for her. I felt incompetent because I felt compelled to help people who wanted help.
Now I realize that I am not for everybody, and thank goodness for that realization! Truth be told, I don’t want to work with everyone. I only want to work with people who are strong enough and willing to do the work. If they don’t have those two pieces coming in, I will not accept them as a client.
I also realized that people change their minds and go back to how things were, which is fair. For example, I can’t count how many times I purchased an infomercial product at 3am (no judgments) and after it arrived, I either didn’t use it or went back to using what I had before. Or when working with a personal trainer, I was able to work out on my own after they created a plan and routine for me; I may go back, I may not.
In any event, after 15-years in business, the following is what I have extrapolated from my experience about when it may be time to fire a client:
- They insist on telling you how to do your job. Clients who micromanage you and want things performed a certain way and no other drain your energy and cause you to lose focus. In the end, you will be responsible for creating a certain outcome without having a real hand in how the service or product was delivered. Keep in mind that when a client gives you free reign to do your job and you fall short, you hold the bag and must take responsibility. For example, I’ve had clients refuse to follow my recommendations and tell me what treatment they felt was best for them. After obliging, they got mad when they didn’t get the results they wanted.
- They expect you to do your job and theirs. When you are hired to provide a service you are responsible for doing certain things. What often gets missed is that the client is also responsible for doing certain things like providing access, showing up or disclosing relevant information. When it comes to therapy, clients are responsible the hardest part: showing up and doing the emotional work. If they don’t show up for their sessions, nothing gets done and if they don’t do the work of introspection and disclosure, then there is very little any therapist can do to relieve their pain or distress.
- They don’t pay their bill. When a client doesn’t pay their bill…that’s a problem. Once a service is performed, it can’t be taken back and resentment builds on behalf of the provider. As a therapist, I try to understand and address it from a clinical perspective however, in the end the bill needs to get paid.
- They feel the fee is unreasonable (this is different from being too high or unaffordable). If something is unreasonable, it implies lack of value or that good sense was missing when deciding on a fee. If that is the case and it continues to become a problem, it will be very difficult for you to affect the type of change the client is looking for because they already feel the service isn’t ‘worth it.’ It may be they feel this way in the beginning, however after they begin working with you, they should feel the benefit of the service merits the fee. This would be different for a service or product that is a commodity.
- You hate working with them. Let’s face it, if you hate your job you’re not going to be very good at it. What’s worse is, when you hate your client you’re guaranteed to deliver crappy service and your reputation will suffer because of it.
Keep in mind that these behaviors may exist at the time you begin working with a client but should subside over time. If the behavior continues gets worse, you may want to consider having a serious conversation with your client about your concerns and whether or not you both should continue working together. Remember, you are unable to work with everybody and that’s okay. With love and light, I wish you pleasant journeys!
Have you ever had to fire a client? Share your experience with us below!