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Tips to Help With Client Relationships

Breaking up is never easy... and saying "so long" to a client can feel especially awkward.

Though each relationship has value, sometimes that mutual benefit just isn't there anymore. In such cases, it simply makes sense to say goodbye.

The key to ending a client relationship is doing so in a professional manner. The last thing you want to do is burn bridges or harm your business's reputation.

Learn a few tips to help navigate the separation process with tact, respect and professionalism.

Hands ripping a document labeled contract agrement in half.

Before the Breakup

There are many reasons why you might want to part ways with a client. Perhaps their needs and goals aren't aligned with yours. Maybe you're not doing the work you want to be doing. Or perhaps your personalities simply don't mesh.

Before you make any moves, ensure you have pinpointed why the relationship needs to end, so you can provide genuine reasons to your soon-to-be-ex-client:

  • When working with this client, what is the greatest cause of dissatisfaction?
  • Can the problem be fixed?
  • Is the solution to the problem worth the effort?
  • If you took a break from, rather than breaking up with, the client, would that improve the situation?
  • Would leaving the client help your business reach its goals?

When answering these questions, focus on how the situation impacts your professional values, goals and standards. Thinking through the situation in context can offer clarity as to why you should end the relationship.

Write It Down

Now that you've clarified the "why," put your thoughts in writing. This isn't a situation where you want to improvise, so laying out your reasoning on paper can help you prepare. Think of it as creating a script to help guide you through the break-up process.

Elements to cover may include a summary of the relationship, an objective account of the issues, and ideas for moving forward. Above all, stick to the facts and leave emotions out of it.

Practice this script a few times before the actual event. Running through your reasoning will help boost your confidence and ensure that you don't leave out any important details.

Practice Transparency

You may be tempted to sugarcoat the reasoning behind the breakup. However, try to remain transparent; anything less than the truth isn't fair to your client.

Practice honesty tempered with politeness. In times of transition, transparency in communication is especially important.

The Right Timing

Timing a client breakup can feel tricky. On one hand, you may want to end the relationship immediately, so you can both move on. On the other hand, you don't want to leave anyone high and dry and risk angering your client.

Try to find a middle path. You don't need to cut a client off suddenly or drag out an unproductive relationship. Instead, consider how long it will reasonably take for the client to find a replacement for your business and work within that timeline. If appropriate, you may consider providing a business referral.

Overall, your goal is to provide a smooth transition, so you can move on from your client without damaging your reputation. Treating your client with respect and professionalism from the beginning to the end of your relationship will help prevent burnt bridges.

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